Sunday, October 7, 2007

Wham: The Lowly Potato, Chock Full of Nutrients

As reported in Science Daily, the lowly old potato, that long-time companion to the meals of so many around the world, may have much more to love about it than its taste. New findings from the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) show that some potato varieties are just packed with healthy compounds called phytochemicals.

Americans love potatoes, consuming 130 pounds per person annually. Now that culinary love affair could grow even more passionate with Agricultural Research Service (ARS) findings that some potato varieties are packed with health-promoting compounds called phytochemicals.

Using a new analytical method, ARS plant geneticist Roy Navarre and colleagues in Washington State and Oregon have identified 60 different kinds of phytochemicals and vitamins in the skins and flesh of 100 wild and commercially grown potatoes.

The analysis of Red and Norkotah potatoes, two of the healthiest varieties, revealed that the spuds' total dietary-phenolics content rivaled that of broccoli, spinach and brussel sprouts. There were a number of flavonoids in the potato as well, which may play a role in helping diminish cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and certain cancers.

The ARS teams have also identified potatoes with high levels of vitamin C, folic acid, quercetin and kukoamines. In particular, these last compounds (kukoamines) are of interest for their potential to lower blood pressure, and have at this time been found only in one other plant, Lycium chinense. So, it was a real find for the ARS to have discovered a potentially very valuable biochemical in the lowly potato.

You would think that at this time we'd know all that we possibly could about the potato. Earlier investigations of phytochemicals in potatoes and other crops have been limited to one or two varieties, however. That's why it was great when this team significantly expanded the search by using a method that draws on high-throughput liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Their analysis of wild and cultivated potatoes, for example, revealed phenolic concentrations of 100 to 675 milligrams per 100 grams dry weight.

We could be reading a lot more about the healthy benefits of certain potatoes in the future, or perhaps finding "potato extracts" on the supplement market at some point.


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