Potatoes Unhealthy: Think Again

Although it might sound like the old myth that tomatoes are poisonous, the commonly held myth regarding potatoes as unhealthy is basically false. Their health promoting properties are mostly unknown or ignored. Too much attention is paid to the starch content and somewhat high glycemic index of potatoes, which is manageable unless you`re a sugar freak or diabetic. Our ancestors existed on a diet largely free of large amounts of sugar and starch for millions of years.

Ample Nutrition, Including Protein!
What’s ignored is the fact that potatoes contain all 22 amino acids to form complete proteins after easy digesting. It makes for easier protein absorption than the digestive effort of breaking down the complete proteins in meat and dairy. Potatoes are a high source of potassium, even more than bananas, and are rich in other minerals. They are also rich in Vitamin C and B6. More importantly, Agricultural Research geneticists have identified 60 different kinds of phytochemicals in the skins and flesh of a wide variety of potatoes. Some potatoes` phenolic levels rival those of broccoli and spinach. Others contain high amounts of folic acid, quercetin and kukoamines. Potatoes are antioxidant dense as well.

What About the Skins?
Some say the skins are poisonous, even though they contain a high concentration of potatoes` nutrients. All potatoes produce small amounts of alkaloid called solanine as a form of natural insecticide. But potatoes that undergo prolonged exposure to light and warm temperatures can produce unusually high amounts of solanine. This skin hazard is applicable to wild potatoes, but cultivated potatoes don`t have that risk unless part of the skin is green or sprouts have begun to form. The green color is caused by similarly high levels of chlorophyll, which is produced at the same time. When you see either, it`s wise to avoid that whole potato, even though it takes a hefty amount of solanine to experience an immediate toxic reaction. Otherwise, eating skins is recommended.

A few health writers have mentioned that if they had to choose only one food for survival, it would be potatoes, baked, boiled, or sauteed but not fried. Combining potatoes` comfort food satisfaction with their high nutritional value of protein forming amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and especially disease preventing phytonutrients and antioxidants makes this an easy choice as a survival food.

Survival Game
Potatoes were the main staple of indigenous South American highland natives for centuries. The Spanish conquerors grabbed a few along with tons of gold and silver and took them back to Europe. They discovered that eating potatoes prevented scurvy! Slowly, various forms of potato meals became popular among peasants in several European nations. But they really took hold among the Irish. British rule prohibited Irish Catholics from entering the professions or owning land. They had to rent small plots from Anglo-Protestant owners and grew potatoes to survive. That’s a survival clue for you.

Its almost funny to say; still I wish to make it clear French fries and potato chips processed from the same potatoes are not to be considered super foods.

The fact that nutritionally dense potatoes are easy to grow year around in small lots, even flower boxes, offers another solution to the biologically modified & processed produce. Its important to keep organically home cultivated potatoes in a cool, dark dry place to prevent green skin or sprouts from forming. Stored this way, their shelf life is long. But it`s not a good idea to store potatoes in the refrigerator. That can cause the potato starch to become sugar. Lots of potatoes can be grown in a small area all year round, and it takes only a few to make a meal. Growing your own and neighborhood growing is gradually catching on in western societies. You can find out more by Googling “home grown potatoes” and “planting potatoes”. It`s even practical to grow edible potatoes in window flower boxes.

This article finds its place as my dedication to the Harvest festival. This festival is observed as Makarsankranti across the majority of India, as Uttarayan in the Western India, Pongal in the Southern state of India Tamil Nadu including Sri Lanka, and called Magha Bihu in the Eastern states in India. The intention of this festival is to thank the sun god, livestock, and farmstead that helped the material abundance.