Whether it’s mashed, baked, boiled, steamed, or sautéed, the potato is a dietary staple around the globe.. This root vegetable or tuber is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, whose vegetable members include eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. If allowed to fully grow, the potato plant can produce an inedible fruit that resembles a tomato.
Potatoes originated from South America, specifically in the Andean mountain region. They were later on introduced to Europeans by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. On many of their voyages, the Spanish used potatoes as a source of vitamin C to combat scurvy.Today, this vegetable is cultivated worldwide and is the world’s fourth largest crop, with the state of Idaho as one of the largest producers.
There are about 100 types of potatoes, each varying in shape, size, color, flavor, and nutritional content. The most common types have white/yellow skin and flesh, red skin and flesh, or russet skin and flesh.
Potatoes are different from sweet potatoes, regardless of their many similarities. Sweet potatoes can appear in various colors, including cream, yellow, orange, pink, and purple. On the other hand, normal potatoes have a white or pale yellow flesh with brown, red, or yellow skins. They are either smooth or rough.
Their nutritional profiles also differ from each other. Regular potatoes are high in starches, while sweet potatoes have higher amounts of fiber. Many deem sweet potato the healthier choice, as it boasts of higher levels of nutrients like vitamins A and C.
Some varieties of potatoes, especially if they’re fried, are a bane to your health. However, moderate amounts and healthful cooking methods can maximize its benefits. Plus, ordinary potatoes are more versatile in the kitchen and are also more affordable.
Health Benefits of Potato
Nowadays, potatoes are commonly sold and consumed in the form of greasy French fries or baked potato chips. These processed products are a source of unhealthy fats like trans fat, other processed ingredients, and chemical additives. Excessive consumption of processed potatoes can lead to a myriad of health problems, including obesity, heart problems, and even cancer.
Minus the unhealthy oils and fats, potatoes are low in calories, and provide fiber and several nutrients. In balanced amounts, they can offer some protection against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Potato skins are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber, and this may help prevent constipation and lower LDL cholesterol. Potato’s fiber content may also support digestion and absorption of simple sugars.
Potatoes are one of the most abundant sources of B-vitamins, especially vitamin B6 or pyridoxine, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and folate. It is also a great source of minerals like manganese, phosphorus, copper, potassium, magnesium, and iron.
Phytonutrients with antioxidant effects, such as flavonoids, carotenoids, and caffeic acid, can also be found in potatoes. Red and russet potatoes have sufficient concentrations of vitamin A, as well as carotenes and zeaxanthin.
Potato Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), flesh and skin, raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies on Potato
One study1 conducted by scientists from the Institute for Food Research found that potatoes provided compounds called kukoamines, which aid in lowering blood pressure. These were previously believed to only be found only in an exotic Chinese herbal plant called Lycium chinense, which is used in Chinese infusion herbal medicine. Researchers also stated that both potatoes and the Lycium chinense belong to the same plant family, and that the beneficial compounds were also found in tomatoes.
Potato Healthy Recipes:
Mushroom and Broccoli Frittata
||2 cups broccoli or cauliflower, steamed and chopped
||4 medium potatoes, steamed and chopped
||1 small onion, chopped
|6 medium mushrooms, sliced
||1 Tbsp. olive oil
||1 cup cheese (your choice), grated
- Steam the potatoes and broccoli/cauliflower. Set aside.
- Sauté the onions and mushrooms. Set aside.
- Beat the eggs well and mix them together in a large bowl with the potatoes, broccoli, onions, and mushrooms. Add to a skillet with a metal handle.
- Cook over medium to low heat for about 15 minutes until the frittata is cooked but still a little moist in the middle.
- Place grated cheese on top and put under the broiler till cheese browns lightly. Let it cool a little and serve.
(Taken from Dr. Mercola’s Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type)
Potato Fun Facts
Back in the late 1800s, potatoes were as valuable as gold because of their vitamin C content. However, during the 1500s, Spanish explorers failed to recognize this and focused on finding silver and gold upon reaching South America. Potatoes were used as basic rations for conquistadors, and as feed for livestock. In 1899, during the Alaskan Klondike gold rush, miners began to see the nutritional value of potatoes and traded gold for them.
In October 1995, the white potato became the first crop to be grown in outer space. This was a joint project by NASA and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Researchers came up with this technology to feed astronauts on long space voyages, and in the hope that it can sustain future space colonies.
In the time of the Spanish conquistadors, potatoes were already a favorite for their nutritional profile, versatility in cooking, and affordable price. These tubers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, color, and flavors. Potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C, and B vitamins, as well as certain types of minerals. Some varieties even have phytonutrients that have antioxidant properties.
While they provide a number of beneficial properties, potatoes should only be consumed in moderation as they are high in starches. Processed potatoes, such as chips and French Fries, should be avoided as they contain unhealthful fats and synthetic ingredients that can harm your health.