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Potato Association of America Presentation

By Kathie Beals

This past August I had the opportunity to speak at the annual Potato Association of America (PAA) meeting held in Idaho Falls, ID. Before describing the meeting itself, I think a bit of background about the PAA is in order. The PAA was formed in 1913 and serves as the official professional society for those involved in potato research, extension, production, and utilization. The association provides opportunities to contribute in one or more of eight sections: Breeding & Genetics, Certification, Extension, Plant Protection, Physiology, Production & Management, and Utilization & Marketing.

The annual meeting features research presentations, demonstrations and workshops encompassing a range of topics related to potatoes including nutrition, plant protection, breeding and genetics, physiology as well as industry topics including marketing, production and management. My presentation was part of the opening Keynote Symposium which was entitled, “Enhancing the Nutritional Value of Potato Tubers.” As the opening presentation, it was my responsibility to “set the stage” for the rest of the Symposium. Thus, I began with a historical perspective of the important role that potatoes have played nourishing mankind for centuries. I then focused on the nutrient content of potatoes, including carbohydrate, protein in a potato, vitamins and minerals. For example, potatoes are now being recognized for their resistant starch content. Current research is investigating the physiological functions, health benefits and ways to maximize dietary resistant starch. In addition to carbohydrates, potatoes contain a small but significant amount of protein, comparing favorably and even exceeding that of many other common vegetables. Moreover, their unique amino acid profile makes potatoes a perfect protein complement to many other vegetable and grain sources. In addition, potatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin C and rank highest for potassium among the top 20 most frequently consumed raw vegetables and the 20 top most frequently consumed raw fruits.

I finished my presentation by addressing some of the more common myths and misconceptions surrounding potatoes including:

1. “Potatoes are fattening”- In fact, a medium potato has just 110 calories and no fat. No single food causes excess weight gain; rather, gaining weight is a function of consuming more calories than you expend (1).
2. “Potatoes have a high glycemic index (GI)”- In fact, the GI of potatoes vary significantly depending upon the variety, origin, and cooking methods used (2, 3). For example, the GI of Russet potatoes range from 56 -111 depending on the country in which they were grown (4). Similarly a cooked red potato eaten hot has been shown to have a GI of 88 while eating that same potato cold lowers the GI to 56 (2).
3. “Potatoes are not satiating”- In fact a study conducted by Holt and colleagues and published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that, out of 38 commonly consumed foods, potatoes were the most satiating (5).
4. “All of the nutrients in potatoes are found in the skin”- In fact, the only nutrient that is lost appreciably when the skin is removed is fiber. About ½ of the fiber is found in the skin, while the bulk of the other nutrients (carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals) are found in the flesh (USDA SR 18). Nonetheless, it is recommended that potatoes be eaten with the skin to maximize the nutrient consumption.

References

1. FDA/CFSAN. Calories Count- Report from the Working Group on Obesity. March 12, 2004 accessed 11-19-07.
2. Pi-Sunyer, FX. Glycemic index and disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002; 76(suppl):290S-298S
3. Fernandes G, Velangi A, Wolever TMS. Glycemic index of potatoes commonly consumed in North America. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:557-562.
4. Foster-Powell K, Holt SHA, Brand-Miller JC. International table glycemic index and glycemic load: 2002. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:5-56.
5. Holt SHA, et al. A satiety index of common foods. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1995;49:675-690.
6. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2005. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page

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