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, and boost heart health. They may strengthen the immune system, reduce signs of aging, protect the skin, reduce blood pressure, and improve cognition.
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 that 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
The health benefits of potatoes include the following:
|Serving Size :
|Total lipid (fat) [g]
|Carbohydrate, by difference [g]
|Fiber, total dietary [g]
|Sugars, total including NLEA [g]
|Glucose (dextrose) [g]
|Calcium, Ca [mg]
|Iron, Fe [mg]
|Magnesium, Mg [mg]
|Phosphorus, P [mg]
|Potassium, K [mg]
|Sodium, Na [mg]
|Zinc, Zn [mg]
|Copper, Cu [mg]
|Manganese, Mn [mg]
|Selenium, Se [µg]
|Fluoride, F [µg]
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]
|Pantothenic acid [mg]
|Vitamin B-6 [mg]
|Folate, total [µg]
|Folate, food [µg]
|Folate, DFE [µg]
|Choline, total [mg]
|Carotene, beta [µg]
|Vitamin A, IU [IU]
|Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]
|Fatty acids, total saturated [g]
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]
|Aspartic acid [g]
|Glutamic acid [g]
|Sources include : USDA
Potatoes, commonly known as spuds, are incredibly satiating due to their unique combination of macronutrients and fiber. Their high starch content provides a sustained release of energy, helping to keep hunger at bay for longer periods. Additionally, potatoes are a rich source of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, promotes a feeling of fullness, and regulates appetite. The combination of starch and fiber in potatoes makes them an excellent food choice for those seeking satiety and weight management. A study on the satiety index of common foods found boiled potatoes to be seven times more filling than croissants.
Furthermore, potatoes contain resistant starch, a unique type of starch that resists digestion and acts as a prebiotic, supporting a healthy gut microbiome and potentially improving overall satiety and metabolic health.
May Be Easy to Digest
Potatoes contain resistant starch, which resists digestion and reaches the large intestine, where it becomes a valuable food source for beneficial gut bacteria. These bacteria ferment resistant starch, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), particularly butyrate, which serves as their preferred energy source.
Health Benefits of Butyrate:
- Anti-inflammatory: As per a study, butyrate exerts anti-inflammatory effects in the colon, reducing inflammation and improving overall gut health.
- Colon Protection: Butyrate strengthens the colon’s defenses, enhancing its ability to resist harmful bacteria and maintain a healthy balance of gut microbiota.
- Colorectal Cancer Risk Reduction: Studies suggest that butyrate may help lower the risk of colorectal cancer by reducing inflammation and promoting the growth of healthy colon cells.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disorder Relief: As per a study, butyrate shows promise in alleviating symptoms and improving the quality of life for individuals with inflammatory bowel disorders such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis.
- Nutrient Absorption Enhancement: Butyrate enhances the absorption of nutrients, aiding in the efficient utilization of dietary components.
Much of the evidence surrounding the health benefits of butyrate is derived from test-tube and animal studies. More human-based research is necessary to fully understand and confirm the effects of potatoes on gut health.
May Aid In Skin Care
Vitamins C and B-complex, as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, present in potatoes 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.
Furthermore, the enzymes in potatoes possess anti-inflammatory properties, making them effective in reducing blemishes, soothing irritated skin, and promoting an overall healthy complexion. With their gentle and versatile nature, potatoes can be incorporated into DIY skincare routines in various forms, such as face masks, eye treatments, and toners, making them an affordable and effective way to achieve radiant, youthful skin.
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.
Choline contributes to muscle function, mood regulation, learning, and memory. Beyond these functions, it plays a critical role in maintaining cellular membrane structure and facilitating nerve signal transmission. Additionally, choline aids in the efficient absorption of dietary fats and is crucial for early brain development, especially during pregnancy. Including potatoes in your diet can boost your choline intake, with one large potato providing approximately 57 mg of this essential nutrient. To meet daily choline requirements, adult males need 550 mg, while females need 425 mg.
May Lower Blood Pressure
Several studies have highlighted the beneficial effects of resistant starch on insulin resistance and blood sugar management. In one study with mice, feeding them resistant starch resulted in reduced insulin resistance, improving the body’s ability to remove excess sugar from the bloodstream efficiently. Similarly, research involving individuals with type 2 diabetes revealed that consuming a meal containing resistant starch enhanced the clearance of excess blood sugar post-meal. Additionally, a separate study involving ten participants demonstrated that regular consumption of 30 grams of resistant starch daily for four weeks led to a notable reduction in insulin resistance by approximately 33%. These findings collectively underscore the potential of resistant starch in improving insulin sensitivity and managing blood sugar levels.
Potatoes can be used to relieve high blood pressure due to stress. Also, the fiber present in them may prove to help lower cholesterol. Furthermore, the potassium found in potatoes (46% of the 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.
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!