Potatoes health benefits, risks, research and nutrition facts are intriguing to be checked. When talking about healthy foods, many people overlook the existence of potatoes thinking that these tubers are not as healthy as expected. But guess what? These people are wrong because potatoes are definitely healthy.
They’re known as one of the healthiest sources of carbohydrates. They’re highly nutritious foods good to be included in the daily diet. In all of the goodness, being more aware of healthy amount of potato consumption will always be necessary. It’s important to realize that potatoes also have bad side albeit a tiny bit of it.
History of Potatoes
There was quite a long way for potatoes to be one of the popular foods in the world. A long time ago, these potatoes were cultivated by the ancient Incas. Potatoes were introduced to the Europe following the conquest of Spanish towards the Inca Empire.
Potatoes were not readily accepted and many people thought of them as poisonous (just like eggplants and tomatoes). Slowly but sure, the potatoes were accepted and grew to be the important and staple foods. Nowadays, potatoes are staple crop and food found all year round in various parts of the world.
There are various potatoes available out there. Each variety has characteristics best to be put into particular usages. One variety might be good to be boiled while the other will be better when baked. Most varieties of potatoes are natural while others are genetically modified for particular purposes.
All of these potatoes are regularly cultivated and distributed from various parts of the world. The high consumption of potatoes has come to the point where people demand the refined taste of potatoes. This means people start to pick the particular variety of potatoes for the particular use.
There are different colors of skin and flesh found in potatoes. Most people only know that potatoes have yellow and white color of flesh but some varieties have blue or purple and even red color. These colors are natural and they add complexity in potatoes as these colors contribute to different textures and flavors.
The blue or purple potatoes for example have been described for its tendency to taste more nutty compare to the other potatoes of other colors. Popular varieties of potatoes include the Yukon gold, purple Peruvian, Idaho russet, fingerling, purple Viking and Adirondack (blue or red).
Potatoes are often looked by many in term of nutritional values. It’s a sad thing considering the how nutritious these potatoes. A medium sized potato contains approximately 164 calories, 37 grams carbohydrates, 4.7 grams dietary fiber and 0.2 grams fats.
This similar amount of serving will be sufficient for the daily needs of 51% vitamin C, 30% vitamin B-6, 25% potassium, 12% magnesium, 9% iron and 1% calcium. This serving of potatoes also provides choline, folate, niacin, phosphorus and zinc. These are good nutrients needed by the body every day.
Many compounds can also be found in potatoes such as alpha-lipoic acid that will help the body converting glucose into the needed energy. Evidences found suggest that the alpha-lipoic acid will be very useful to control the level of glucose in the body, improving the vasolidation as well as giving protection against retinopathy in the patients of diabetes.
This compound is also very helpful in helping to preserve the nerve and brain tissue. Another great compound found in potatoes is quercetin. It’s a flavonoid on potato skin. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties as well as capabilities of antioxidant that will protect body cells from damages.
Possible Health Benefits and Risks of Potato Consumption
As aforementioned, potatoes are looked and never really considered as healthy. This of course is the opposite of what studies and researches have shown. According to the studies, plant foods like potatoes will be able to help reducing risks of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and overall mortality.
The regular consumption will also help promoting the healthier complexion and hair, lowering the overall weight as well as increasing energy. At some points, potatoes can be unhealthy if they are cooked and served in the unhealthy way. After all, healthy lifestyle is all about balance. The followings are more details about benefits and risks of potato consumption:
- Better Blood Pressure
The high blood pressure is not a good condition for sure. Therefore, it’s important to maintain the low intake of sodium. Potatoes those have yet to be processed have lower level of sodium and will be good to reduce high blood pressure.
At the other hand, it’s also important to increase the potassium intake for its vasodilation effects. Sodium and potassium together with calcium and magnesium are all important to naturally lower the blood pressure for the healthier condition. Fortunately, all of them can be found in potatoes.
- Healthier Heart
Every bit of potatoes is good to support the body health. The fiber of potatoes, vitamin B-6, vitamin B and potassium as well as the lack of cholesterol are the things behind the greatness of potatoes. There are a significant number of fibers in potatoes that will help reducing the cholesterol in blood thus leads to the reduced risk of heart disease.
According to a study, the people who consume about 2069 milligrams of potassium every day will have lower risk of death from the ischemic heart disease by 49% compare to the people who consume less than 1000 milligrams potassium every day. Meanwhile the vitamin B-6 will prevent the buildup of homocysteine that may damage the blood vessels that might lead to the problems of heart.
- Healthier Bones
There are calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc in potatoes. These are notable nutrients needed to maintain the structure and strength of bones. Iron and zinc are important in production and maturation process of collagen. Calcium and phosphorus are both very important. One thing that must be remembered is to take balance amount of both. Too much phosphorus without balancing in calcium will cause bone loss.
- Protection Against Cancer
Folate in potatoes plays an important role related to DNA synthesis and repair which is a reason for the prevented mutation and formation of cancer cells. Aside of that, the intake of dietary fiber from fruits or vegetables like potatoes are also associated to the lower risk of colorectal cancer. The vitamin C as well as quercetin function in potatoes is known as powerful antioxidants. As many already know, those antioxidants will certainly be the great help to protect the body cells from the harmful free radicals.
- Reducing Chronic Inflammation
Amongst the many important and beneficial properties within potatoes, choline is one that cannot be ignored. This is known as the very necessary as well as versatile type of nutrient. This particular nutrient will help every individual of acquiring good sleep at night, better movement of body muscles, and the better capability of learning and better memorization.
This particular nutrient will also really helpful in maintaining the cellular membranes structure, assisting the absorption of fats in the body as well as aiding the nerve impulses transmission. Last but not least, it also helps to reduce the chronic inflammation.
- Satiety and Weight Management
Weight management is not something exclusively belongs to the people who try to lose body weight. The people who prefer healthier lifestyle will certainly think about it as well. The reason is simple, obesity has been considered as unhealthy and nobody wishes to deal with its risks.
Potatoes are rich with dietary fibers that will be very important factors for weight management. These fibers will become “bulking agents” when they enter the digestive system of the body. This means that the satiety will be increased while appetite will be reduced. Because of lower appetite, the overall calorie intake will be reduced as well.
- Better and Healthier Skin
A lot of people especially ladies will be glad to know another way to preserve the beauty and health of skin. Potatoes are capable of supporting the body to have healthier skin. It’s all because of the vitamin C. his particular vitamin is widely known for being essential nutrient that will work within the body.
It is a real good antioxidant helping to prevent damages caused by free radicals like sun, smoke, pollution and others. More importantly, vitamin C is really needed by collagen. The ability to smoothen wrinkles and improving skin texture is what makes collagen famous. Collagen relies so much on vitamin C.
- Helping the Digestive System
Potatoes are popular foods thought to be not good enough when it comes to dietary fiber. People often see potatoes can be easily eaten without feeling the fiber in its flesh. However, as mentioned earlier, the healthy potatoes are foods with good amount of dietary fiber.
The fiber in potatoes will be very helpful in helping the digestive system. Problems those often occur in digestive system like constipation will be prevented. The regularity of the digestive tract will be increased and it will become healthier.
- Supporting Body Metabolism
One more thing about the potatoes is how they will help the metabolism of a body or in other words, the body metabolism will become a better one thanks to the important nutrient. That nutrient is vitamin B-6 and potatoes are rich of vitamin B-6.
This particular vitamin is very important in the metabolism of energy. It will break down the carbohydrates and also protein into glucose as well as amino acids. By doing this, vitamin B-6 helps the body to get the smaller compounds those will be easier to be processed into energy.
- Potatoes can produce dangerous chemical called acrylamide when being cooked at above 120°C or 248°F. It’s a compound found in cigarette smoke, dyes, glues and plastics. This particular compound is known as to support the development of several cancers. The studies shown that acrylamide has neurotoxic properties that will certainly bring negative effects for the genes and the reproductive health. Fried potatoes and chips are relatively high in acrylamide, fats and sodium. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid them.
- Potassium in high level can bring serious risks for the body especially for the people with damaged kidney or the people whose kidneys are not fully functional. The damaged kidneys might be unable to filter the overflowing potassium in blood and it can be a fatal thing.
- When choosing potatoes to be eaten, it is important to pay attention to the physical look of the potatoes. This is an important point that must not be ignored. If the potatoes have sprouting or have the green discoloration, it’s better to avoid these potatoes. Why? Because these are the signs of the potatoes containing solanine. This is a toxic compound that usually found causing problems of respiratory and circulatory. This toxic compound might as well cause muscle cramps, headaches and diarrhea.
- Some people take beta-blockers. These are a kind of medication that usually prescribed for heart disease patients. It will increase potassium level. When someone takes this medication regularly, potatoes must be consumed moderately because potatoes are high in potassium.
Potatoes in Daily Diet
Daily diet filled with potatoes is not a bad idea. Potatoes are healthy option of carbohydrates. However, it’s important to be able to prepare the potatoes in the best way. Making chips or French fries is not healthy enough for potatoes. It is better for potatoes to be baked, boiled or broiled.
Potatoes can be easily included in daily diet as part of soups, salads or other foods. Various countries all over the world have tasty potato dish to be tried. Just remember to choose the healthiest way of preparing potatoes.
Selecting and Storing Potatoes Properly
It’s important to choose and store potatoes properly to keep the best potatoes for the daily diet. When going to a supermarket, potatoes are often packed or wrapped in a plastic bag. While it is fine to get these ones, taking potatoes from the bulk display is a better option. By doing this, buyers will be able to check every potato carefully to see signs of damage on potatoes. Aside of that, plastic bag often causes potatoes to decay quicker.
Pay attention to the potatoes. They must be firm, relatively smooth and well shaped. Of course, it’s important for the potatoes to be free of signs of decay like becoming wet or even rot. As aforementioned, it’s very important to see that the potatoes don’t have sprouting or even green discoloration. Remember that these are signs of toxic solanine exist in the potato flesh. Pay extra attention to this point when buying the new potatoes because these potatoes are harvested before they fully mature.
Another condition that needs to be checked is whether the potatoes have been cleaned or not. Some stores offer the already cleaned potatoes by thinking that it’s a good thing to be done. The price is usually higher than ordinary potatoes. Unfortunately, these potatoes already have their protective layer removed. They will be more prone to bacteria.
For the storage of the potatoes, the ideal storage will be in a dry and dark place. The temperature of the ideal storage will be 7°C to 10°C. The higher temperatures or even the room temperature will make potatoes to quickly dehydrate or sprout.
Most people do not have the root cellars but everyone can definitely try to get storage with almost similar condition to store potatoes. Ideal storage will help to keep potatoes at their maximum quality. Try to store potatoes in a dark closet or the basement or the other suitable alternatives for storing potatoes.
Refrigerator is not the good place to store potatoes. When they get stored in the refrigerator, their starch contents will become sugar. Potatoes need to stay away from onions as these two will degrade each other. When they need to be stored together, keep them in different burlap or paper bags. The Mature potatoes will be able to be kept for about two months. Also, it’s important to check the potatoes from time to time to remove the ones with sprouts or spoiled.
Culinary Usages of Potatoes
As many people know already, there are a lot of options of dish with potatoes as the main star. The potato skin is often peeled when cooking. However, the best way is actually to include the potato skin. Why? It’s because the skin is rich with dietary fiber.
Therefore, in order to get the most value of nutrition, try to include the potato skin as well. If the potato must be peeled anyway, try to remove the skin carefully. Try to only peel the thin layer of the skin. By doing this, the nutrition values that lie underneath the potato skin will be retained.
Every potato must be properly cleaned and then properly cut right before cooking. If the potatoes will not be cooked immediately after being cut, put the pieces of potatoes in a bowl of cold water. Some people add lemon juice to the cold water to prevent the potato discoloration further.
Potatoes are known to be sensitive of the particular metals. Considering this fact, it is not a bad idea to try avoiding particular metals such as iron or aluminum. The carbon steel knifes are also not good when it comes to cutting potatoes.
Culinary is not all about the preparation done on potatoes. In culinary, varieties of potatoes will also be something very important. Different varieties will bring different textures and even flavor. In order to prepare the best dish, it’s important to know the three important categories of potatoes based on the possible impact will be given to a dish.
- Waxy – The waxy potatoes have low starch. These potatoes are described as the ones with moist flesh and firm flash that will also be creamy. The potatoes can hold their shape when being cooked. These potatoes are usually the great choice for salads, boiling, roasting and to be included in casseroles.
- Starchy – Obviously, these potatoes are high in starch and relatively low in moisture. These potatoes are fluffy thus they’re great to be boiled, baked and fried. These potatoes won’t hold their shape when being cooked. Therefore adding them into potato salads, gratins and casseroles should be reconsider.
- All-Purpose – This is a category in between of waxy and starchy. It’s obvious that the potatoes will have medium starch. These potatoes are known as multipurpose. Of course, this means that these potatoes will be great for any kind of cooking process.
A List of Some Popular Potato Varieties 250
After checking the three main categories of potatoes based on how to cook them, let’s now check some of the popular potato varieties. This short list can be a great help to cook the best dish with the best potatoes available.
- Yukon Gold (All-Purpose) – These potatoes have the fine and flaked yellowish-white skin and the flesh is light yellow. The flavor is slightly sweet and it has the smooth, moist flesh with a slight waxy texture.
- Fingerling (Waxy) – These small potatoes look like fingers and usually two to three inches long. They have the earthy, mild and nutty flavor in the form and moist textures. These potatoes will be great for salads, baking, roasting and boiling but not really food for soups.
- Idaho Russet (Starchy) – These potatoes are probably the most common to be found everywhere around the world. The potato flavor is neutral with the creamy, fluffy and soft texture. These are great potatoes to be mashed, fried and baked. Pair these potatoes with butter and cream and the best mashed potato will be acquired.
- Purple Peruvian (All-Purpose) – Potatoes with deep purple color on the skin and flesh are interesting. The flesh can be evenly purple or even marbled. These potatoes have the earthy as well as the slight nutty flavor. The aftertaste is almost buttery. These potatoes have the starchy and dry texture that will make them good for boiling, frying, roasting, baking and grilling – although that in general, they can be used in any dish.