Potatoes are often painted as villains for dieters, but a new study has found that the staple food is not that bad after all.

Foods like potatoes and white bread with a high glycemic index (GI) are absorbed quickly by the body, triggering a spike in blood sugar.

But a study by researchers at University of Otago found that when you eat these carbohydrates as part of a meal of meat and vegetables the effects are barely felt.

Bernard Venn and his colleagues enlisted 30 healthy young people and monitored the GI levels of three different meals, including one with potatoes as a side dish.

Surprisingly, said Dr Venn, this meal was low on the glycemic index, meaning the food will burn off slowly, even though it contained an ingredient many fear for its potential weight-gain properties.

"I don’t think people should be too afraid of putting high-GI foods into their meals,” Courier Mail quoted Dr. Venn as saying.

"Our work suggests that having a small amount of potato with a meal isn’t going to drive your blood sugar crazy,” he added.

The study has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Correction

This article has been corrected on October 14, 2011 for factual errors