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Potatoes are one of the most common and popular vegetables in the world. The consumption of potatoes ranges from fresh and raw potatoes to processed products like French fries, chips, sticks, and puree. The varied uses of potato aptly earn it the title of the "king of vegetables".

 Potatoes are underground crops i.e. they grow down into the ground with leaves and branches above the ground. According to botanists, potatoes are edible tubers, which means they are fleshy stems of the potato plant. The best part is that they are easy to grow and are available globally throughout the year. In fact, potatoes are the world’s fourth-largest tuberous food crops. Potatoes are special staple crops as they combine the characteristics of foods rich in starch with those of vegetables. They were first ploughed by the South American Indians known as the Inka or Inca Indians in Peru, around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C. The Spanish brought it to Europe around the 16th century. Interestingly, there are about 4 to 5 thousand varieties of potatoes in the world.

Inherently rich in water and carbohydrates, potatoes make a delicious treat. Due to the inclination of the people towards low-carb diets, the popularity of the potato has considerably gone down. But, the vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fibre that it provides helps to keep diseases at bay and benefits human health.

Some basic facts about Potatoes:

  • Botanical name: Solanum tuberosum
  • Family: Solanaceae
  • Common Names: Potatoes, aloo
  • Sanskrit name: आलुक (Alookum, āluḥ)
  • Parts used: Skin, Flesh
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Potatoes were first cultivated in Peru by Inca or Inka Indians around 8,000 to 5,000 B.C. They were introduced in Europe in the second half of the 16th century by the Spanish. By the early 1900s, most European countries including the former Soviet Union had been producing and importing potatoes in huge amounts. They gained popularity amongst Asians, Africans and Latin Americans in the 1960’s. Potatoes are now widely produced by China and India. China is the largest producer of potatoes.
  • Interesting fact: The pollination of potatoes is done by bumblebees.
  1. Potato nutrition facts
  2. Potato health benefits
  3. Potato side effects
  4. Takeaway

Potatoes are a rich source of vitamin and minerals which majorly include antioxidants like vitamin C and potassium.  It is also an excellent source of vitamin B6, magnesium and fibre. The potassium content in potato is more than that of a banana. Nearly half of the daily value of vitamin C is contained in potato. It also consists of high amounts of carbohydrates due to the presence of starch in it. Potato contains only 110 calories and is devoid of fats, sodium, and cholesterol. The content of water in a fresh potato is about 80%. It is one of the best sources to provide energy to the body. The gluten-free nature of potatoes makes them the perfect replacement for some eatables such as pasta and bread.

Based on the USDA Nutrient Database, 100g of potato contains the following values:

Nutrient Value per 100 g
Water 79.25 g
Energy 77 kcal
Protein 2.05 g
Fats 0.09 g
Carbohydrate 17.49 g
Fibre 2.1 g
Sugars 0.82 g

     

Minerals Value per 100 g
Calcium 12 mg
Iron 0.81 mg
Magnesium 23 mg
Phosphorus 57 mg
Potassium 425 mg
Sodium 6 mg
Zinc 0.30 mg

 

Vitamins Value per 100 g
Vitamin B1 0.081 mg
Vitamin B2 0.032 mg
Vitamin B3 1.061 mg
Vitamin B6 0.298 mg
Vitamin B9 15 µg
Vitamin C 19.7 mg
Vitamin E 0.01 mg
Vitamin K 2 µg

 

Fats/ Fatty acids Value per 100 g
Saturated 0.025 g
Monounsaturated 0.002 g
Polyunsaturated 0.042 g

Potato is an exceptionally promising food that has some major benefits for the health. They contain important nutrients like fibres, starch, and proteins and lectins, which are said to be the major components contributing to the health benefits of potatoes. Epidemiological studies also positively support the contribution of potato consumption in managing body weight as well as in reducing the risk of diabetes. Even the peels of potato are a rich source of dietary fibres and are used in making bread. Let us explore some of the health benefits of potatoes

  1. Potato as a source of dietary fibre
  2. Potatoes for cholesterol
  3. Potato for weight loss
  4. Potatoes for heart health
  5. Potatoes reduces inflammation
  6. Potatoes for bones
  7. Potato as an antioxidant food
  8. Potatoes prevent cancer
  9. Potatoes for scurvy
  10. Potato as an energy source

Potato as a source of dietary fibre

Potato peels are the most effective secondary productive elements of a potato. Unlike most of the other vegetable peels, potato peels are not wastes. They consist of 40% to 50% dietary fibres which are used for making some types of bread.

In vivo (animal-based) studies suggest that potato fibre can protect the inner lining of the intestine against a potent carcinogen acrylamide which is used in many food products.

The powder made up of potato peel has the potential to decrease the damage to the eye lens that occurs due to some diabetic conditions.

(Read more: Fibre rich foods)

Potatoes for cholesterol

Although cholesterol is an important element for cell membranes in a body, high levels of cholesterol can lead to conditions like high blood pressures and heart diseases.

Potatoes are known to be excellent hypolipidemic (reduces cholesterol) agents. Research suggests that potato has low levels of an essential protein called as methionine which has a negative correlation to hypercholesterolemia. In an animal-based study, supplementing a potato-based diet has been reported to significantly reduce the blood cholesterol levels. However, more studies are needed to confirm similar effects on humans.

Potato for weight loss

When it comes to losing weight, potatoes are the most underrated food crops. They are generally associated with weight gain due to the presence of contents like carbohydrates, vitamin-C and vitamin B6 that help in proper absorption of food. However, if a medium boiled, peeled potato is consumed by a person it will not only be fulfilling but will also dispatch lesser calories than any other starch-containing food. A medium-sized potato contains about 140 calories, which is much less than that of boiled pasta (286 calories) or boiled rice (248 calories).

Thus, potatoes may help you in losing weight by making you feel full without increasing your calorie intake.

(Read more: Weight loss diet chart)

Potatoes for heart health

This starch-rich vegetable has high nutrition values which include fibre, potassium, vitamin C and contents of vitamin B6 that have properties supporting heart health. But the major role is played by its hypocholesterolemic nature(reduces cholesterol) as high levels of cholesterols are one of the primary causes of heart-related diseases. Potatoes also contain carotenoids (natural pigments) lutein and zeaxanthin which are beneficial for heart health as well as for the functioning of other internal organs.

Potatoes reduces inflammation

Several studies have been done to test the anti-inflammatory potential of potatoes. In vivo studies suggest that potato extracts are effective in reducing lung inflammation caused due to cigarette smoke. In an in vitro (lab-based) study, potato peel extracts and glycoalkaloids (a type of natural chemical compound) present in potatoes have been found to be the anti-inflammatory agents present in potatoes. 

(Read more: Inflammatory disease types)

Potatoes for bones

Potatoes have minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus in them that play a major part in maintaining bone structure and in building the strength of human bones. Calcium is one of the most important elements responsible for optimal bone health, which is present in ample amounts in potatoes. So, potato may be very beneficial for bones.  

Potato as an antioxidant food

Potatoes are rich in antioxidant compounds like vitamins and polyphenols. This means that it neutralizes the excess free radicals in the body which are otherwise associated with chronic diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, and even cancer. Due to the presence of anthocyanin pigments, the antioxidant capacity of red, blue and purple coloured potatoes has been reported to be more than that of white/yellow potatoes.

(Read more: Foods rich in antioxidants)

Potatoes prevent cancer

Potatoes contain a wide range of anti-cancer compounds in it. Consequently, numerous studies have been done to test the potential of potato extracts in reducing the growth and spread of cancer. Lab-based studies suggest that potato extracts can inhibit the spread of human breast cancer cells. Animal-based studies demonstrated that potato extracts can prolong life by suppressing tumor growth. 

Several studies claim that anthocyanin pigments responsible for giving the purple-red color to potatoes may be responsible for the anti-cancer properties of this vegetable.

Due to the absence of clinical trials, not much can be confirmed about the mechanism of action or efficiency of potatoes in preventing or reducing tumors in humans.

Potatoes for scurvy

Along with being a good source of carbohydrates, potatoes are rich in vitamin C as well. Scurvy is an illness which is caused due to the lack of vitamin-C. In this disease, one may experience swollen gums, cracked lips, rashes on the body, and mouth ulcers. The presence of Vitamin-C in potato may help in the prevention of bleeding gums. According to the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vitamin C deficiency can be linked to potatoes as evident from the increased cases of scurvy in the Irish famine.

Potato as an energy source

Potatoes are one of the most energy-providing foods. The high starch content of potatoes makes it an excellent source of dietary carbs. Additionally, it has a high calorie density and is considered fat-free when consumed baked or boiled. The proteins present in potato are of higher quality in comparison with other starch-rich eatables such as pasta, rice etc. They are amongst the few food sources rich in the essential amino acid lysine and thus helps in reaching the desired lysine level which is essential for various body functions.

Potatoes have numerous health benefits but along with it has some adverse effects on health as well.

  • When a starch-rich food like potato is cooked at high or elevated temperatures (more than 120°C), it produces a chemical known as acrylamide. Studies suggest that the presence of this chemical substance in the diet of mammals can cause cancer. Therefore, it is wise to not cook starch-rich foods at high temperatures.
  • Another adverse element that is naturally produced by potato is glycoalkaloid. Alpha-solanine and alpha-chaconine together account for 95% of the total glycoalkaloid content in potatoes. Excess intake of these glycoalkaloids can cause conditions including nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. In severe cases glycoalkaloid poisoning may cause neurological problems like drowsiness, restlessness, shaking, confusion, and weakness.
  • A research was conducted on three groups of healthy males and females in the United States. In the study, it was seen that higher consumption of potatoes in any form i.e. raw, boiled or baked is responsible for higher risk of type-2 diabetes.
  • Processed items made out of potato like french fries, chips, burgers etc. can lead to weight gain.

Potatoes have a major role in our diets. Potatoes have also shown some promising health-promoting properties but can produce adverse effects if not consumed in a limited and proper way. It is best to avoid the processed forms of potatoes and consume them baked or boiled. So, eat wisely and stay healthy.

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References

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