Potatoes: A Not So Scary Starch

iStock_000010770101XSmallAs a people, humans have always had an innate fear of the unknown — dark spaces, deep waters — anything we can’t see, hear, feel or understand. And for many health-conscious beings, potatoes fall under that category. White and fluffy with an indiscernible mass of hidden starches, calories, carbs and other fat-inducing agents all aimed at increasing the circumference our hips and thighs — they’re downright terrifying. But the unknown isn’t always so scary. Dark rooms can hold surprise parties and deep waters, friendly fish. So can the same be said for potatoes? Can the scary starchy vegetable actually be good for you?

Turns out, it might. Potatoes happen to be an excellent source of many vital vitamins and nutrients. An uncooked potato with skin, contains potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, iron and zinc among others. The fiber content of a potato is equal to that of many common whole grain breads, pastas and cereals.

The potato itself is free of any fat, cholesterol or sodium. The potato only turns fatty when we bake or fry it and add excess oils or toppings to it, such as cheese, sour cream or butter.

While it’s true that the potato does have a significant carbohydrate content primarily in the form of starches, and that a portion of this starch is resistant to digestion; that’s not entirely a bad thing. This starch also serves as protection against colon and gallbladder cancer. It helps lower cholesterol and improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. It’s slow digestion also has a hidden benefit, in that it helps keep you full longer.

Like all foods, potatoes should be eaten in proportion with other fruits, vegetables and grains. Just because they have nutritional value doesn’t mean you should go supplementing your morning oatmeal with four potatoes, but it does mean that you can let go of your fear of potatoes. Unlike deep water or dark spaces, you can be sure you know what’s in there.

Nutritional Value
According to Zhion health, a nutritional website, the average potato contains:

  • 140 calories
  • 0 g of fat
  • 0 g of cholesterol
  • 10 g of sodium
  • 31 g of carbohydrates
  • 5 g of fiber
  • 2 g of sugar
  • 3 g of protein

Weird Potato Facts:
When the potato was first introduced to European societies in the 1500s, it was initially thought to be poisonous.
The potato is the world’s fourth largest crop.
There are about five thousand potato varieties worldwide.
The United Nations declared 2008, “International Year of the Potato” in order to “increase awareness of the importance of the potato as a food in developing nations.”
Jersey Royal potatoes are a valued strain in the UK, they even have their own Protected Designation of Origin.

Potatoes Around the World
Given that potatoes are the world’s fourth largest produced crop and a key component of the world’s food supply, potatoes are immensely popular and routinely show up in traditional dishes in countries across the globe.

Despite the fact they were initially deemed poisonous by European countries, when first introduced in the 1500s, potatoes have since become staple in the European diet, as fish and chips, roast potatoes, Shepard’s pie and mash are regular fixtures in the United Kingdom. The potato is also key in Italy, where it is a main ingredient in gnocchi. The same is true in Belgium, the country credited with inventing the original  french fry.

Similarly, in the United States, potatoes have become one of the most widely consumed crops, with the popularity of french fries, hash browns and mashed potatoes among other recipes.

In India some of the most popular potato dishes are samosa, which is spicy smashed potatoes and vegetables fried in dough, and Dum Alu, a spicy curry that uses boiled potato as a main ingredient.

Although, the potato is perhaps most prevalent in Peru, where more than 3,000 varieties of potato tuber (a strain of crop) are grown and the potato is thought to have originated as far back as 10,000 years ago. It is the base of many common Latin American dishes.

And while the potato may have originated in Latin America, today Asia is the largest producer of potato crops, with almost a third of the world’s supply of potatoes harvested in China and India.

For more weird and wonderful potato tidbits, check out:

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