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Don’t Want Cancer? Don’t Put Your Potatoes In The Fridge
For most of us, it’s second nature to think that storing food at colder temperature is the right thing to do. Refrigeration keeps food safe to eat, doesn’t it? It turns out that the answer is a little more complicated when it comes to a vegetable that you probably eat all the time: the potato.
The Relationship Between Potatoes and Temperature
New scientific findings have established that while many foods should be kept in the refrigerator, potatoes aren’t one of them. Potatoes tend to shrivel up when kept exposed to extra-cold temperatures, making them unappealing to the eye. But what really matters is how cold affects them at the molecular level.
Potatoes contain an enzyme called invertase. When potatoes are chilled or exposed to colder-than-usual temperatures, over time the invertase enzyme will begin to break down the sucrose (sugar) molecules and break them down into glucose and fructose, two forms of sugar usable by the body for producing energy.
So far so good, right? Here’s where things get a little crazy. Those chilled potatoes can produce some harmful compounds when they’re heated up during the cooking process. The glucose and fructose from the chilled potato can combine with asparagine, an amino acid which also occurs naturally in potatoes. This reaction produces a compound called acrylamide.
Acrylamide is found in many cooked starchy foods like french fries, and is linked to the golden-brown color that many cooked starches have.
According to a report by Dr. Joseph Mercola, the Swedish National Food Authority considers acrylamide to be a “confirmed cause” of cancer, based on findings from animal studies. With humans, it’s a little more difficult to prove a definite cause-effect relationship.
A study conducted in the Netherlands produced data suggesting that there was a possible link between acrylamide consumption and an increased risk of some forms of cancer in women. The Maastricht University study involved over 62,000 women aged 55 to 69. The researchers concluded after analyzing the eating habits of these women that there was indeed a correlation between a higher dietary intake of acrylamide and an increased risk of breast cancer.
So, in light of this knowledge, how do you lower your risks? Simple: Don’t put your potatoes in the fridge! Store them loose (not in a plastic bag) in a dry place at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower than room temperature, but still much warmer than a fridge. A cool, dark cellar or cabinet works best.
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Health Benefits of Potatoes
Some people have the impression that potatoes are an unhealthy food and should be avoided. But think about how potatoes are commonly served: as french fries in fast food combo meals, or greasy side dishes in sports bars (let’s not even get started on potato chips). It’s no wonder so many people think this!
But the truth is that potatoes that have been safely stored and prepared offer quite a nutritional punch. They contain B vitamins and vitamin C, as well minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and more. They also offer several different antioxidant compounds which help fight free radicals.
Different Types of Potatoes
Most people think of white potatoes when they hear the name, and that’s what most of the information above pertains to. But there are actually many different varieties of potatoes, each with differing levels of nutrients. One of the more difficult-to-find but very beneficial types is the purple potatoe. These offer additional health benefits, such as compounds which help lower blood pressure, and chlorogenic acid, which can help prevent blood clots. They’re also rich in fiber and contain higher levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
There are also sweet potatoes, which are one the most nutritious starchy vegetables you can buy. But these are actually an entirely different vegetable than a typical potato, so the name can be somewhat misleading. (And no, they aren’t yams, either. Yams are also a different vegetable unto themselves, but this is a different story for a different day.)
READ ALSO: Vitamin D And Cancer Risk
One of the final benefits of potatoes doesn’t pertain to their health properties, but their culinary ones. Potatoes are one of the most versatile foods you can eat. There’s just so much you can do with them, you’ll never run out different recipes to try. Just be sure to store them properly and not to overcook them, and you can be reasonably assured that you’re getting more pros than cons from making potatoes a part of a balanced, healthy diet.