Why Meat and Potatoes are Such a Perfect Pair

Do you know what makes meat and potatoes a perfect pair? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Do you know what makes meat and potatoes a perfect pair? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

When it comes to things that go great together, there is no question that meat and potatoes is on most everyone’s list.  There is something about the combination of a deliciously juicy steak and creamy mashed potatoes that feels like home to many people.  It is filling and comforting and it can be hard to imagine eating one without the other.

But what is it that makes these two very different foods produce such a perfect culinary pair?

You might think it is the combination of complementary flavors.  You might favor the juxtaposition of contrasting textures.  You might not care why they are so great together as long as you can still pair each perfect bite of steak with a scoop of potatoes.  Whether it is taste, texture, or comfort, there is no question that when steak is “what’s for dinner” it is very likely we will find potatoes on the menu, too.

But there may be more to this perfect pairing than just taste, texture, and a reminder of home.

A new study conducted by the Plant & Food Research Institute in New Zealand found that the symbiotic relationship between meat and potatoes extends past our taste buds.   The research team looked at the differences in the digestive process of two groups of rats.  The first group consumed only red meat.  The second group consumed red meat and fermentable carbohydrates like potatoes.  The scientists conducting the study sought to determine if there were any differences in overall bowel health between the two groups.

The research team found that when red meat was consumed with the type of fermentable carbs found in vegetables like potatoes, it improved the overall bowel health of the rats in comparison to their red-meat only eating peers.  This indicates that there may be a beneficial relationship in the digestive tract between meat and these kinds of fruits and vegetables.

The study lasted for eight weeks and involved analyzing the impact of the two different diets on a group of rats.  Researchers monitored several indicators of gut health over the course of the study to determine what circumstances lead to the most beneficial result.  They determined that when cooked red meat was consumed with potatoes, more beneficial bacteria were produced in the gut than when the red meat was consumed alone.

The findings, which were published in the Journal of Food Science, indicate that this symbiotic relationship may help protect the micro-biotic health of our intestines and even prevent damage that can be caused by undigested proteins.  This research provides a better understanding of how the foods we eat can impact our overall bowel health and provide insight into ways in which we can eat across the nutritional spectrum in ways that support overall digestive health.

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