Potatoes have been getting a bad rap in the food world. But the pride of Idaho actually has much to boast about. Potatoes are filling, moderate in calories, and non-fattening, and are an excellent way to ensure your continued success in eating healthy.
Whoever coined the phrase "the lowly potato" certainly wasn't aware of its nutrient values. And anyone who still shuns the potato thinking it is fattening is missing out on a food tailor-made for the weight-conscious person.
Potatoes are nutrient-dense, meaning you receive many nutrients for the amount of calories they have. The fiber is half soluble, half insoluble, so it helps to keep you regular and helps to lower cholesterol. And slowing down digestion helps to keep you full longer. Phytochemicals in potatoes include flavanoids and a recently identified compound called kukoamine that appears to help lower blood pressure.
With the exception of vitamin A, white potatoes have just about every nutrient. Did you know potatoes are full of vitamin C? However, since we do not eat potatoes raw, most of the vitamin C is lost due to the heat of cooking. In addition, one baked potato offers about 20 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin B6, which is good news for your heart. They are also very high in potassium, beating other potassium-rich foods. They are a good source of iron and copper, too. In fact, a potato a day is good for your heart, promoting normal blood-pressure levels.
Selection and Storage
Boiling potatoes are red or white. They're small and round with thin skins that look waxy, signaling more moisture and less starch. Baking potatoes, also known as russets or Idahos, are large and long with brown, dry skin. Their lack of moisture makes them bake up fluffy. Long, white all-purpose potatoes are also known as Maine, Eastern, or California potatoes. New potatoes are not a variety of potato; they are simply small potatoes of any variety that have yet to mature. They look waxy with thin, undeveloped skins that are often partially rubbed away.
For all potatoes, choose those that are firm with no soft or dark spots. Pass over green-tinged potatoes; they contain toxic alkaloids, such as solanine, that the potato develops when exposed to light. Also avoid potatoes that have started to sprout; they're old. If you buy potatoes in bags, open the bags right away and discard any that are rotting, because one bad potato can spoil a bagful.
Store potatoes in a location that is dry, cool, dark, and ventilated. Light triggers the production of toxic solanine. Too much moisture causes rotting. Don't refrigerate them, or the starch will convert to sugar. Don't store them with onions; both will go bad faster because of a gas the potatoes give off. Mature potatoes keep for weeks; new potatoes only a week.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Don't wash potatoes until you're ready to cook them. Scrub well with a vegetable brush under running water. Cut out sprout buds and bad spots. If the potato is green or too soft, throw it out.
Baking a potato takes an hour in a conventional oven, but only five minutes in a microwave (12 minutes for four potatoes). Prick the skin for a fluffier potato. If you are baking them in a conventional oven, it's inadvisable to wrap them in foil unless you like steamed potatoes. When boiling potatoes, keep them whole to reduce nutrient loss.
Remember, the potato itself is not fattening, but what you put on it may expand your waistline. Don't slather your potatoes in butter, margarine, sour cream, or cheese. Instead, eat them plain or top them with nonfat yogurt or lite sour cream, and sprinkle them with chopped dill, parsley, or scallions. Pile broccoli or other veggies on top for added nutrition, fiber, and satisfying bulk. Sprinkle with a no-sodium seasoning full of herbs and spices.
New potatoes are delicious boiled and drizzled lightly with olive oil, then dusted liberally with dill weed.
So hold off on the butter and sour cream, and that baked potato you used to fear will serve immeasurably toward maintaining your measurements or meeting your weight-loss goals.
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