Potatoes are edible tubers which are distributed worldwide and throughout the year. They’re relatively cheap to grow, nutrient-rich, and can make a delicious treat.
In recent years, the humble potato has gone down in popularity due to interest in low-carb foods.
The food, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals it contains, however, can help ward off illness and improve human health.
Throughout South America, potatoes were first domesticated in the Andes, up to 10,000 years ago. In the early 16th century, Spanish explorers brought these to Europe.
Today they are the largest vegetable crop in the U.S., where the average individual eats 55 pounds, or 35 kilograms (kg) of potatoes per year. For many countries around the world they are a major staple food.
Fast facts on potatoes:
Here are some key points about potatoes. More detail is in the main article.
- Some evidence suggests that potatoes might help reduce inflammation and constipation
- A medium potato contains around 164 calories and 30 percent of the recommended daily B6 intake.
- A baked potato on a winter’s day makes an economical, warming, and nutritious treat.
High intakes of fruits and vegetables can improve health and reduce the risk of many health problems linked to lifestyle.
Potatoes contain essential nutrients which can support human health in different ways, even when cooked.
Here we look at 10 ways the potato may contribute to a healthier lifestyle, including preventing osteoporosis, maintaining heart health and reducing the risk of infection.
1) Bone health
The potato iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and zinc all help the body build and retain its bone structure and strength.
Iron and zinc play key roles in collagen development and ripening.
Phosphorus and calcium are both important in bone structure but for proper bone mineralization it is necessary to combine the two minerals. Too much phosphorus and too little calcium lead to bone loss and to osteoporosis.
2) Blood pressure
A low intake of sodium is necessary for maintaining healthy blood pressure, but increased intake of potassium may be equally significant. Potassium facilitates vasodilatation, or blood vessel enlargement.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Review Survey (NHANES), fewer than 2 percent of American adults meet the regular guideline of 4,700-milligrams.
The potatoes all contain potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These were found to spontaneously reduce blood pressure.
3) Heart health
The starch, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 content of the potatoes, along with their lack of cholesterol, all help heart health.
Potatoes contain large quantities of fibre. Fiber helps reduce the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby raising the risk of heart disease.
NHANES-based research has linked increased potassium intake and lower sodium intake to a reduced risk of all-cause mortality and heart disease.
Choline is an important and versatile nutrient found in potatoes. It helps in moving muscles, mood, learning and memory.
It also assists in:
- maintaining the structure of cellular membranes
- transmitting nerve impulses
- the absorption of fat
- early brain development
One big potato has 57 mg of choline in it. Adult males require 550 mg, and females require 425 mg daily.
The potatoes bear folate. Folate plays a part in the synthesis and repair of DNA, and thus prevents the development of several forms of cancer cells due to DNA mutations.
Intake of fibers from fruits and vegetables such as potatoes is associated with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer.
Both, vitamin C and quercetin act as antioxidants, protecting cells against free radical damage.
6) Digestion and regularity
The fiber content in potatoes helps to avoid constipation and encourage a balanced digestive tract regularity.
7) Weight management and satiety
Dietary fibers are widely recognized as essential weight control and weight loss factors.
Within the digestive system they act as “bulking agents.” They increase satiety and decrease appetite, so a person feels more satisfied for longer, and is less likely to eat more calories.
Potatoes represent a great source of vitamin B6. By breaking down carbohydrates and proteins into glucose and amino acids, this plays a vital role in the energy metabolism. Those smaller compounds are easier to use for body energy.
Collagen is the mechanism of help to the skin. Vitamin C works as an antioxidant to help prevent sun damage, pollution and smoke damage. Vitamin C also helps to smooth the collagen wrinkles and enhance the overall texture of the skin.
Research has shown vitamin C can help minimize a cold’s intensity and duration. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C.
How healthy the diet is for a potato depends to some extent on what’s added or how it’s cooked. All add calories to the oil, sour cream and butter but the plain potato itself is relatively low in calories.
It also offers essential nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin B6 and specific minerals.
A serving of 100 grams (g) or 3.5- ounces is just over half of a medium-sized potato. Baked with fat, this very white potato contains:
- 94 calories
- 0.15 grams of fat
- 0 grams of cholesterol
- 21.08 grams of carbohydrate
- 2.1 grams of dietary fiber
- 2.10 grams of protein
- 10 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 0.64 mg of iron
- 27 mg of magnesium
- 75 mg of phosphorus
- 544 mg of potassium
- 12.6 mg of vitamin C
- 0.211 mg of vitamin B6
- 38 micrograms (mcg) of folate
Potatoes also include niacin, zinc, and choline. Similar varieties contain very different nutrients.
Sodium: Whole unprocessed potatoes contain very low quantities of sodium, just 10 mg per 100 g (3.5 ounces), or less than 1 percent of the daily limit suggested. This is not true of processed potato goods, including French fries and potato chips, however.
Alpha-lipoic acid: Potatoes also contain an alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) compound, which allows the body to turn glucose into energy.
Some evidence indicates that alpha-lipoic acid in diabetic patients can help regulate blood glucose levels, boost vasodilatation, protect against retinopathy and maintain brain and nerve tissue.
Quercetin: Quercetin, a flavonoid contained in the skin of potatoes, appears to have an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effect that protects the cells of the body from free radicals damage.
Flavonoids are a kind of organic phytonutrient that is thought to help protect against disease.
Antioxidants: potatoes contain antioxidant vitamin C. Antioxidants can help prevent damage to cells and cancer, and promote safe digestion and cardiovascular functions.
Fiber: The potato fiber helps sustain a balanced digestive system and circulation.
More than half of all US potatoes are sold for making French fries according to the USDA.
However, French fries are not the only or best option.
There are many cheap and easy ways to incorporate potatoes into a healthful diet.
There are several different kinds of potatoes to choose from, including sweet potatoes. There are variations of white, red, yellow, and blue and there are a variety of choices within each colour.
Here are some ideas:
- Baking: Use starchy potatoes, such as russets.
- Roasting, mashing, or baking: Use all-purpose potatoes, such as Yukon gold.
- Potato salad: Waxy potatoes, such as red, new, or fingerling potatoes, keep their shape better.
Pick solid, unbruised, and fairly smooth, round potatoes. Remove any roots or potatoes with greenish hue that display signs of decay like wet or dry rot.
It is safer to purchase unpackaged and unwashed potatoes, in order to prevent bacterial accumulation. Premature washing of potatoes removes the protective cover from the skins.
Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry setting, such as a cellar or pantry, between 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or between 7 and 10 degrees Celsius.
Sunlight exposure can lead to solanine formation which causes potatoes to turn green. They are dangerous. Storing potatoes in the refrigerator has the effect of converting their starch content to sugar. This can offer a disagreeable flavor.
Potatoes should not be stored around onions, because both vegetables emit natural gases which cause the other to decline.
Completely grown potatoes have a shelf life of up to 2 months but the other potatoes around them can be affected by spoiled potatoes. Remove the rotten potatoes, to prevent spoiling the rest.
Preparing and cooking potatoes
The potato content of vitamins, minerals, and fibers is all in the skin, so it is safer to eat them with the skin left on.
Scrub potatoes under running water with a paring knife to scrape any marks or deep eyes. To prevent the metal from reacting with the phytochemicals in the product, using a stainless steel knife instead of carbon steel, as this may cause discolouration.
Boiled in their skins, jacket potatoes are a nutritious and quick meal. Serve with salad and fish, ham, baked beans or some other treat topped with. Cooking the skins and eating them helps retain the nutrients.
To preserve more water-soluble vitamins, potatoes can be boiled with mint and sprinkled with black pepper, or steamed.
Boil baby new potatoes to cool, then add freshly chopped garlic and mint, and olive oil, to make a balanced potato salad.
Try some of these healthy and delicious recipes using potatoes:
Homemade BBQ chips
Roasted rainbow potatoes
Quinoa stuffed peppers
Quick and easy Mexican minestrone
Fire-roasted rosemary vegetable soup
The potato plant belongs to the family of night colors, along with the tomato and eggplant. Some of these plants are poisonous, and the potato was previously thought to be inedible. The potato shoots and leaves are poisonous, and should not be ingested.
Solanine: Potatoes that sprout or have green discolouration are likely to contain solanine, a toxic compound known to cause circulatory and respiratory problems, headaches, muscle cramps, and diarrhea. If a firm potato has sprouted or “heads” shaped it is enough to eliminate all sprouts. Nevertheless, it should not be eaten if the potato has shrunk, or has a green hue.
Acrylamide: Studies have shown that potatoes developed a chemical known as acrylamide when cooked above 248 Fahrenheit, or 120 degrees Celsius; This compound can be used in plastics, glues, dyes and smoke from cigarettes. It has been related to multiple cancers develop. Acrylamide has neurotoxic effects, which can adversely affect genes which reproductive health.
Acrylamides, fat and sodium are likely to be present in potato chips, French fries, and refined potato products. Avoiding these will help to minimize sensitivity to acrylamide.
Diabetes and obesity: Potatoes contain high amounts of simple carbohydrates, including basic ones. When consumed in abundance this may not be helpful for people with diabetes or obesity. As other foods, rather than as a vegetable, potatoes should be consumed in moderation and as a source of carbohydrates, such as rice or pasta. For a healthy diet, non-starchy vegetables should be consumed along with the potatoes. In comparison, legumes have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes.
Beta-blockers: This is a widely prescribed form of drug for heart disease. It can cause elevated levels of potassium in the blood. When taking beta-blockers, high-potassium foods such as potatoes should be eaten in least.
Potassium: High potassium levels in the body can present a significant risk to those with kidney damage or kidneys not completely functioning. Damaged kidneys can not be able to absorb blood excess potassium, and this can be fatal.
Fertilizers: Potatoes grown in heavily fertilized soil can contain high levels of contamination by heavy metals. Someone worried about this, if they have a greenhouse, should grow their own potatoes or buy organic varieties.
A healthy, balanced diet that includes a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables can improve well-being and help prevent health issues. Rather than concentrating on one item, it is best to opt for a variety of foods.