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The Super Tuber
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Would you be interested in eating a plant related to the poison nightshade? How about biting into a starchy tuber that grows in dirt? This plant originally came from the Andes just 400 years ago and is now the world’s fourth largest food crop. Genetic testing has found that this vegetable came from southern Peru and northwestern Bolivia where it was domesticated several thousand years ago. Today the average person in the U.S. eats about 73 pounds of this crop per year. What is it? The good old potato!

The name potato comes from the Spanish word patata which originally referred to the sweet potato. There are over 5,000 varieties of potato around the world. The highest potato producers in the world are The People’s Republic of China, India, Russia, and the United States. Sometimes called spuds, the most popular commercial varieties are Russet, Yukon Gold, Kennebec, Desiree and Fingerling.

There are lots of ways people enjoy eating potatoes. You can bake, boil, and fry potatoes. Many people enjoy French Fries, but they contain lots of unhealthy fat as do the number one snack food in the world—potato chips. Many also like baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and potato salad. I grew up loving a dish called au gratin. (My brother didn’t like it and called it “Ugh Rotten!”)

More Potassium Than Bananas

If a single potato had a nutritional facts label attached to it, you would learn that it contains only 110 calories and zero fat. Amazingly a potato has more potassium than bananas. Potassium helps regulate fluid and mineral balance in your cells and helps you maintain normal blood pressure. Potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C which is an antioxidant that helps prevent cellular damage and supports the body’s immune system. [1]

One of the benefits of eating potatoes is that, because it contains soluble fiber, you feel full for a longer time after eating which can help you avoid overeating. It helps offer protection against colon cancer and improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. Potatoes are also a good source of vitamin B6 and iron. If you are concerned about pesticides, you might want to only eat organically grown potatoes since they are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables that contain pesticide residues. [2]

If you want to cut back on fat consumption, try steaming potatoes in cubes and sprinkling a light coating of olive oil and fresh herbs on top. Even hash browns and French fries don’t need to be smothered in oil but can be baked in the oven.

So, if you’re looking for a delicious vegetable that is now grown in all 50 states of the U.S. and in about 125 countries around the world, pull up to the dinner table and dig your fork into a little tuber that packs a punch, the potato!

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

[1] http://www.potatogoodness.com/nutrition/nutritional-facts/
[2] http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipes/healthy/dirty-dozen-foods#slide-10

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