When we were kids, we used to eat a lot of potatoes in our diet. We would get them served as a side dish with meaty meals or use them as a base in the (non)famous “Granatier,” “gypsy fried egg,” or a baked potato with butter and salt for dinner. On the other side of the spectrum, there was rice – always known as a food of healthy Asians but never really heavily used in our country. I only remember rice from rice pudding and again, as a side dish with chicken sauté or with a baked chicken leg.
I guess neither of these was perceived healthier than the other, it was more about buying local produce than anything else. Our mothers were taught that Slovak food was meant to be eaten by Slovaks, that our bodies were designed for local food, (which can actually be scientifically proven), however, nobody was thinking about nutritional values or calories back then. A few decades ago came a time of the “healthy food clan” and we started eating Chinese rice instead of Slovak potatoes, exotic limes instead of apples from the neighbor´s tree, and avocados as a toast spread alternative for butter. The question is, have we found the ultimate health recipe, or are we just slowly losing our minds counting calories in carambolas and basmati rice?

Rice vs. potatoes – nutritional values & weight-loss

Cup of white rice – 240 kcal

Medium baked potato – 230 kcal

Cup of brown rice – 220 kcal

The calorific difference between two types of rice and a baked potato is so negligible we cannot draw a conclusion based on it. What can help in our comparison though are the nutritional values which indicate an improved health or potential aid in fighting diseases. To start with, rice, depending on type, contains 0.6 – 3.5g of fiber, while potato lies on a range between 2.3 – 3g, with the higher number thanks to its skin, if it wasn´t removed. Both rice and potatoes are great thanks to their fat content being less than 1g, which makes them perfect candidates for weight-loss foods. Vitamin-wise, rice is a great source of vitamin B spectrum, while potatoes have gotten their good reputation in vitamin C content as one of the highest amongst vegetables. They also contain a lot of potassium, actually even more than a banana. Rice, on the other hand, cannot by any means beat them with the vitamin and mineral content.

What is also very important in weight-loss management while talking carbohydrates is a glycemic index – the number which ranges between 0 and 100 to identify how much the particular carbohydrate can raise your blood sugar levels. It is important to know especially if you´re diabetic or if you´re trying to lose weight because the smaller the number, the longer you´ll feel full and satisfied. However, in this case, the numbers won´t really tell us anything breakthrough. White rice scores 64 and brown rice 55, whilst white potato is only 50 but russet potato is a stunning 85.

As you´ve probably already noticed, the only real difference you can make in your weight-loss plan is choosing the right kinds of food. If you´re going out for a sushi, it is probably not going to be made from organic brown rice. That doesn´t mean though, that sushi is not healthy because the ingredients contained in it push the glycemic index down, making it easier for you to sustain a low-calorie diet and feel full for a long time. With potatoes, the main obstacle comes with the way they are prepared. Cooked potato is about 20 kcal lighter than a baked one, on the other hand, the skin in a baked one contains lots of fiber and vitamins you´ll lose if peeling it. Another thing with potatoes can be a more difficult choice of meals containing them, since most of these are also filled with sour cream, cheese, or bacon. Anyway, either food choice you´ll make, be sure to pick the “healthier option” even if it seems minor, like choosing brown or parboiled rice over white one or white potatoes instead of russet potatoes, and you´ll be better off.

Rice beats potatoes in ALLERGY notice

There is one major setback of potatoes that is very little known by general public but can cause serious health problems. Potatoes are one of the 4 foods called “Nightshades” that we ordinarily eat in quite large quantities unaware of their negative impact. The term includes tomatoes, all kinds of peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. The problem with nightshades is their content of alkaloids – chemical compounds containing solanine, traces of nicotine, and capsaicin (that makes chili so hot!) to protect plants containing them from bugs but causing problems when eaten. One of these plants, Belladonna was used in a famous Shakespeare´s play Macbeth as a very deadly poison, which causes concern because, yes, in large quantities, nightshades really are poisonous.
Those that we eat contain only small amounts of alkaloids which have no impact on most healthy people. However, if you´re one of those suffering from allergies and other autoimmune diseases or have just recently developed one, it is a pretty rational step to check out these trouble-makers. One negative impact of alkaloids in these foods is increasing the immune system´s response, which in people with autoimmune diseases basically means a catastrophe. In such patients, their immune system basically gets confused and attacks its own cells – for example in alopecia when one´s hair starts to fall out because their body thinks the follicles are foreign objects like bacteria or so. Vegetables and spices from the nightshade family usually make the condition much worse and may even trigger new allergies. Moreover, they also contain lectins which irritate the digestive system and in sensitive people may even cause the leaky gut syndrome. BUT, nightshades have also been shown to reduce inflammation in healthy individuals thanks to capsaicin contained in spicy peppers like cayenne, very often used in celebrity diets because it boosts metabolism.

Which is the winner then?

The information gathered leads us to a conclusion that rice, especially brown or parboiled kind (white one with added nutrients) is a better choice than potatoes thanks to its high vitamin content and low glycemic index. Also, it is very easily combinable with super healthy vegetables, fish and meat in sushi, risotto, or as a side dish and even the preparation is quick and easy.
With potatoes it is a little bit more difficult. We cannot say they´re not healthy, they actually contain more vitamins and minerals while keeping the calories and glymemic index at the same level as rice, and provide great amounts of fiber when eaten with skin. There´s the catch though – if you´re sensitive to nightshades (try 7 days nightshade-free and see for yourself), you may have to cut them out of your diet right away before they damage your immune system completely, or peel the skin off, which takes away part of the vitamins and fiber, or always cook them and thus increase the calorific value. The conclusion then goes…

RICE > potatoes

by Katarína Vicová

Appleby, M. (n.d.). The nutrients in rice vs. potatoes. Retrieved from: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/nutrients-rice-vs-potatoes-2871.html
Holly´s helpings (2015). [picture]. Retrieved from: http://hollyshelpings.com/2011/12/20/my-first-time-making-sushi/
Jono & Jules do food and wine. [picture]. Retrieved from: http://jonoandjules.com/2013/01/17/jacket-pots-prawns/
Paleo Leap (2015). All about nightshades. Retrieved from: http://paleoleap.com/nightshades/