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Tests reveal diet benefits of new potato variety

By Jess Halliday , 08-Feb-2006

A new variety of potato has been shown to contain significantly less carbohydrate and calories than the average spud, presenting an alternative to dieters and disuading them from avoiding potatoes altogether.

The Vivaldi potato was bred over nine years by Naturally Best, based in Lincolnshire, UK, principally for its taste. When the company first started marketing it about 18 months ago, it referred to it as the 'butterless baker' - that is to say, it has such a creamy flavour that there is no need to add butter.

The Vivaldi is also said to be extremely versatile: as well as being suitable for baking, it can be mashed, fried or boiled.

Technical manager Alison Watson told NutraIngredients.com that the company decided to test the variety for various nutritional parameters as a result of media coverage of the low glycaemic index diet.

"It is a variety only we have, and we wanted to know more about it," she said.

While tests are still ongoing to ascertain where exactly it sits on the GI scale compared to ordinary potatoes (baked potatoes have a high GI of 85), Allied Laboratory Services has completed an analysis of its carbohydrate and calorie content.

While the industry standard is a carbohydrate value of 17.2g per 100g, Vivaldi's is 26 per cent less, at 12.7g. The calorie content is 33 per cent less - 50 kcal per 100g compared to 75 kcal for the industry standard.

This means that carb- or calorie-conscious dieters could be persuaded not to cut potatoes out of their diet, thereby missing out on the nutrients they contain. What is more, the creamy taste means that there is no need for additional calories in the form of butter.

Potatoes are known to be an excellent source of vitamin C (although Watson said this is partly due to their prominence in the British diet), and also contain vitamin E, B vitamins, and minerals calcium and magnesium. Tests are ongoing to ascertain the precise levels of these nutrients in Vivaldi, but these are not expected to be less than in other varieties.

The Vivaldi potato is currently available in Sainsbury's supermarket and some local greengrocers in the UK, and is also sold to the wholesale market.

Naturally Best has supply 12 months of the year, with imports from overseas when the UK is off-season. It is also available in the US, Israel and Europe.

However Watson said that it will take a few years for volumes on the market to be scaled up to full potential as it is dependent on seed production.

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