Be thankful potatoes are mashed, not paper towels: They're eerily similar

Sarah Gilbert

When you pass around the side dishes at this year's Thanksgiving feast, here's one thing to be thankful for: you're eating mashed potatoes instead of mashed paper towels. But if you were chewing on the towels instead of the spuds, would you even know it, asks a Thanksgiving-related video from the American Chemical Society. "That's not such an odd question from a chemistry standpoint," the society says, as the types of carbohydrates in potatoes and paper towels are so similar.

The long chains of glucose -- the stuff our body converts into energy and makes us go -- are composed of identical molecules in both paper towels (cellulose) and potatoes. "You could eat paper towels," says Diane Bunce, associate editor for chemical education research with the society's Journal of Chemical Education in the video. "You wouldn't get any flavor out of them."