The potato was first introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 16th century and quickly became a popular food crop among European farmers. Originally used as animal feed, the potato was eventually incorporated into the human diet.
Over the centuries, potatoes have been prepared and eaten differently, depending on the region and culture. In some places, potatoes were boiled or baked, and in others mashed or fried. They were often served as a side dish or mixed with other ingredients to make soups and stews. Today, potatoes are a popular foodstuff all around the world. Let’s see whether it is a good and healthy choice or just a compromise because of its cost and availability.
Potatoes – Nutrition facts
Potatoes have medium energy value, a very small amount of protein, and almost no fat. Also, high in carbs, and low in sugar and fibre. Potatoes also have a high glycemic index which is not very good for your glucose and insulin levels.
Potatoes – A good portion of good news
1Protect your body from damage
Potatoes are rich in compounds such as flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids.
These compounds act as antioxidants in the body by neutralizing potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they can increase the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Studies have also found that coloured potatoes, like purple potatoes, can have three to four times more antioxidants than white potatoes. This makes them potentially more effective in neutralizing free radicals.
2Are packed with vital nutrients
Potatoes are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals (as you can see in the table above).
The nutritional content of potatoes can vary depending on the type and how they are prepared. When potatoes are fried, oil is the main problem. In restaurants, for example, oil can be used several times without being changed – and in such a process, the usual fats in the oil are transformed into dangerous and toxic trans fats.
It is also important to note that potato peel contains a large number of vitamins and minerals. Peeling potatoes can significantly reduce their nutrient content.
3Help your immune system
As potatoes contain vitamin C, they can be beneficial for your immune system. Vitamin C plays a key role in the synthesis of collagen (important for healthy skin and gums) and can help support the body’s immune system.
Vitamin C is significantly reduced by the processing, but the drop in vitamin is lower if potatoes are not peeled.
4Include healthy ‘food’ for your gut
Potatoes contain a special type of starch known as resistant starch. This starch is not broken down and is not completely digested by the body. Instead, it enters the large intestine, where it becomes a source of nutrients for the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
A study, that tested people with type 2 diabetes, found that eating foods with resistant starch helped to eliminate excess sugar from the blood after a meal.
Resistant starch is a carb that is also considered a type of fibre. Increasing your intake of resistant starch can be favourable for the bacteria in your intestines as well as for your cells.
Potatoes do not inherently contain gluten. Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, barley and rye, and potatoes do not belong to this list. Therefore, it can be safely consumed by people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. The gluten-free diet is becoming one of the most popular diets worldwide.
However, it is important to note that some processed potato products may contain gluten if they are made with gluten-containing ingredients or have been cross-contaminated during production. It is always a good idea to check the label or contact the manufacturer to ensure that the potato product is indeed gluten-free.
The benefits of a gluten-free diet for most people are questionable and need to be confirmed by reliable studies. But the gluten-free diet is truly crucial for people with celiac disease but individuals suffering from this disease comprise around 1% of the world’s population.
If you are following a gluten-free diet, you should consider including potatoes in it. They are naturally gluten-free and won’t cause any unpleasant symptoms.
As well as being nutritious, potatoes are also incredibly filling. As filling foods curb hunger pains, they may be helpful in regulating or losing weight. Some evidence shows that a certain potato protein, known as potato proteinase inhibitor 2 (PI2), can curb appetite. This protein appears to enhance the release of cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone that promotes feelings of fullness.
7Extremely versatile and tasty
As well as bringing a lot of benefits, potatoes are delicious and versatile as well. Potatoes can be cooked in many ways, including boiling, baking and steaming. If possible do not remove potato skin. This will allow you to get the maximum amount of nutrients out of the potatoes.
You don’t have to worry about the cost of potatoes. This vegetable is available all year round in all shops and is pretty cheap. Potatoes offer good nutritional value at a reasonable price.
Potato – Some bad news
Potatoes are an excellent vegetable for your diet with many advantages, but there are a few things to be aware of. If you consume hot potatoes, know they are likely to raise your blood levels. Furthermore, you should avoid frying potatoes because they may have some detrimental effects, although it is quite tasty.
If you like fried and hot potatoes, you should remember that they have a high glycemic index which causes the blood sugar level to rise to a very high level. Such a way of cooking potatoes is not the best one and it is better to consume fried potatoes in moderation.
Glycoalkaloids are a potentially toxic family of chemical compounds found in plants in the nightshade family. Potatoes contain them, including two specific types called solanine and chaconine.
Green potatoes, in particular, contain high levels of glycoalkaloids. When potatoes are exposed to light, they produce a molecule called chlorophyll, causing them to turn green. Though the production of chlorophyll doesn’t necessarily indicate spoilage, exposure to light can increase glycoalkaloid concentrations.
When consumed in high amounts, these glycoalkaloids can be toxic and have adverse health effects.
Potatoes grown in heavily fertilized soil may contain high levels of heavy metal contamination.
Anyone concerned about this can grow their own potatoes if they have a garden or use a shortcut and buy organic potatoes in a supermarket.
Healthhack from Healthypedia
Don’t eat too many hot potatoes. The best choice for you and your gut is a cool potato and preferably boiled or baked, but not fried! Many fried potato products contain high levels of sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure and other health problems. Consuming too much sodium can lead to water retention in the body, swelling and other unpleasant symptoms. It can also increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Furthermore, fried potatoes are often made with unhealthy oils, such as vegetable oil or palm oil, which can contain trans fats. Trans fats are a type of unhealthy fat that can raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease. Eat with peel if possible. Potato peel is richer in nutrients than potato itself. And it costs nothing. And less waste for the planet. Sorry, the last statement about waste is not fully true. We think you get why 🙂
Fun & curious facts about potatoes
There are museums devoted to the potato. The most famous ‘potato’ museum is located in Belgium.
The world’s most expensive potatoes are grown on the island of Noirmoutier in France. A kilo of such potato costs around 500 euros.
Theweighed 11 pounds (5 kg). It was grown in the United Kingdom in 2010.
Potatoes in the Blue Zones
Orange and purple sweet potatoes (called IMO) are widely consumed in the Blue Zones, especially Okinawa. Both are extremely rich in antioxidants. The purple sweet potato has slightly higher levels of beneficial potassium, but both types contain high levels of anthocyanins. This type of antioxidant is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, improved vision, and reduced inflammation. Sweet potatoes are also high in fibre, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, and they’re great in traditional sweet side dishes and savoury soups.
Potatoes. Experiment by our expert
Let’s sum potatoes up
Potatoes are delicious, versatile and easy to add to your diet. Besides their excellent composition, they offer a variety of cooking options. So go ahead and include them in your diet and receive health benefits but don’t fry them!🙂
Not enough? Here is more from our colleagues!
This video, which was recorded during a webinar on potatoes, is hosted by Dr. Michael Greger of the Nutrition Facts YouTube channel. In the video, you will learn about the healthiest variety of potatoes and discover new information about this vegetable.
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