DEAR DR. BLONZ: A vegetarian since my teens, I was recently dismayed to read from a doctor (of unknown specialty) on social media that potatoes can lose their potassium when cooked in a microwave. I used to bake potatoes in a toaster oven, but shifted to a microwave to save time. Is there any substance to this? Since potatoes are supposed to be a good source of potassium, it seems like I would have heard of this before.
Also, while I have your attention: Sunflower seeds have become much more available for human consumption since I first started cracking shells and enjoying them in my teens. Now that they are available as kernels, I often overindulge. I have yet to see the caloric, fat or nutritional content of the kernels listed anywhere in print. Would you consider addressing these two issues in your column? -- B.T., Scottsdale, Arizona
DEAR B.T.: Dismay no longer: The idea that microwaved potatoes lose their potassium is ridiculous. Minerals, such as potassium, are not destroyed by cooking. If you boil potatoes, an insignificant amount of their minerals might end up in the water, but not by microwaving. In fact, of all the cooking methods that use heat, microwaving is perhaps the best at conserving nutrients.
I agree that sunflower seeds, like most nuts and seeds, are an excellent food, whether eaten as a snack or used as a garnish on salads and other dishes. A 1/4-cup serving of sunflower kernels contains about 8 grams of protein, 17 grams of fat (primarily polyunsaturated, with some monounsaturates and a small amount of saturates), and 3 grams of dietary fiber. Sunflower kernels are a great source of vitamin E, and have a nice overall lineup of nutrients, including thiamin, selenium, magnesium, phosphorous, folic acid, vitamin B6, copper and zinc.
There should definitely be a Nutrition Facts label on packages of sunflower kernels, as on any other prepackaged food. (More on nutrition labels at b.link/8zh566.) The manufacturer's website could be another source of the information you seek, or check resources like nutritionvalue.org, where you can search for in-depth data on various food items.
Finally, your note shows how social media, irrespective of its potential benefits, has become an unpredictable wild card of misinformation that can mess with our sensibilities. One of the more insidious practices is when proponents of misinformation give themselves an aura of legitimacy by writing testimonials under feigned identities. I am hoping this practice will soon be prohibited entirely.
As regards the potassium/microwave claim coming from a "doctor," that has become less reliable as a credential due to the existence of mail-order and online degrees requiring little training. Still others will use the title of "doctor" in a misleading way -- for instance, they may have indeed earned a doctorate, but in a field completely unrelated to the one in which they are dispensing advice. I recommend checking the credentials of the source to see if they have the academic chops to merit your trust.
Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.