Nutritional-environmental trade-offs in potato storage and processing for a sustainable healthy diet

December 07, 2023 | npj Science of Food 

Introduction: Over the past decade, micronutrient deficiencies in global health have persisted due to poor diets and limited access to nutritious foods. While developed countries have successfully addressed deficiencies through industrial-scale food fortification, a quarter of the world's population still faces micronutrient challenges, particularly in developing nations. Researchers from University of Arkansas in USA and McGill University in Canada track micronutrient losses for differenet household storage, processing, and consumption methods of potatoes, as well as to quantify and compare environmental impacts. 

Key findings: Experimenting with various storage conditions, times, and processing methods, the research reveals that storing potatoes for longer durations and certain processing techniques result in substantial nutrient loss. Moreover, the study shows that longer storage and processing periods significantly reduces health benefits, ecosystem safety, and resource availability. The storing and processing of 1 kg of potatoes for 2 weeks using the boiled-fridge pathway leads to toxicity impacts equivalent to 0.53-0.64 kg 1,4-dichlorobenzene and a global warming impact of 27.1 kg CO2. Conversely, the boiled-unstored pathway shows the lowest environmental impact.

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 Fig. | Theoretical framework to capture the nutrition, environmental and economic implications of household food processing.