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Terrific tuber

Potatoes are wholesome if prepared in the right manner



Nutritious spud Potatoes are a source of vitamin C, potassium and phosphorus

Nearly 8,000 years ago, the domestication of the wild potato, and the breeding of varieties that survived the frost of the high Andes, sustained the ancestors of the future Inca civilisation. The potato was central to the food security and stability of the Incas; they developed techniques of freeze-drying to ensure availability of this staple food when crops failed.

The Spanish Conquistadores introduced the potato to Europe in the 16th Century, but the people were slow to accept it as food because the potato is a nightshade — a poisonous plant. The Irish who fled the Great Potato Famine (1845 – 1847) and immigrated to North America made the potato synonymous with their culture. To this day, Americans use the term ‘Irish Potato’ to distinguish the tuber from sweet potato.

Food uses: every major cuisine has a few potato dishes that spell comfort food. Boiling, baking, stewing, and frying are the most common methods of preparation. Potato flour is a common ingredient in baked foods. Potato starch forms the basis of alcohol in vodka and other liquors.

Nutrition: 100 gm of the boiled and peeled tuber contains just 87 Calorie, with 20 gm of carbohydrate, 1.8 gm of protein, 0.1 gm of fat and appreciable amounts of Vitamin C, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, phosphorus and potassium. Boiled or baked potatoes are a healthful source of energy. Baking is the best cooking method for preserving nutrition, although even this method reduces fibre and protein content. Boiling peeled potatoes leaches Vitamin C into the surrounding liquid. Boiling unpeeled potatoes is the best compromise for the Indian household. Frying destroys vitamins and reduces mineral content.

Fried and heavily salted potato foods are partly responsible for the rising epidemic of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. As long as one minimises the use of salt and fat and sticks to an overall daily calorie limit, eating potatoes is compatible with being on a diet.

Storage: prolonged exposure to light increases the glycoalkaloid content and eventually renders the tuber unfit for consumption. Exposure to light also turns the potato green by spurring the production of chlorophyll. However, because most of the glycoalkaloids and chlorophyll are present just below the skin, peeling potatoes before cooking is sufficient to ensure food safety.

RAJIV M.

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