Potato (Solanum Tuberosum) is a plant tuber that is commonly eaten as a starchy vegetable. In some countries, this tuber even become an important staple food.
Potatoes are actually a very healthy food. Unfortunately, many people eat them in the form of oily french fries or potato chips and even baked potatoes are usually loaded down with unhealthy fats such as butter and sour cream that makes it a potential contributor to heart attack. But keep away from the deep fryer and extra fat, potatoes are a low-calorie and high fiber food that offer significant protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer.
According to Nutritiondata.com, the nutritional value of one medium-sized baked potato (173g) is as shown below:
In addition to their vitamins, minerals and fiber content, potatoes also contain many phyto-chemicals, such as carotenoids and polyphenols, that ward off disease and benefit human health.
Health Benefits of Potatoes
- Lower blood pressure
Potatoes are good sources of potassium, which helps lower and stabilize blood pressure. One medium potato with skin provides 18% of the recommended daily value of potassium.
Scientists at the Institute for Food Research have discovered that potatoes contain a compound called kukoamine, which are also associated with a reduced risk of high blood pressure.
- Reduce cardiovascular disease risk
There are approximately 60 different kinds of Phyto-chemicals and vitamins that are found in potato. Many of these are flavonoids that help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering levels of bad LDL-cholesterol and keeping arteries free of fat.
The vitamin B-6 present in potatoes is also useful to protect against heart disease. Vitamin B-6 is capable of reducing the levels of a molecule called Homocysteine. High Homocysteine levels are linked with a significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Maintain proper brain function
The high level of carbohydrates in potatoes may help in maintaining good levels of glucose in the blood, which is necessary for proper brain function. A 1995 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that slightly increases in glucose could help enhance learning and memory. Potassium, which encourages the widening of blood vessels, also helps ensure your brain gets enough blood.
- Promote digestion
Since potatoes mostly contain carbohydrates, it is easy to digest and facilitate digestion. This makes them a good diet for patients, babies and those who difficult to digest hard foods but at the same time require energy. Potatoes also contain a significant amount of fiber that aids in proper digestion.
- Protect against cancer
Some varieties of potatoes like red and russet potatoes contain high levels of flavonoid antioxidants, like carotenes and zeaxanthin. These powerful antioxidants are known to help protect the body from harmful free radicals.
Recent studies have shown that a compound found in potatoes called quercetin, has anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties. Additionally, its rich fiber content also helps protect against colon cancer.
- Skin care
Vitamin B-complex, vitamin C and some minerals, like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, found in potatoes are very beneficial for skin. The pulp obtained from crushed raw potatoes, mixed with honey applied to your face, can also be applied as a poultice for clearing wrinkles and other skin blemishes due to aging.
- Relieve inflammation
The nutrients in potatoes like vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese, are great source to relieve both internal and external inflammation. So for those who suffer from chronic internal or external inflammation can reap the benefits as well. To ease any external inflammation, simply rub a raw potato on the affected area, including mouth ulcers.
- Treat rheumatism
Raw potato juice is an excellent natural remedy for treating rheumatism. Drink one or two tablespoons of raw potato juice prepared by mashing raw potatoes in the morning before meal. This will help reduce toxicity and relieve rheumatism. Alternatively, boil skin of raw potato in water for 3-5 minutes until the concoction is reduced to nearly half the amount. After straining, drink this concentrate at least three to four times a day for best results.
- Maintain bone health
Potatoes are good sources of calcium, iron, phosphorous, manganese, and zinc, which all contribute to the building and maintaining of bone structure and strength.
- Prevent kidney stones
Potatoes contain magnesium, which inhibits the accumulation or deposition of calcium in the kidney and other tissues, thereby helping to prevent kidney stones.
Tips on Selecting the Good Potatoes
When buying potatoes, you should avoid the ones with green spots, sprouting, or any kind of bruising. When exposed to light, potatoes develop green spots, which contain a substance called solanine that is not only tastes bitter, but it is also poisonous. Sprouting indicates the potato is not fresh, and bruised potatoes rot easily. Storing potatoes in a cool, dark and dry place will help stop them sprouting.
How to Minimize Nutrients Loss When Cooking Potatoes
Potatoes are rich in vitamin C. However, since we do not eat potatoes raw, most of the vitamin C is lost due to the heat of cooking. To minimize the nutrient loss, avoid peeling the skin of potatoes before cooking them. The outer shell provides a good protection against nutritional loss during the cooking process.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, boiling unpeeled potatoes results in losses of up to 30 percent of vitamin C, but boiling peeled potatoes can cause losses of up to 40 percent.