The Humble Spud is Rich in Nutrients And History

Many people avoid white potatoes due to fear of toxins, excessive weight gain, or simply because they think sweet potatoes are better.  However, the humble spud – if stored and prepared properly – is a nutritious, delicious, and environmentally friendly food that should not be ignored.

Some facts about the potatoes:

  • They are tubers from the Solanaceae family.
  • The fourth most important food crop in the world (behind wheat, maize and rice).
  • Grown in 149 countries.

Commercial potatoes originated thousands of years ago in South America and are now a dietary staple for over one billion people.  Various cultures have relied on potatoes as their number one food source.

Oh, and by the way, sweet potatoes are not actually “potatoes.” They are a root from the Convolvulaceae family, a different food family entirely.  Some facts about sweet potatoes are

  • They take nine to 12 months to mature and don’t store as well as potatoes.
  • They likely originated thousands of years ago in Peru.
  • They are a staple food source in Okinawan diets, instead of rice, the main starch in most of Japan.
  • They have not been associated with any form of glycoalkaloid toxicity.

While some proclaim that potato consumption in North America is excessive, it is not.  Americans consume more desserts than potatoes.

On average, adults consume 36 to 93 calories from fresh potatoes per day (depending on gender).  Meanwhile, we eat 138 calories daily, on average, from cookies, cakes and other grain-based desserts.

Fresh potato consumption has decreased over the past 40 years.

  • 1970: 61 lbs.
  • 1996: 50 lbs.
  • 2008: 36 lbs.

Processed potato consumption, for example  french fries and potato chips, has increased during this same time period.

While serving as an army pharmacist during the Seven Years War, Frenchman Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was taken prisoner by the Prussians. Served a diet composed almost exclusively of potatoes, he survived.

In fact, on his release several years later, he was actually in good health. (He must also have been consuming foods with vitamins A and D, as these nutrients are not found in potatoes.)

He went on to become a huge proponent of potatoes as ordinary food in France. Until he came along, the French considered potatoes to be worthless, except as hog feed. Thanks to him, we have potatoes parmentier…

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