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Tuber guide: Eat with the skin on.

Tuber guide: Eat with the skin on.

No couch potatoes here

No couch potatoes here

The potato is usually synonymous with all things unhealthy —the words fat, starch, carbohydrate come to mind. A couch potato is something no one aspires to be. Yet the humble tuber is a hot favourite in almost all cuisines around the world and is well known as a versatile and tempting vegetable. From batata vada and aloo chat to aloo parantha, aloo gobi and dum aloo, the potato is an integral part of just about any Indian dish. In fact, there is a potato-based favourite dish for every palate. Several top-notch fast food enterprises make a big deal about marketing crispier, tastier potato chips, while others are busy researching the perfect potato to make the tastiest French fries—crisp on the outside, and light and fluffy inside.

Tuber guide: Eat with the skin on.

Potatoes also contain several health-promoting antioxidants, compounds like carotenoids, flavonoids and caffeic acid, and are a major source of energy. Contrary to popular belief, baked potatoes with skins (jacket potatoes) when not loaded with sour cream or cheese, have a lower glycaemic index because of the fibre available from the skin. Mashed potatoes do not contain fibre and have a higher glycaemic index (GI) of 96 (a GI of 70 or more is considered high, 100g baked potatoes have a GI of approximately 50-76 depending on the quality of the potato). Similarly, deep-fried potatoes have a high GI. Foods with high GI are fattening because they are broken in the body faster than high fibre foods, which make you feel hungry within a couple of hours.

Before cooking potatoes, clean them thoroughly with a brush under running water. Ensure that you choose those that are firm in texture. Discard ones that have a greenish discoloration and have sprouts because this indicates that the potato is old and contains toxins. When potatoes have all their nutrients intact, they are a convenient and tasty health food that can go a long way in improving the health profile of people in many ways.

Benefits of consuming jacket potatoes (100g a day):

• A single baked potato (100g) provides almost 12% of fibre intake of our daily requirement (which should be 25-30g) and acts like a bulking agent to improve digestion and bowel movements.

• It helps you beat stress because it provides 27% of the daily requirement of vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is required for cellular health and a healthy nervous system.

• It lowers blood homocysteine levels (homocysteine is a toxic by-product of protein metabolism in the body) and maintains a healthy heart. Homocysteine level of less than 10 mmol/l is desirable since a high level can increase the risk of heart disease.

• It can potentially lower blood pressure because it contains a blood pressure lowering compound called kukoamine. However, several smaller servings of potato may be required for this. Diabetic or overweight people can also have potatoes, provided these are the only starch component in the meal instead of chapatti, rice or bread.

• Eat a jacket potato before going to bed; season it with flaxseed oil, salt and chilli powder if you wish. This will improve sleep quality, improve morning energy and mood for the day.

• Jacket potatoes can replace carbohydrates like chapatti and wholewheat bread for those on a weight-loss plan because they are an excellent source of sustained energy. With the skin, potatoes become a more complex food. The skin of the potato and its natural high-fibre content prevents sugar and junk food cravings.

Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.

Write to Madhuri at dietdesk@livemint.com

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