Health benefits of potatoes
Potatoes are without a doubt the nation’s most popular vegetable with a staggering 1337 million potatoes consumed worldwide each year. The humble potato is the fifth most important crop world wide after wheat, corn, rice and sugar cane. And is a staple food source for rich and poor alike. Currently there are 575 known varieties of potato and the list is still growing.
It was the South Americans that dug up the first potato around 6,000 years ago in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Peru. Belonging to the nightshade (Solanaceae) family of plants, many of the varieties of potato are in fact poisonous. This is due to high levels of a chemical compound known as alkaloids. The American Indians managed to identify a variety known as diploid that was the first ever cultivated potato.
It wasn’t until the 1600s that potatoes first made it across the Atlantic to Europe and a further 300 years until large scale production began with many of the old breeds not able to cope with the longer days and colder winters it took around 150 years of intense crossing and breeding to end up with the potato we all know and cherish today.
- Cholesterol: 100 grams of potato provides 70 calories but just 0.1 grams of fat and no cholesterol
- Fibre: Potatoes are a great source of both soluble and non soluble fibre. This helps with constipation and could even help avoid colon polyps and cancer
- Diabetic: Helps to maintain steady levels of blood sugars meaning potatoes are a reliable source of carbohydrates in diabetics
- Potassium: – potatoes contain very high levels of potassium a single potato can give you up to 50% of your recommended daily intake. Potassium may help to lower blood pressure
- Other mineral content: – each large potato contains around 44.8mg of calcium, 3.2 mg of iron, 83.7mg of magnesium, 209 mg of phosphorus as well as significant quantities of sodium, zinc, copper, selenium, and fluoride.
- Digestion: as potatoes are predominately made of carbohydrates they are very easy to digest. This makes them first choice for patients and babies who cannot digest hard food.
- Skin care: the pulp from crushed raw potatoes mixed with honey has been used for hundreds of years as a facial wash to promote soft supple skin
- Heart diseases: Potatoes contain a substances known as carotenoids which are beneficial to not only the heart but all bodily organs
Things to watch out for:
Although potatoes do have a huge number of beneficial factors and there is strong evidence suggesting they help with problems ranging from heart problems too weight gain, there are a few things its wise to remember when ordering your next portion of chips.
In a 2011 Harvard study of unhealthy foods the humble potato came in first place. Why is this? Although plain potatoes can be a great addition to your weekly diet, some of the cooking methods and things such as cheese that they are commonly served with mean that you might not be doing yourself as much good as you think.