Tag Archives: nutrition

Are Potatoes Bad?

The humble potato has earned a bad reputation in the recent years and very often it is banished from all diets. So is it true that potatoes are bad and should not form a part of our diet?

The answer is no…. In terms of its nutritional benefits, the potato has been vastly underrated and grossly misunderstood. It’s high time we peel back the truth about the nutrient treasure trove that lies in the little spud that is the potato.

Potato Nutrition 101

You may be surprised to know that potato offers a number of nutrients and benefits. Maybe not a good source of protein, but the little protein present in potatoes is completely available to the body (i.e., excellent biological value) like the egg.

Minerals like potassium, phosphorous and calcium are present in significant levels and each has their own respective roles in body functioning. Surprisingly, this spud contains a notable amount of fiber, especially the peel. This helps provide satiety, delay hunger pangs and help prevent constipation.

Skin-on potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber.

Last but not the least, vitamins – potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C. But what else? Let’s not forget B vitamins like folic acid, niacin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and thiamine are also present.

Potatoes have a plethora of phytonutrients that parade antioxidant activity. Carotenoids, flavonoids, caffeic acid, as well as unique tuber storage proteins, such as patatin, all flaunt powers of fighting harmful free radicals.

Talking of benefits, although potato is typically not considered a good source of dietary iron, iron uptake is enhanced by its high vitamin C content. Potatoes contain significant amounts of vitamins B9 and B6 which are crucial for optimal brain functioning.

However, the main advantage of potato is the starch content, the very thing for which it is damned. Puzzled? Carbohydrates provide the glucose required for the brain to function and to fuel the muscles during activities, games or exercise. So potatoes are the go-to fuel before kids head out for games and sports.

Why the bad name dame?

How did potato become the culprit to all the bad health effects? Where are we going wrong? It’s not difficult to see that, unfortunately, the popular Western form of preparation and preferred forms of potato are either fried or even if baked, it is typically loaded with cheese, butter, cream and/or other such fat-rich products. Least did we realize that barring the extra source of fat, potatoes can be exceptionally healthy.

On the other hand, our Indian potato-based dishes are used along with other vegetables and pulses and rarely witnessed as a deep fried form (even the aloo bondas have dal based coating). So keep those jackets on the potatoes, mix them up with veggies, and resort to baking, steaming, roasting or grilling and enjoy!

The Untold Tales of Millets

Ever come across the story of the murder of millets? Yes indeed, millets were a part of our country’s staple food. However, with the advent of polished rice, wheat, and their processed descendants, millets are no longer a part of the picture.

Sadly, this acclimatization has lead to a plethora of health disorders and diseases like diabetes, obesity, and blood pressure which seem to prevail in a widespread manner. It’s time to bid adieu and break the unhealthy trend, and who better than our children to start and set the right trend.

“Did you know that millets are much superior to rice and wheat when it comes to protein, fiber, and mineral content?”

Millets could be the best bet to keep children on high-energy mode since they are said to be high-energy nutritious food and an excellent source of B-vitamins. While the protein of baragu (Proso Millet) ensures optimal growth in children, the calcium content of ragi (Finger Millet) strengthens the children’s bones and teeth.

“Each one of the millets has more fibre than rice and wheat. Ragi (finger millet has thirty times more calcium than rice while every other millet has at least twice the amount of calcium compared to rice.”

Research shows that a jowar (Sorghum Millet) rich diet improves growth and positively affects the hemoglobin, folic acid, vitamin A, iron and calcium content in school going children. Those hunger pangs can be saved for later since the high fiber content of millets gives children a feeling of fullness and as a plus point prevents over-eating.

Millets are not only easy to digest but also offer healing action in cases of gastrointestinal inflammation and ulceration. This gluten-free grain is the mantra for children struggling with gluten related health issues like celiac disease. Additionally, consumption of millets notably cuts down the incidence of wheezing and asthma in children.

Loaded with phytochemicals, millets provide the antioxidants that keep the body’s immune system at its peak. Not only do fermented millet products act as natural probiotics but millets’ whole grain also shows pre-biotic activity, boosting the population of friendly bacteria that play a key role to promote digestion.

Although it would be nice to say that millets are synonymous to perfection, they do contain anti-nutrients. The proportions of these anti-nutrients can be cut down by simple food processing techniques like decortication, germination, malting, and fermentation.

Last but not the least, here’s another bonus – with the monsoon setting in, get set to include millets in your children’s diet because it is a warming grain that will help to heat the body in cold or rainy seasons and climates!

Resurgence of the Humble Coconut

Case # 101: Coconut Chaos

A couple of decades earlier, under Section 111 of the health & nutrition penal code, coconut was defamed and found to be guilty of contributing to ill health because of its high saturated fat content. The accused was thus sentenced to a lifetime banishment from plates across India.

Now, wait let’s crack open this case.

Is coconut really guilty of all the heinous crimes that it was convicted of? Definitely not! Let’s look at why the coconut is back with a bang.

Every part of the humble coconut; be it the coconut meat called copra, water (tender coconut water), milk or oil, has nourished Indians long long before the West became interested in it. However, all of a sudden the coconut was condemned as its oil was touted as an artery clogger due to its saturated fat content. Consequently, the coconut pretty much became extinct from Indian food plates.

It is not hard to see that the accused was framed for the crime of his evil twin – the hydrogenated coconut oil. This fellow creates health havocs with trans fat. The refined coconut oil too, which is extracted from chemically bleached and deodorized coconut meat, is equally bad.

On the other hand, unrefined, virgin coconut oil does contain saturated fat, but of the good kind. It mainly contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that boost metabolism and increases satiety. One of the main MCTs in coconut oil, Lauric acid, offers antimicrobial action and surprise, surprise coconut oil actually improves heart-related risk factors like cholesterol and triglycerides. Coconut oil also nourishes the hair and skin and is found beneficial for brain disorders and diabetes.

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But why just look at the oil. The tender coconut water is a natural thirst quencher that effectively replenishes fluids and electrolytes. In fact, it is comparable to sports beverages. Coconut water is also said to help with the battle against diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney stones. But again not the one from bottled or branded water with added sugar, sweeteners or flavors but the natural and fresh form. And last but not the least, coconut milk whose benefits parallel that of the oil.

Why leave the fresh coconut meat? Did you know that that the fresh coconut meat contains a huge amount of fiber? 100g of fresh coconut kernel contains nearly 11 g of fiber which is about half your daily requirement of fiber!

If coconut was as bad as it was portrayed then certain populations who survived purely on coconut should have been sick because of it. But that’s not the case, if you don’t believe our ancestors, especially the South Indians then turn the globe and have a look at the Tokelauans and the Kitavans. It’s just that we forgot the other elements that contributed to ill health.

So in a nutshell, the coconut was just a victim of scattered anecdotal evidence and hearsay and now thanks to sound scientific evidence, it has made an envious-worthy come back rising above all the damning accusations.

Case closed! 

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and/or diet.