Potato Starch: The Andean Thickener

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Potatoes are indigenous to the Andes and would not be introduced to Europe until the late 16th century. The people of the Andes were the ones to discover and use potato starch, which would later on be called almidon de papa. This potato product was made from ground potatoes that were first soaked and then filtered.

Even after the potato caught on in Europe, it still took a while for the starch derived from it to gain traction. Up until the 18th century, Europe still relied mainly on wheat for its starch needs. After that, potato starch would grow in importance. Today, Europe produces more potato starch than anyone else.

Potato starch flavor profile

Potato starch is known for having a neutral flavor profile, which is what makes it a versatile thickener. There no aftertaste either, and you do not get the chalkiness that corn starch can give.

Health benefits of potato starch

  • It contains vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is also called pyroxidine and shows up in many different fruits and vegetables. Your body uses it to metabolize protein and it is important for cognitive development as well as for a functioning immune system. A 1-cup serving of potato starch provides you with 60 percent of the vitamin B6 you need each day.
  • It is rich in certain minerals: Potato starch is a rich source of magnesium, calcium and iron. Magnesium is important for bone health and for the metabolism of glucose. Calcium is also essential for bone health, while iron helps with hemoglobin production. A 1-cup serving of potato starch provides 26 percent of your daily magnesium, 12 percent of your daily iron and 10 percent of your daily calcium.
  • It has fiber: Dietary fiber is a term for plant-based carbohydrates that are not digestible. This essential nutrient is found in grain, fruits and vegetables. You can get 36 percent of your daily fiber requirement from a single cup of potato starch.
  • It has resistant starch: Resistant starch is a specific type of starch that is not digested in the small intestine, unlike other types of starch. In other words, it functions like dietary fiber. It resists digestion, hence the name. Instead, it is broken down by gut bacteria in the large intestine. As a result, it does not cause your blood sugar or insulin to spike. Resistant starch is present in uncooked potatoes, but cooking removes it.

The nutrients in potato starch make it useful for treating and preventing health issues like:

  • Diabetes: Potato starch is important for diabetes prevention and management in three different ways. Its resistant starch helps to prevent insulin resistance, its fiber slows the breakdown of sugar and the resulting blood sugar spike. In addition, dietary magnesium has been shown to decrease the risk of diabetes by 15 percent for every 100 mg per day (up to a certain point).
  • Obesity: The fiber content of potato starch slows down the rate at which it is digested. The result is that you feel full for longer after eating it.
  • Osteoporosis: The calcium and magnesium from potato starch are important for bone density and can thus help to slow osteoporosis.

Common uses of potato starch

The main culinary use of potato starch is as a thickener. It is a popular solution for for thickening European-style soups, gravies, and sauces. It can also be used in place of or alongside wheat flour for making bread and pastries.