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For the Goodness of a Tater – 9 Potato Myths Busted!
If I had a penny for every time someone told me “watch out for the potato”, I’d be a rich woman by now. The legendary tuber has long been a victim of misunderstanding. Since the late 1500s to the present day, the potato has been condemned for various reasons. In 1580, the famous explorer Sir Walter Raleigh brought back some potato plants from America to Ireland and gave some to Queen Elizabeth I. Unfortunately, the Queen’s palace cooks were not very well versed with the funny tuber and instead of cooking the potatoes, they bought the stalks and the leaves before presenting it to the court at dinner. For those of you who are ignorant of the more sinister characteristics of the potato plant, it contains toxic compounds called glycoalkaloids, the majority of which are concentrated in the leaves and stems of the plant. As such, all those who consumed the edible preparation became deathly ill and as a result, potatoes were banned from the Queen.
After this, evil rumors seemed to follow the unfortunate tuber to whatever part of the world it was introduced. In France, for example, the potato was attributed with almost demonic status and accused of causing nasty diseases, ranging from leprosy to syphilis, as well as being responsible for sterility and unrestrained sexuality. The potato gradually became so notorious that in a certain French city an announcement was made that the potato was harmful to human, animal and soil health, its cultivation was immediately stopped.
Modern times have found other reasons to cultivate the benign vegetable. Even though the potato is one of the foods that people enjoy the most today, a diet-driven and health-crazed society today points out that the potato, which is extremely rich in starch, almost no other kind can have nutritional value. People today are so caught up in the anti-carb, zero-calorie, diabetes-free campaign that they don’t see the potato for what it really is – a highly nutritious vegetable, which, when eaten Being prepared and eaten in the right way and in the right quantities tends to help more often than it hurts.
According to a United Nations report, global potato production peaked at 315 million tons in 2006 and today nearly 1/3 of world production can be attributed to China and India – two of the world’s most populous countries. According to sources, an average global citizen consumes about 33 kg (73 lbs) of potatoes annually! In fact, the average American consumes almost 140 lbs per year, while Germans eat about 200 lbs annually! Although there are some basic standard types of potatoes, 4,000 different types are cultivated worldwide. The potato was also the first vegetable grown in space in 1995, with the aim of feeding astronauts and future space colonies! Considering the efforts required to grow so many types of potatoes and the production and consumption volumes worldwide, it is hard to think of the tater as a malignant, poisonous vegetable ready to kill with syphilis or obesity. And as it turns out, the potato is anything but! Here is a list of some common potato myths that people still have problems with today.
Myth 1: The potato is not a vegetable
The potato, although a tuberous root, is classified as a vegetable in the Food Guide Pyramid. However, it is also referred to as an edible root or tuber. The potato is an important part of the total recommended daily servings of vegetables. One medium-sized potato counts as one cup of starchy vegetables.
Myth 2: potatoes are fattening
Nutritionally speaking, a potato is about 80% water and 20% solid and about as much nutritional value as you can expect from any normal vegetable. A raw or baked potato with skin usually contains 100 calories, 22g of carbohydrates, 3g of protein and NO fat! I bet that’s wonderful news for all the dieters in the world who have been told that eating potatoes is suicide for a weight loss program. This is completely untrue when it is eaten in all its goodness – baked, mashed, boiled, roasted, steamed or stewed. Although a potato looks big, meaty and downright dangerous to the Atkins follower, it will not contribute much to your weight gain by itself, due to the large water content in it. However, a potato with extra butter or sour cream topping, served as chips / fries or baked with cheese will not only hinder weight loss, it WILL contribute to weight gain as well as cholesterol and blood sugar problems. While a simple baked potato would have no more than 100 calories and no fat, a small pack of french fries would easily count around 210 calories in addition to extra fat.
Myth 3: Potato chips are vegetables
Although this common potato myth thinks that potato chips and crisps count as vegetables in the food pyramid, this is completely misleading. The plain fact of the matter is that although potatoes in their raw form are classified in the vegetable group, potato chips which contain almost 61% fat do not.
Myth 4: Potatoes contain simple carbohydrates
Potatoes contain complex carbohydrates, which are absolutely essential for the energy needs of the body and the brain. Most of these carbohydrates are present in the forms of starch. A portion of this starch that is resistant to digestion by enzymes in the stomach and small intestine reaches the large intestine almost intact and provides the body with its much-needed fiber needs.
Myth 5: Carbohydrates are the only nutrients available in a potato
A medium-sized raw white potato or baked in skin, is also a powerhouse of other nutrients. It typically contains almost 35% vitamin C, 20% vitamin B6, 15% iodine and 10% each of copper, iron and niacin, 8% each of folic acid, phosphorus and magnesium, 4% thiamin and zinc and traces of vitamin A. During the Alaskan Klondike gold rush in the late 1800s, potatoes were so highly valued by miners for their Vitamin C content that they were traded for gold. So much for busting Myth number 5!
Myth 6: All the nutrients of a potato are in its skin
Although most of its protein content is concentrated in its thin layer of skin, all other nutrients are evenly distributed over the skin and body of the potato. So go ahead and enjoy the delicious goodness of the whole spud!
Myth 7: Potatoes have no antioxidants
Although there are no approved claims about antioxidants in potatoes, some research studies in recent years have determined that potatoes have a high probability of containing antioxidants such as but not limited to Anthocyanin and Carotenoids (apart from the established richness in Vitamin C).
Myth 8: Potatoes only taste good when cooked according to high-fat recipes.
Try an Indian potato curry with boiled potatoes and spices. If youare not into Asian cuisine, try a baked potato with salsa or low-fat sour cream or even low-fat cheese. Baked potatoes without cheese in tomato sauce with a hint of garlic and herbs served with steamed vegetables or asparagus on the side. Alternately grill them with tarragon leaves and other herbs. The avenues are manifold-creativity waiting to be explored. All with the same end result – a delicious low-fat, high-carb, nutrition-packed meal waiting to be devoured!
Myth 9: White potatoes are bad for you – eat sweet potatoes instead!
Wrong. A sweet potato, fried and served with cheese, would be just as bad as regular fries. The goodness of a vegetable – any vegetable – depends on the method of preparation and the quantity of consumption. Although both contain on average the same number of calories, the sweet potato is known to contain less starch, more vitamin C, and almost three times the amount of Beta Carotene in a white potato. However, if sugar is a consideration, the white variety would win hands down due to the higher sugar content in a sweet potato. Therefore, it would ideally be safe to say that raw white potatoes and sweet potatoes complement each other nutritionally and are not “bad” for the body.
As long as the potatoes you consume are cooked in fat-free ways and you replace the side servings of cheese, bacon bits, sour cream and creamy sauce with green vegetables, corn and carrots, be sure of a good, enjoyable, healthy meal . So go ahead and enjoy your taters the way they should be enjoyed – guilt-free and risk-free!
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