Researchers have developed what they claim is the world's first low-glycemic index (GI) potato. Research on the Carisma potato will be presented at the International Congress of Nutrition in Granada, Spain.
The Carisma was developed using natural breeding processes by Virginia, South Australia market gardener Frank Mitolo and the Australian Glycemic Index (GI) Foundation.
"We have undertaken exhaustive testing using the ISO testing standard and we are satisfied that Carisma is unique," said GI Foundation chief scientific officer Dr. Alan Barclay.
"Its glycemic index of 55 is between 30 and 50 percent less than other mainstream potato varieties such as Desiree , Russet Burbank  and Bintje . But its other big advantage is its commercial availability. Coles has made it a convenient choice for consumers, and that means it will play a more important role in assisting in the management of diabetes and heart disease."
University of Sydney Ph.D. candidate and GI researcher Kai Lin Ek will present a paper outlining the groundbreaking research at the International Congress of Nutrition this week.
"Our research showed that Carisma not only ranked well alongside other potatoes, but it is also comparable to other low-GI foods," Ek said. "Potatoes tend to get bad press as they are generally classified as a high-GI carbohydrate, but our research has discovered that Carisma has half the blood glucose response of other potato varieties.
"It has a similar GI to pastas, all of which are usually classified as low-GI foods. Plus, potatoes have a higher `satiety index' so you actually need to eat less than other carbohydrates to feel full."
One of the GI Foundation's goals is to discover and develop alternatives to high-GI carbohydrates. The Carisma potato came out of a collaborative search for an innovative potato grower who could meet the potential demand.
"We have been fortunate to work with the Mitolo family," Barclay said. "The family has been growing vegetables for several generations and after more than a dozen tests we were convinced that Carisma was going to be a world first. Fortunately, they are large growers, so they could expand production fairly quickly."
"We thought this new variety had less starch but was still a good all-purpose potato for boiling, roasting and mashing," said Frank Mitolo, managing director of Mitolo Group.
"The tests confirmed that we had something special and then it took a few years to build up the volumes so we could distribute it to a major supermarket chain.
"The partnership with Coles has been excellent. They can see the benefits of having a low-GI alternative positioned alongside other potatoes and we have invested in the packaging to make it easier for the consumer to choose."
Consumers have been issued a warning for cooking with the Carisma potato: don't overcook it. "Any carbohydrate has a higher GI if it is overcooked," Ek said. "If rice is mushy or pasta is not al dente you just increase the starch digestibility. Boiling for about nine minutes is the ideal cooking time to enjoy the health benefits and flavors of Carisma."