Something I learned rather quickly when I began "low carbing" is that white potatoes are to be avoided because they're starchy and high in carbs. Thankfully, I also learned that I didn't have to go without "mashed potatoes": a lot of low-carbers make something very similar by steaming and mashing cauliflower instead. This has become a staple of my diet over the past two low carb years. I started subbing cauliflower for potatoes, rice, pasta, and white flour in many of my usual recipes with great results! But my kids never became fans of the steaming white mounds of creamy mashed cauliflower. They always kept their preference for mashed potatoes, and that's okay. I made potatoes for them and cauliflower for myself.
But now that I am in week 1 of Transition, the guidelines state that I can have an additional cup per day of ANY vegetables I want! No more limiting things that are higher in carbs like artichokes, Brussels sprouts, yams, and corn. And potatoes. Yes, even white potatoes are now officially "allowed" on my Transition plan! So, what do you think? Is it the end of my love affair with cauliflower? After all, it is much easier to just make a pot of low fat mashed taters and not bother with the mashed cauliflower anymore...
So I decided to do a comparison. What exactly is the difference between a half cup of plain, boiled white potatoes and a half cup of plain, boiled cauliflower? Let's see.
White potatoes, boiled without skin, flesh only, 1/2 cup (nutrition data source)
1.3 g protein
15.6 g carbs
0.1 g fat
Cauliflower, boiled, 1/2 cup (nutrition data source)
1.1 g protein
2.5 g carbs
0.3 g fat
Wow. So by eating cauliflower instead of potatoes you save about 53 calories and 13 g carbs. That's significant, especially if you're doubling that and eating a whole cup, which I often do. The potatoes and cauliflower are nearly equal in fat and protein, so that's not significant. They are also exactly equal in fiber content (1.4 g). What about nutrients?
Well, they are about equal in iron content (1.3% vs. 1.1%).
Potatoes contain more B1, B3, B5 and B6 than cauliflower:
B1 5.1% vs. 1.7%
B3 5.1% vs. 1.3%
B5 4.0% vs. 3.1%
B6 10.5% vs. 5.4%
Cauliflower contains folate, more B2, and calcium than potatoes, and the most significant edge they have is in vitamins K and C:
folate 1.8% vs. 6.8%
B2 0.9% vs. 1.9%
calcium 0.6% vs. 1.0%
Vitamin K 2% vs. 10.7%
Vitamin C 9.6% vs. 45.8%
Another factor to consider is Glycemic Index. Potatoes can raise your blood sugar really fast; they have a higher glycemic index than refined white sugar because of the way they are processed by our bodies. Baked white potato (no skin) has a GI of 98, while white sugar has a GI of about 60. Cauliflower, by comparison, has a very low GI of 15. This means it will have little to no effect on your blood sugar levels.
So, for those reasons, I am going to keep choosing cauliflower over potatoes. And when I eat cauliflower I actually feel better... not as stuffed, tired, and heavy as when I eat potatoes. They seem to energize and nourish me. I will still occasionally have a potato here and there, especially when the baby new red potatoes are ready at the local Farmer's Market, but for a "mashed potato" side dish with steak or in a creamy "potato" soup, I am sticking with cauliflower.
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