Hail the potato! He is no villain

Munch moment Bust those myths to enjoy a healthy potato platter.

Potatoes come to the forefront and do a bit of self praise — it’s about time! Potatoes unfortunately have never been seen in a positive light because of all the myths surrounding them; from being a vegetable to how ‘fatty’ they are to how high their glycaemia index is, the list can go on. These myths are quite damaging to the potatoes’ nutritional profile, for because of them, they seem to be left in the corner of the plate, only to be thrown away. However, one doesn’t realise that what is being thrown away is a nutritional gold mine.  Yes, I repeat, a nutritional gold mine.

It’s time to bust those myths and lay out those untold facts. Hear it from the potato himself:

* I’m so versatile: Firstly I’m a cereal and not a vegetable. The amount of starch I can offer makes me equivalent to being a cereal. However, since I am so versatile and flexible, you can use me as a vegetable too.
* I’m a food super hero: When you consider everything I have under my skin and in my skin it’s no wonder nutritionists consider me super. You name it — Vitamin C, potassium, iron, B group vitamins, antioxidants, fibre and carbohydrates. I’ve got it all. Yes, I’m simply super.
* I’m a nutritional gold mine: I provide a wealth of healthy nutrients as well as high quality fuel to power your body. Count me as one of your cereal servings for the day. So please do your best and ensure that you keep me healthy — use me in recipes that are low in fat and salt.  
* I go with everything, count me in: I’m a great mixer in any crowd. I go well in salads, curries, casseroles, chapathis, vegetables, soups, roasts. Bake me, roast me, wedge me, boil me, stir fry me, mash me, stuff me. Everything goes with potatoes. I just love being included in fancy dinners, and I’m equally at home for a quick snack on the grill or oven. Whatever your lifestyle I dress up for the occasion.  
* I’m better off with my clothes on: I’ve got so much fibre, and a lot of nutrients in, or just under my skin, so please don’t throw away my best part. And best of all, I taste fantastic with my skin on — try me roasted, boiled or in salads. You can even mash me with my skin on; then I’ll be smashed instead of mashed.
* I’m great for the planet: I’m a really efficient plant. Almost 85% of what I grow can be eaten. And I need less water to grow than other carbohydrates. It takes about 300 buckets of water to grow 1 kg of rice, 50 buckets of water to grow 1 kg of wheat and only 8 buckets of water to grow 1 kg of me! And as the world is short of water, you are doing the planet a favour by eating me. 

Good chip guidelines
I know how much you enjoy me in the form of chips; however it is important that you cook me in a healthy way to retain most of my nutrients. Firstly, try baking me (I like being warm in the oven); this is the best method as deep frying burns me up. It destroys my lovely skin and dehydrates me from inside. I feel all weak and wriggly.
However, if you don’t like that crunch when I’m baked, here are some good chip guidelines that you should follow when you deep fry me:

* Chip size: When slicing me up, remember to keep me thick and straight.
* Cooking: Preferably bake me, but when deep frying me; remember to cook me at a temperature of 175 – 180 degree Celsius for 3-4 minutes.
* Draining: Bang or shake the basket vigorously twice, then hang it for at least 20 seconds. This will ensure that there is no excess oil on me and I am that perfect crunchy.
* Frying medium: Maintain the frying medium in good quality (Canola oil is best). Keep the fryer topped up with fresh oil. Filter oil as required. Cool oil and cover the fryer when not in use. Discard oil when it shows signs of degradation.
* Portion size: Serve me in a recommended scoop size; 1 scoop is approximately 330g (3 serves per kg)
* Seasoning: When seasoning your portion of me, remember to add less salt and more herbs. Salt makes my skin go all dry while herbs bring out my colour and give me that extra zing that I love.
Okay okay, enough of showing off, I heard you. But remember, all this boasting is backed up by sound scientific evidence, so take me seriously, or you may just miss out on that gold mine of a potato.

(The author is a member, Health Professions Council, the UK)

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