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 reputation as a high-carb, white starch has removed them from the meals of many a weight-conscious eater, but this stereotype is due for a significant overhaul.
A new analytical method developed by Agricultural Research Service plant geneticist Roy Navarre has identified 60 different kinds of phytochemicals and vitamins in the skins and flesh of 100 wild and commercially grown potatoes. Analysis of Red and Norkotah potatoes revealed that these spuds phenolic content rivals that of broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts, and includes flavonoids with protective activity against cardiovascular disease, but especially respiratory problems and certain cancers. Navarre’s team also identified potatoes with high levels of vitamin C, folic acid, quercetin and kukoamines. These last compounds, which have blood pressure lowering potential, have only been found in one other plant, Lycium chinense (a.k.a., wolfberry/gogi berry). Potatoes phytochemical profiles show it’s time to shed their starch-only image; spuds-baked, steamed, healthy sautéed or fix in other ways deserve a place in your healthy way of eating. Note: the starch in potatoes acts as little sponges that absorb toxins and wastes in the body for removal.
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