DEAR DR. BLONZ: Should there be any concerns about eating baked potato peelings? I wash and prick holes in my potatoes, then put them in a sandwich bag with a little water and cook them in the microwave. The resulting peel is soft and I enjoy the taste, often seasoning it with garlic or onion, salt and pepper. -- S.T., Redding, Calif.
DEAR S.T.: The vitamins, minerals and fiber in a potato come primarily from the flesh. Although not a nutrition powerhouse, the peel does contain a small amount of iron and fiber, and it provides a good contrast to the smooth texture of the flesh. There's absolutely nothing unsafe about eating potato peels provided they are clean, free from sprouts and have no greenish discolorations.
The green aspect is particularly important as potatoes can produce solanine, a bitter-tasting toxin that affects the nervous system. Solanine is produced when the potato is exposed to sunlight or allowed to sprout. It is most concentrated in the sprout, but it's also present in potatoes having a greenish tint to the skin. The solanine itself isn't green, but when that color is present, it indicates that the sprouting process has begun. You can slow the production of solanine by storing your potatoes in a cool, dark place. Carefully cut away all sprouts and green portions before cooking. And discard any potatoes that taste bitter.
Regarding your plastic bag cooking technique, I trust you have already read the carton or checked with the manufacturer to verify that the product is safe for microwave use. All plastic bags are not the same, and a number of brands will melt in the microwave.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: Is it all right to combine fruits and vegetables together in blended drinks for breakfast, lunch or dinner? -- B.H., San Diego, Calif.
DEAR B.H.: Yes, but from a taste perspective, it helps to do some experimenting to see which combinations work best.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: How much fiber and fat is in an avocado? Also, what is the minimum amount of saturated fat that a person should have in his or her diet? -- R.M., Oakland, Calif.
DEAR R.M.: There are many avocado varieties on the market, each having different qualities of flavor and texture. There tend to be generic differences, however, between the varieties grown in California and Florida. Florida avocados tend to be larger in size, with less fat, protein and slightly more carbohydrates than a comparable serving of California avocado. A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) portion of a California avocado will contain 6.8 grams of fiber, and 167 calories from 2 grams of protein, 8.6 grams of carbohydrate and 2.1 grams of saturated fat, 9.8 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 1.8 grams of polyunsaturated fat.
That same 100-gram portion of a Florida avocado contains 5.6 grams of fiber and 120 calories from 2.2 grams of protein, 7.8 grams of carbohydrate and 2 grams of saturated fat, 5.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 1.7 grams of polyunsaturated fat.
As for your second question, the human body has no minimum requirement for saturated fat.
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