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Baked potatoes unlock key to happiness - report

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Baked potatoes unlock key to happiness - report

According to a UK science report baked potatoes can have a positive effect on our mood as well as our diet, with the aroma given off while cooking helping to remind us of our happiest memories - otherwise known as the Maillard Effect.

The research has identified that a chemical reaction within the potato occurs when cooking baked potatoes, triggering a person's brain, leading to positive thoughts and shifts in mood behaviour.

The reaction is a result of the Maillard Effect - a reaction discovered 100 years ago by a French chemist, which happens within certain foods during cooking.

With potatoes, the Maillard Effect occurs when the heat of baking a potato changes its protein (in other words, its amino acids) and its sugars to form the crisp, caramelised jacket. At this point, a sensory experience kicks in and brain activity is stimulated by a complex "aroma profile" - which can set off these comforting memories.

These emotions are triggered even before the first actual bite, say the scientists who carried out the study at flavour research team Flavometrix, formerly part of the Division of Food Sciences at Nottingham University in the UK.

And it's not just oven baked potatoes that release the complex aroma profiles seen in the Maillard Effect. The research shows that those who are hard pressed for time can simply microwave their potato for five minutes before baking off in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, allowing the Maillard Effect to work its magic.

The scientists even tested the aroma of baked potatoes on a panel aged 18-30, and when asked what thoughts were triggered, replies were wholly positive including 'memories of grandparents' and 'summer dinners with my mum'.

Dr Avinash Kant, who headed up the UK research, said: "Food aromas and their recognition is a complex brain function which we've only recently started to understand - but this research goes some way to explaining why we have such an emotional response to jacket potatoes.

"The aroma from a baked potato during the cooking process can evoke many memories in people, simply due to specific aroma compounds that are subconsciously recognised by our memories."

Todd Hughes, Chair of Potatoes New Zealand Education and Marketing Group added: "This is a fascinating study, it's great how the world of science continues to unlock more and more facts.

Whilst we know potatoes are good for us nutritionally, it is pretty amazing to find they are also proven to be uplifting!

"This research shows that if you're short on time, potatoes can provide a quick and tasty meal solution in less than 30 minutes. Potatoes are the perfect base for hundreds of delicious meals and, when cooked with minimal fat and salt, they're a healthy choice too, bursting with vital vitamins and minerals."

The potato is also one of the New Zealand's favourite vegetables, with 54 per cent of the population eating fresh potatoes four or more times a week.

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