Healthy Aspects of Potatoes as Part of the Human Diet

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Abstract

Potatoes are constituents of many diets. Nutritionalists identify several positive aspects but also discuss some adverse reactions. Therefore, healthiness of potato food has to be established taking into account new knowledge about natural constituents and food-borne substances. This paper presents data of three main areas: carbohydrates, toxins and antioxidants. The glycaemic behaviour of prepared potatoes has discredited the general understanding of potatoes as a healthy foodstuff. Boiled or steamed potatoes contain a large amount of rapidly available starch, but alongside genotype driven variability some preparation steps may also have an influence. The glycaemic load as the most relevant criterion for healthy subjects is relatively low. Potatoes may contain toxins, either natural (e.g. glycoalkaloids) or food-borne toxins (e.g. acrylamide). Minimization strategies have been developed for several potato dishes to reduce the intake substantially. Consumer handling particularly determines the specific level with those toxins. Antioxidants are a potent source of health promoting reactions in humans. They are present in potatoes, but specific concentrations are related to several aspects, e.g. plant growth, time interval after lifting, genotype, and kind of preparation. Again, the way in which consumers handle the potatoes is relevant. In summary, potatoes are very well suited for our modern diet, but consumers need advice to ensure that they are stored and prepared in the most appropriate way.

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