Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fuel Better: Potato

This Spud is for You

You may be wondering why I am listing a Potato as a new food. Especially since, in 2007 total world production of potatoes was more than 320 million tons, and about 2/3 were consumed by people as food. The other 1/3 was used as animal feed, and as potato starch in pharmaceuticals, textiles, adhesives, and in the wood and paper industries, etc.  Currently, potatoes rank as the number “vegetable” consumed in American. However, they are usually deep fried or loaded with cheese, bacon and sour cream or more simply put a $0.99 heart attack. Most health enthusiastic dismisses the lowly potato as little more than a fattening carbohydrate source or ban it from their diets because it is stereotyped as a “white” no, no.
The truth is take away the extra fat and deep frying, and a baked potato is an exceptionally healthful low calorie, high fiber food that offers significant protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The potato belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family whose other members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos. They are the swollen portion of the underground stem which is called a tuber and is designed to provide food for the green leafy portion of the plant. If allowed to flower and fruit, the potato plant will bear an inedible fruit resembling a tomato.

Potatoes are a very good source of vitamin C, a good source of vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber.

Potatoes also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity. Among these important health-promoting compounds are carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, as well as unique tuber storage proteins, such as patatin, which exhibit activity against free radicals.

Other Health Benefits:

Potatoes' Phytochemicals Rival Those in Broccoli

                 Blood-Pressure Lowering Potential
o   UK scientists at the Institute for Food Research have identified blood pressure-lowering compounds called kukoamines in potatoes. Previously only found in Lycium chinense, an exotic herbal plant whose bark is used to make an infusion in Chinese herbal medicine, kukoamines were found in potatoes using a new type of research called metabolomics.

Vitamin B6-Building Your Cells
o   A cup of baked potato contains 21.0% of the daily value  
o   Vitamin B6 is involved in more than 100 enzymatic reactions.
o   Enzymes are proteins that help chemical reactions take place, so vitamin B6 is active virtually everywhere in the body. Many of the building blocks of protein, amino acids, require B6 for their synthesis, as do the nucleic acids used in the creation of our DNA. Because amino and nucleic acids are such critical parts of new cell formation, vitamin B6 is essential for the formation of virtually all new cells in the body. Heme (the protein center of our red blood cells) and phospholipids (cell membrane components that enable messaging between cells) also depend on vitamin B6 for their creation.

Vitamin B6-Brain Cell and Nervous System Activity

Vitamin B6-Cardiovascular Protection

Vitamin B6-Athletic Performance
o   Vitamin B6 is also necessary for the breakdown of glycogen, the form in which sugar is stored in our muscle cells and liver, so this vitamin is a key player in athletic performance and endurance.

How to Select and Store

While potatoes are often conveniently packaged in a plastic bag, it is usually better to buy them individually from a bulk display. Not only will this allow you to better inspect the potatoes for signs of decay or damage, but many times, the plastic bags are not perforated and cause a buildup of moisture that can negatively affect the potatoes.

Potatoes should be firm, well-shaped and relatively smooth, and should be free of decay that often manifests as wet or dry rot. In addition, they should not be sprouting or have green coloration.

The ideal way to store potatoes is in a dark, dry place between 45°F to 50°F between 7-10°C) as higher temperatures, even room temperature, will cause the potatoes to sprout and dehydrate prematurely.

Potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator, as their starch content will turn to sugar giving them an undesirable taste. In addition, do not store potatoes near onions, as the gases that they each emit will cause the degradation of one another. Wherever you store them, they should be kept in a burlap or paper bag.

Mature potatoes stored properly can keep up to two months. Check on the potatoes frequently, removing any that have sprouted or shriveled as spoiled ones can quickly affect the quality of the others. New potatoes are much more perishable and will only keep for one week.
Cooked potatoes will keep fresh in the refrigerator for several days. Potatoes do not freeze well.

Tips for Preparing Potatoes:

The potato skin is a concentrated source of dietary fiber, so to get the most nutritional value from this vegetable, don't peel it and consume both the flesh and the skin. Just scrub the potato under cold running water right before cooking and then remove any deep eyes or bruises with a paring knife. If you must peel it, do so carefully with a vegetable peeler, only removing a thin layer of the skin and therefore retaining the nutrients that lie just below the skin.

Potatoes should be cleaned and cut right before cooking in order to avoid the discoloration that occurs with exposure to air. If you cannot cook them immediately after cutting, place them in a bowl of cold water to which you have added a little bit of lemon juice, as this will prevent their flesh from darkening and will also help to maintain their shape during cooking.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil together to make delicious garlic mashed potatoes. Season to taste.

Toss steamed diced potato with olive oil and fresh herbs of your choice. 

Bake homemade French fries at 450 for 30-45 minutes.

Good Ole Baked potato with spray butter and light sour cream or Greek Yogurt can complement any lean meat after an intense workout to replenish glycogen stores.


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