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
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!
Place the potatoes in a pan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat to a simmer; cover and cook for 12-14 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool for 30 minutes. Slice eggs in half (discard yolks or save for another use). Cut the whites into small pieces. Using a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Add the celery, green onions, potatoes, egg whites, onion, red pepper and parsley; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until chilled.
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F. Part cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for ten minutes. Drain them well. Add the sunflower oil, sage and thyme to a large bowl and mix well. Season with salt. Mix in the potatoes and mix thoroughly but carefully to ensure they are all well and evenly coated in the oil and herbs. Put the potatoes on to a baking tray and in to the oven for twenty-five minutes. Do not wash the bowl! Put the crushed garlic in to your unwashed bowl and after twenty-five minutes in the oven, remove your potatoes and put them back in the bowl. Again, stir carefully and well. Put them back on the tray and give them five more minutes in the oven.
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, paprika, crushed red pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Adjust heat so the sauce is simmering and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of ketchup, 16 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, toss potatoes, pepper and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add the potatoes and toss to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are dark golden brown and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve the potatoes with the sauce for dipping.