National Potato Day: What has the potato ever done for us?
Today, October 5, 2018, is National Potato Day and people all over the country are being encouraged to recognise the nutritional value of the potato and experiment with new and exciting recipes incorporating Ireland’s favourite crop.
The theme for National Potato Day 2018 is “Imagine a world without potatoes?”, tying in with a global campaign theme which highlights the importance and value of the world’s third most important food crop (after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption).
With more than 140 potato recipes to choose from, Bord Bia’s Potato.ie website is brimming with ideas and offers something for everyone.
Potatoes have been a stable part of the Irish diet for generations but do we really appreciate the benefits of Ireland's champion vegetable?
As well as being fat-free, gluten-free and a great source of fibre, potatoes have an abundance of health benefits. Hence, TV Dietitian Aoife Hearne couldn’t imagine a world without them!
“As a mother, dietitian, and former athlete, for me a world without the powerful potato would be very bleak,” says Aoife Hearne. “The value of our homegrown staple is all too often underestimated and, as the research into gut health explodes, we are only now getting the full picture of how important this fibre-filled super carbohydrate is to our current and future health.”
Aoife says that we do not have to look back too far into the country’s history to know what a world without potatoes meant to our ancestors, “while it would not have such fatal consequences in 21st century Ireland, it would no doubt have a negative impact on our health.
“Potatoes fit into the carbohydrate family and, unfortunately, the low carbohydrate/no carbohydrate fad continues when it comes to what so-called ’diet gurus’ refer to as ‘healthy’ eating. Because of much misinformation, the consumption of all carbohydrates has wrongfully been hit.”
In the 10-year period from 2001 to 2011, Irish adults consumed, on average, 20pc less potatoes.
“It’s no surprise then that average daily fibre intake has also reduced. The recommendation from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is to consume 25g/day, but we can see from the IUNA study data (2001 and 2011) that Irish adults’ consumption of fibre continues to fall with a staggering 80pc of the population not reaching their fibre intake targets.
“The big piece of the puzzle that is often missed when it comes to low or no carbohydrate eating is the negative impact on gut health and immunity,” says Aoife.
So, how does this relate to potatoes?
“While there are many carbohydrate choices to pick from each day, when looking for a fibre-filled and natural choice, potatoes are top of the pack. Fibre provides the food the healthy bacteria in our lower intestine need to survive. Remember, most of the bacteria in our body are either harmless or beneficial to our health and research is clear that lots of different bacteria in your gut is the goal. To put this into context, you want your gut to be less like the Sahara Desert and more like the Amazon Rainforest, where lots of different bacteria species work together.
“Having diversity of bacteria in the gut can be seen as an indicator of good health. And one way to increase diversity is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and fibre-rich carbohydrates, such as potatoes. Current research indicates high fibre intake is associated with lower mortality, so there is definitely a case for getting more fibre (and potatoes) into our diets.”
And, of course, we cannot forget that potatoes are naturally gluten free so they are the best fibre rich carbohydrate source for people with coeliac disease. And for time-pressed athletes they provide the energy boosting fuel they require for peak performance.
“Potatoes add such value to the diet that a world without potatoes would be a nutrient poor place,” Aoife continues. “On a more personal note, as a true potato lover whose comfort food is mashed potato, a world without potatoes for me would be a much less happy place to live in.”
Aoife’s favourite recipe from Potato.ie recipe: Spanish Omelette with Potato and Paprika
“As a mother of three children under four, life is busy. I need a simple, quick and tasty recipe to have up my sleeve to put together at the last minute - and this one does the trick every time!”
Cooking time 25 mins
500g Rooster potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
50ml olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic gloves, minced
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
½ tsp sweet paprika
1. Preheat your oven to 180°C / gas 4.
2. Place the sliced potatoes into a pan of salted boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes, drain and leave to one side.
3. In a medium frying pan, add the olive oil and onion, and cook until the onion is soft. Add the potatoes, paprika and garlic and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes.
4. Whisk the eggs with the parsley and pour over the potato mix. Leave on the heat for 2 minutes and then pop into the oven until cooked and set.
5. Serve warm with crisp lettuce and vine-ripened tomatoes.
Protein – 14g
Carbs – 25g
Sugar – 2.5g
Fat – 17.5g
Sat fat – 4g
Fibre – 3g
Salt – 0.4g