The potato forms a part of the army of products from the Earth that are destined to feed the world's population. Why? Well, there are more than enough reasons to make it one of the leaders in nutrition. Its virtues are being reassessed during 2008, the International Year of the Potato.
Potatoes have a lot of carbohydrates thus making them a good source of energy. They have the highest protein content within the root and tuber family. Also, they have very good quality proteins since their amino acids fulfill human needs.
In addition, they are abundant in vitamin C; one medium-sized potato contains around half of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and has one-fifth of the recommended daily intake of potassium. As if this weren't enough, their high water content (75%) and low fat content (if they're not eaten fried) make them a highly recommended food. But keep in mind, the different ways of preparing them could modify their nutritional composition.
Very few people know that the potato skin is the part of the tuber with the largest amount of fiber and nutrients, especially vitamin C. That's why nutritionists recommend that you leave the skin on potatoes, which you can do whether you eat them boiled whole, cut into pieces, or mashed.
If you decide to cook them unpeeled, wash and trim them thoroughly before cooking because the green spots and sprouts can be toxic due to their high solanine content, a glycoalkaloid with a bitter taste.
Their caloric value is not high, around 80 calories for every 100g; however, if you eat them fried or in stews, this value can triple because they absorb a large amount of the fat used for cooking. Ideally, you want to eat them unpeeled and boiled, steamed, or baked in the oven because these are the best methods to conserve their nutritional properties.
The potato belongs to the Solanum tuberosum group along with tomatoes and eggplant. It originated in the Andes of South America around 8,000 years ago, and they are especially prominent in Peru where there are around 1,500 types of potatoes cultivated at different altitudes and in diverse climates. That's why the Peruvian government took the initiative and declared 2008 the International Year of the Potato, with activities in dozens of countries. The pinnacle is from May 20 to 23 when the city of Huancayo celebrates the first International Potato Congress.
This world year is creating consciousness of the "humble tuber's" decisive role in agriculture, economy, and world food security. Over the next 20 years, the world's population is expected to increase an average of 100 million people a year. More than 95% of this increase will occur in developing countries where there already exists an enormous pressure on land and water.
The challenge to protect food in the future was one of the main topics at the last conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) where the potato was placed on the pedestal of foods for the future.
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