Potatoes are one of the most common and important food sources on the planet, and they contain a wealth of health benefits that make them all the more essential as a staple dietary item for much of the world’s population. These health benefits include their ability to improve digestion, reduce cholesterol levels, boost heart health, and protect from polyps. They strengthen the immune system, reduce signs of aging, protect the skin, increase , reduce , 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 the Americas, most likely in the Andes, Peru, and Bolivia. They have been cultivated somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago in the central and south American region.
Children around the world often refuse to eat vegetables but they’re more likely to choose potatoes. This is the strange and magical quality of potatoes; you will rarely find anyone who dislikes them. 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 1/3 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 (including me), and even those who don’t like them (yet), will be equally delighted to know that potatoes havecomponents that go far beyond and calories, and they can be an extremely beneficial addition to any dietary plan.
First, 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 ensure a good supply of water and ions in your body. This is because they are rich in potassium. The concentration is highest in the skin of the vegetable and just beneath it. So, eating the potato with its skin is always beneficial. They also contain calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
Vitamin Content: Potatoes are known for the large amounts of vitamin C present in them. Typically, a 100 gm serving will contain about 17 mg of vitamin C. In addition to this, they also contain vitamins A and B (source: USDA National Nutrient Database).
Water Content: Water accounts for about 70-80 percent of their weight. So the belief that you gain weight by eating potatoes is a misconception. 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 contain about 17% starch and they are one of the best natural sources. However, you should avoid eating sprouted potatoes as sprouting leads to the conversion of starch into sugar. Sprouted potatoes could also contain toxins and generally 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 [g]||0.91|
|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|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]||13|
|Vitamin B-6 [mg]||0.3|
|Folate, DFE [µg]||10|
|Vitamin B-12 [µg]||0|
|Vitamin A, RAE [µg]||0|
|Vitamin A, IU [IU]||3|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]||0.01|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]||0|
|Vitamin D [IU]||0|
|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|
|Fatty acids, total trans [g]||0|
|Sources include : USDA|
Promote Weight Gain
Potatoes are primarily 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 makes them an ideal diet for malnourished people who want to put on weight. The vitamin content includes vitamin C and B-complex, which also help in proper absorption of carbohydrates. That is 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!
Easy to Digest
Since potatoes predominantly contain carbohydrates, they are easy to digest and they also facilitate digestion. This property makes 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.
High In Fiber
Potatoes also contain a considerable amount of fiber or roughage. This stimulates peristaltic motion and increases 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 scraping out of the arteries and blood vessels, thereby improving heart health.
Vitamins C and B-complex, as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, are good for the skin. Apart from that, the pulp obtained from crushed raw potatoes, when mixed with honey, can work well in skin and face packs. This even helps cure pimples and spots on the skin. Again, this pulp, if applied externally on burns, provides quick relief and faster healing. Smashed potatoes and even water in which they have been washed are very good for softening rough skin, especially around the elbows.
A study published in the Journal of and Food Chemistry found that potatoes had high levels of vitamin C and carotenoid. Vitamin C can help prevent scurvy, which is characterized by cracked lip corners, petechiae, spongy and bleeding gums, and frequent viral infections. Although it is not found in first and second world countries as they have ready access to vitamin C, it still exists in certain nations of the world, so the prolific presence of potatoes helps with this problem.
Potatoes are very effective in reducing inflammation, both internal and external, according to a research paper published by Janet King and Joanne Slavin from the Oakland Research Institute, California. Since they are soft, easily digested, and have a lot of vitamin C (a very good that repairs tissue wear and tear), potassium, and vitamin B6, they can relieve any inflammation in the intestines and the digestive system. They are a very good dietary element for those who have mouth ulcers as well. Therefore, people who suffer from arthritis and gout can use potatoes for their anti- impact. However, this humble vegetable can cause weight gain, which exacerbates these conditions, and are commonly eaten with meat and other rich foods that make gout worse, a fine balance must be struck.
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. Luckily, potatoes can alleviate multiple possible causes and can be used to relieve high blood pressure due to stress. Also, the fiber present in them is helpful in lowering cholesterol. Furthermore, the potassium found in potatoes (46% of daily requirement per serving) lowers blood pressure since it functions as a vasodilator.
Proper Functioning of Brain
Proper functioning of the brain depends 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 cater to almost all the needs mentioned above. They are high in carbohydrates, and thereby promote a good level of glucose in the blood in those without type 2 diabetes mellitus. This prevents 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 contain iron as well. Therefore, they help deliver oxygen to the brain. There are a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in potatoes that positively affect the function of the brain, including phosphorus, zinc, and the B complex vitamins. Theproperties of potassium have also been connected to the stimulation of brain function due to increased blood flow to it.
Prevent Heart Diseases
Apart from the vitamins (B-complex and C), minerals, and roughage, potatoes also contain certain substances called carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin). Carotenoids are beneficial for heart health and the functioning of other internal organs. Again, since potatoes 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 method of preventing heart diseases is not recommended for obese people or diabetics.
Treat Kidney Stones
Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, are caused mainly due to increased levels of uric acid in the blood. In such cases, foods high in protein should be avoided, particularly animal proteins such as meat, turkey, shrimp, fish, eggs, and milk, as well as spinach, raw plantain, black grams, and certain beans, which drastically increase the level of uric acid in the blood. Iron and calcium also contribute to the formation of stones. Potatoes are rich in both of these so logically, they wouldn’t fit in as a preventative measure for kidney stones, but they also contain magnesium, which inhibits the accumulation or deposition of calcium (calcification) in the kidney and other tissues, thereby proving beneficial for the medical management of renal calculi.
Note: If you have had high potassium on lab results or have other kidney disease complications, potatoes should not be consumed to help treat kidney stones.
Potatoes are an excellent component of an energy-rich diet for those suffering from diarrhea since they are easy to digest and contain mild roughage. However, eating too much of it can 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, contain high levels of flavonoid antioxidants and vitamin A, like zeaxanthin and carotenes, and they can possibly protect you against many types of cancer. Also, a study at the Agricultural Research has shown that potatoes contain a compound called quercetin, which has been proven to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties.
Another animal study suggests that -rich purple potatoes may demonstrate anticancer and anti-inflammatory potential. More scientific evidence and research are needed to prove the benefit.
Word of Caution
- Green potatoes are often poisonous, and so are potato leaves and fruits, as they contain alkaloids like solanine, chaconine, and arsenic. An overdose of those chemicals could easily prove fatal.
- The glycemic index of the vegetable is very high (above 80), so people who are obese, trying to lose weight or trying to manage uncontrolled 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 provides good protection against nutritional loss during the cooking process. The protein and mineral content beneath the skin is 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!