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Are Potatoes Good for You? Facts, Tips, Healthy Potato Recipes and Uses
Potatoes have gone from being regarded as a super cheap and convenient health food to a junk food that must be limited in the diet. Potatoes need a better promotion manager. Recently the US Congress blocked plans by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to limit servings of potatoes served in school lunches to twice a week.
The same thing applied to starchy vegetables like peas, corn and lima beans but why pick on the humble potato - a fabulous cheap, healthy and versatile food.
The potato, that originated in South America, has a history as a wonderful basic staple food that saved many countries from starvation.
The introduction of the potato into to Europe literally transformed agriculture. Its importance was dramatically shown by the famine that arose in from the Potato Blight.
In Ireland, during the Great Famine from 1845 to 1852 about 1 million people died and thousands more emigrated from Ireland due to the famine. The primary cause of the terrible famine was the potato disease known as potato blight. This disease ravaged potato crops throughout most of Europe, but had a massive impact on Ireland because about 30% of the population was virtually dependent on potatoes for food.
Prior to the introduction of the potato, people in Ireland and Europe depended mostly on various grain crops which were very unreliable due to the a cold and wet climate and unsuitable soils rocky soil. The potatoes literally allow the population to bloom - birth rates rose, there was a fall infant mortality, women had more babies and most of this can be attributed to the potato. Potatoes could be grown in a wider variety of soils and condition that were unsuitable for growing grains. They could be harvested easily and they required little processing once grown, and they could be stored easily.
Importantly potatoes are packed with wonderful array of nutrients and lots of energy. For a medium size baked potato weighing about 5.3-ounces there is only about 100 calories and little or no fat. The humble potato is one of the richest sources of potassium for any food, including bananas, and is also a wonderful source of fibre and vitamin C.
Potatoes Reputation Defamed but are we throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
Recently, potatoes have suffered from a poor public relations image. Diets like South Beach Atkins put potatoes on the banned list, because of their carbohydrate content. Potatoes were labelled as empty calories with low nutritional value. Because most modern people ate them as deep fried chips or fries, which dramatically increased their fat content, or they were not eaten as a whole food they were labelled as bad for you. Most people removed the skin by peeling and this removed most of the nutrients which were associated with the skin and the layer beneath it.
Nutrients in Potatoes
The major nutrients in a standard white potato (200g), baked, just the flesh.
Carbs: 43 g
Fat: 0.2 g
Protein: 4 g
Fiber: 3 g
Magnesium: 50 mg
Vitamin C: 20 mg
Copper: 0.43 mg
Potassium: 782 mg
These nutrients are certainly much better than rice. The carbohydrates are almost all starch.
The full list of nutrients in potatoes are shown in the images.
Interesting Facts about Potatoes
- In 1995 potatoes became the first food grown in Space aboard the space shuttle Columbia.
- Potato crystals were used to develop the first colour photography
- Biodegradable plastics can be created from potato starch
- Potatoes are cheap and very easy to grow and many people use them as a foundation crop to start a vegetable garden.
- They are and ideal crop for farmers in the developing world.
- Potatoes can grow to a very large size, with the world’s largest potato weighing about 18 pounds (Guinness Book of World Records).
- The Inca populations of Peru were growing potatoes as far back as 200 BC. They were first introduced into Ireland and Britain in the late 1500s.
- At one time, the Scots refused to eat potatoes, because they were not mentioned in the Bible!
- Potatoes were often eaten aboard ship to prevent scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C.
- There are more than 100 potato varieties of potatoes that are eaten that range from white to red and blue.
- The potato harvest is the fourth largest food crop in the world that is cultivated in a huge array of countries. Only corn, wheat, and rice are more important.
- Americans love potatoes and most people consume about 125 pounds of potatoes each year in the form of fresh, frozen, chips and dehydrated.
- Early varieties of potato mature in less than 90 days
- Late varieties of potato need 110 days or more of growing time, but they typically produce a heavy set of tubers that keep well in storage.
- Potatoes are good for you as long as you prepare them in a healthy manner. Boiled and baked potatoes are good for you. Eat the Skin, Skip the Toppings - don't fry them.
Why are Potatoes Regarded as Unhealthy ?
The biggest issues for the health of potatoes is the way they are prepared. Most people peel off the skins, then boil them or shallow fry them and then develop a sauce that includes salt, cream, butter or milk.
Commonly potatoes are baked and a dressing is provided that contains cheese or cream, mayonnaise, bacon bits and other ingredients.
The skin is one of the healthiest parts of the potato should be retained to increase the nutrients. Deep frying potatoes loads them with fat and calories. There are many healthy potatoes recipes to try.
My favourite way to eat potatoes is to simply place washed potatoes on the shelves in the oven and bake for about an hour - Add nothing. This is the perfect baked potato!
© 2011 Dr. John Anderson