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02 Jun 2017 By AMC

The Humble Potato

Generally, winter is the season where we crave foods that are warming, provide greater satiety and generally, food that gives us as sense of comfort and enjoyment. Potatoes are one of these foods.

Peru is the country of origin for potatoes. Archaeologists believe the domestication of potatoes began approximately 8000 years ago, between the Peru-Bolivian border. This area is of particularly high altitude and as a result, not much could be cultivated in this region however, they were perfect conditions to grow potatoes. Throughout the centuries, indigenous cultures grew the plant, helping to increase the 187 known types of wild potatoes to the 4,000 varieties grown in the Andean region today.

The Inca’s used potatoes as their main energy fuels and held this vegetable in high regard and potatoes were often buried with their dead. In 1532, Spanish conquerors discovered the potato and it wasn’t long before the potato spread across Europe throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries. Most people rejected the introduction and consumption of potatoes as they knew it hailed from the deadly nightshade family and many Orthodox Christian denominations rejected this vegetable outright, as it was not mentioned in the bible.

The potato arrived in England during the later stages of the 16th Century and it is believed English pirates stole this vegetable from Spanish ships. The nutritious vegetable made its way to Ireland, where it became a staple common in their diet.

Today, potatoes are a staple of many cultures, however they are quite often given a bad rap, due to their carbohydrate content and their nutritional profile is negatively portrayed.

Potatoes are comprised of carbohydrates, mostly, in the form of starch. Due to the carbohydrate content, they do typically rank quite highly on the glycaemic index scale and are often avoided by diabetics. However, the various cooking methods utilised may slightly lower the glycaemic index. For example, boiling potato has been found to lower the glycaemic index, as opposed to baking them. As seen below the Carisma variety of potatoes is the best source of potatoes, when there are concerns around glycaemic index.

Potato variety, boiled GI Rating
Carisma 55*** Low
Desiree 101*** High
Nicola 58** Medium
Sebago 87* High
Pontiac 88* High

 

Due to their high carbohydrate content, they’re an ideal source for athletes to consume in preparation for endurance events as well as individuals who are frequently involved in regular exercise, as a pre-workout meal.

Potatoes don’t just contain carbohydrates in the form of starch, they’re a nutrient powerhouse being quite high in potassium, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin B6. They also contain small amounts of fibre, that may be beneficial for bowel health and function.

Combining potatoes with a protein rich meal, may aid with reducing their glycaemic index and load and prevent sugar levels from spiking. Much of the evidence around potatoes and their role with weight gain has been associated with individuals consuming French fries daily. The issue here, French fries are fried and often contain high amounts of trans fats which have been linked to obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Don’t be afraid to consumes potatoes from time to time. After all, many cultures consume them daily and show no risk of developing obesity. It is all in the preparation and the type of potato consumed.

 

Written by Annmaire Cannone

M.Hum Nut, Grad Dip Naturopathy, B.App Sci (Naturopathic Studies)