Potatoes are one of the most common and important food sources on the planet, and they may contain a wealth of benefits that make them all the more staple in diets across the world. These health benefits may include their ability to improve digestion, reduce cholesterol levels, boost heart health, and protect from polyps. They may strengthen the immune system, reduce signs of aging, protect the skin, increase circulation, reduce blood pressure, maintain fluid balance, and reduce insomnia.
What are Potatoes?
The term potato can refer to either the plant or the entire tuber, which is rather shapeless, in most varieties. Its scientific name is Solanum tuberosum and it is a member of the nightshade family. These vegetables are native to South America, most likely originating in the Andes across Peru and Bolivia. The Inca Indians are believed to be the first ones to cultivate potatoes in their region around 8000 BC to 5000 BC. It was taken out of the continent by the Spanish and the Irish in the 1500s.
Children around the world often refuse to eat vegetables but they’re more likely to choose potatoes. They are on almost every major continental diet in some form and they can be prepared in dozens of ways, including baked, fried, sliced, mashed, and many more.
Wild potatoes still grow in some parts of the Americas, but they got introduced to other parts of the world only 400-500 years ago. These vegetables now dominate the world as the 4th largest food crop, and more than 1/3rd of the world’s potatoes are actually now grown in China and India, where they represent an essential part of their cuisine, as well as the cuisine of many of their neighboring countries.
Today, it’s difficult to imagine a diet without potatoes. They have somehow become one of the most popular and recognized foods on the planet. Potato lovers and even those who don’t like them will be equally delighted to know that potatoes may have nutritional components that go far beyond carbohydrates and calories, and they can be an extremely beneficial addition to any dietary plan.
Let’s explore the nutrition facts of these widely accepted vegetables, before we dive into knowing the health benefits of this world-famous vegetable!
Potatoes Nutrition Facts
The reason potatoes have spread across the globe so quickly and have been so widely accepted is because they are a storehouse of energy and nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, and essential organic compounds.
Mineral Content: If you eat potatoes regularly, you may ensure a good supply of water and ions in your body. This is because they may be rich in potassium. The concentration might be highest in the skin of the vegetable and just beneath it. So, eating the potato with its skin may always be beneficial. They may also contain calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
Vitamin Content: Potatoes are known for the potentially large amounts of vitamin C present in them. Typically, a 100 gm serving may contain about 17 mg of vitamin C. In addition to this, they may also contain vitamins A and B (source: USDA FoodData Central).
Water Content: Water may account for about 70-80 percent of their weight. So the belief that you gain weight by eating potatoes is not exactly true. However, if your potato servings contain large quantities of butter, sour cream, or cheese, then you are bound to gain weight. It is also recommended that you bake a potato versus frying it.
Starch Content: Potatoes may contain about 17% starch and they might be one of the best natural sources. However, you should avoid eating sprouted potatoes as sprouting may lead to the conversion of starch into sugar. Sprouted potatoes could also contain toxins and generally may have lower nutrient content. If you want to prevent it from sprouting, it is recommended to keep them in a cool, dry place with minimal exposure to light.
Health Benefits of Potatoes
Health benefits of potatoes include the following:
|Serving Size :|
|Total lipid (fat) [g]||0.1|
|Carbohydrate, by difference [g]||20.13|
|Fiber, total dietary [g]||1.8|
|Sugars, total including NLEA [g]||0.91|
|Glucose (dextrose) [g]||0.34|
|Calcium, Ca [mg]||5|
|Iron, Fe [mg]||0.31|
|Magnesium, Mg [mg]||22|
|Phosphorus, P [mg]||44|
|Potassium, K [mg]||379|
|Sodium, Na [mg]||4|
|Zinc, Zn [mg]||0.3|
|Copper, Cu [mg]||0.19|
|Manganese, Mn [mg]||0.14|
|Selenium, Se [µg]||0.3|
|Fluoride, F [µg]||49.4|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]||13|
|Pantothenic acid [mg]||0.52|
|Vitamin B-6 [mg]||0.3|
|Folate, total [µg]||10|
|Folate, food [µg]||10|
|Folate, DFE [µg]||10|
|Choline, total [mg]||13.5|
|Carotene, beta [µg]||2|
|Vitamin A, IU [IU]||3|
|Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]||10|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]||0.01|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]||2.2|
|Fatty acids, total saturated [g]||0.03|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]||0|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]||0.04|
|Aspartic acid [g]||0.46|
|Glutamic acid [g]||0.31|
|Sources include : USDA|
May Promote Weight Gain
Potatoes are may primarily be made of carbohydrates and contain protein and are low on fats, according to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. When they team up with foods like cheese, butter or cream, it may make them an ideal diet for people who want to put on weight. The vitamin content may include vitamin C and B-complex, which might also help in the proper absorption of carbohydrates. That might be one of the reasons that potatoes make up a large part of the diet of sumo wrestlers, as well as many other athletes who need large energy reserves in order to compete.
May Be Easy to Digest
Since potatoes may predominantly contain carbohydrates, they are easy to digest and they may also facilitate digestion. This property might make them a good diet for babies or for those who cannot digest hard food, but need energy. However, remember that eating too many of them on a regular basis may cause acidity over time.
May Be High in Fiber
Potatoes may also contain a considerable amount of fiber or roughage. This may stimulate peristaltic motion and increase secretion of gastric juices, which eases digestion and prevents conditions like constipation. The vegetable may also protect the body from serious conditions like colorectal cancer due to its high fiber content. Fiber is also connected with pushing cholesterol out of the arteries and blood vessels, thereby possibly improving heart health.
May Aid In Skin Care
Vitamins C and B-complex, as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, may be good for the skin. Apart from that, the pulp obtained from crushed raw potatoes, when mixed with honey, may work well in skin and face packs. This might even help with pimples and spots on the skin. Again, this pulp, if applied externally on burns, may provide quick relief and faster healing. Smashed potatoes and even water in which they have been washed may also be very good for softening rough skin, especially around the elbows.
May Help Treat Scurvy
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that potatoes may have high levels of vitamin C and carotenoid. Scurvy is a condition caused by the deficiency of vitamin C. A 2012 paper published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology highlights that potatoes might have been one of the primary sources of vitamin C in Ireland around the time of the Irish potato famine. After studying the deaths during this time, the researchers found that scurvy was a widespread disease around the region.
May Reduce Inflammation
Potatoes may be very effective in reducing inflammation, both internal and external, according to a research paper. Since they are soft, easily digested, and may have a lot of vitamin C (a very good antioxidant that repairs tissue wear and tear), potassium, and vitamin B6, they may relieve any inflammation in the intestines and the digestive system. They might be a very good dietary element for those who have mouth ulcers as well. Therefore, people who suffer from arthritis and gout may use potatoes for their anti-inflammatory impact. However, this humble vegetable may cause weight gain, which exacerbates these conditions, and are commonly eaten with meat and other rich foods that make gout worse. Therefore, a fine balance must be struck.
May Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can occur for a number of reasons including diabetes, stress, being overweight or obese, indigestion, and poor dietary choices. Potatoes may help alleviate multiple possible causes and can be used to relieve high blood pressure due to stress. Also, the fiber present in them may prove to be helpful in lowering cholesterol. Furthermore, the potassium found in potatoes (46% of daily requirement per serving) might lower blood pressure since it functions as a vasodilator.
May Better Brain Health
Proper functioning of the brain may depend largely on the glucose level, oxygen supply, various components of the vitamin-B complex, and certain hormones, amino acids and fatty acids like omega-3. Potatoes may cater to almost all the needs mentioned above. They may be high in carbohydrates, and thereby might promote a good level of glucose in the blood in those without type 2 diabetes mellitus. This may prevent the brain from letting fatigue creep in and it keeps your cognitive activity and performance high.
Next, the brain needs oxygen, which is carried by the hemoglobin in the blood; its main constituent is iron. Potatoes may contain iron as well. Therefore, they might help deliver oxygen to the brain. There may also be a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in potatoes that may positively affect the function of the brain, including phosphorus, zinc, and the B complex vitamins. The vasodilating properties of potassium may also have been connected to the stimulation of brain function due to increased blood flow to it.
May Prevent Heart Diseases
Apart from the vitamins (B-complex and C), minerals, and roughage, potatoes may also contain certain substances called carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin). Carotenoids may be beneficial for heart health and the functioning of other internal organs. Again, since potatoes might raise the glucose level in the blood and their over-consumption may cause obesity, which puts pressure on your heart, you must be careful about how often you use potatoes for this health benefit. This is not recommended for someone suffering from obesity or diabetes.
May Help Treat Diarrhea
Potatoes may be an excellent component of an energy-rich diet for those suffering from diarrhea since they might be easy to digest and contain mild roughage. However, eating too much of it may cause diarrhea due to the excessive ingestion of starch.
Does Potato Reduce the Risk of Cancer?
Certain types of potatoes, particularly red and russet ones, may contain high levels of flavonoid antioxidants and vitamin A, like zeaxanthin and carotenes, and they may possibly protect you against many types of cancer. Also, a study at the Agricultural Research has shown that potatoes may contain a compound called quercetin, which has been proven to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties.
Another animal study may suggest that anthocyanin-rich purple potatoes might demonstrate anticancer and anti-inflammatory potential. More scientific evidence and research are needed to prove the benefit.
However, a recent study published in Nutrition and Cancer suggests that a high intake of potato may increase the risk of colorectal cancer and colon cancer.
Word of Caution
- Green potatoes are often poisonous, and so are potato leaves and fruits, as they may contain alkaloids like solanine, chaconine, and arsenic. An overdose of those chemicals could easily prove fatal.
- The glycemic index of the vegetable may be very high (above 80), so people who are trying to manage obesity or diabetes should avoid eating potatoes. If eaten, potatoes are healthier when baked, rather than fried.
- It is also highly recommended that those who have chronic kidney disease, or end-stage renal disease and are receiving dialysis, do not consume any potatoes or sources of potatoes.
Tips to Reduce Loss of Nutrients in Potato
- Avoid peeling the potatoes before cooking them. The outer shell may provide good protection against nutritional loss during the cooking process. The protein and mineral content beneath the skin may be very high, so if you cook them after peeling them, most of these proteins and minerals will be lost.
- When you boil potatoes, first heat the water to its boiling point and then add them. This will reduce cooking time and help you maintain the vitamin C content.
- Minimize frying of potatoes, as 75% of vitamin C is lost during frying. You can use other cooking methods such as baking, using an air fryer, or steam cooking.
On a delicious note, have you ever tried barbecue roasted potatoes? Go and grab some!