01 Oct Potato, Pa-tato
Contrary to what many think, a raw potato is indeed a great source of essential nutrients and contribute to many health benefits. Although they are commonly served in a meal as a starch (similar to bread, pasta, or rice), potatoes are classified in MyPlate as a vegetable. They are indeed high in starch, but it is a resistant starch which can actually improve colon health.
According to the USDA, Americans eat and average of 55 pounds of frozen potatoes per year, 42 pounds of fresh potatoes, 17 pounds of potato chips, and 14 pounds of dehydrated potato products.
FACTS ABOUT POTATOES
A medium-sized baked potato contains only about 110 calories. Potatoes are underground tubers that grow on the roots of a plant called Solanum tuberosum. It is the world’s fourth-largest agricultural crop, after corn, wheat, and rice.
This plant is from the nightshade family, and is related to tomatoes and tobacco. Potatoes usually come in shades of brown, but various colored varieties also exist, including yellow, red, and purple.
Potatoes are often thought of as a comfort food, especially when prepared with butter and sour cream or crisply fried in oil. When prepared in these ways, they can lead to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease.
In fact, it is the common French fry, potato chip, or heaping helping of mashed potatoes that has led many to believe potatoes are unhealthy. As validation to potato nutrition, below is a list of all the ways eating a potato can positively improve your health.
One nutritional value is the good source of vitamins C and B6, manganese, phosphorus, niacin and pantothenic acid. Furthermore, potatoes contain more potassium than a banana. They are completely fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free. Additionally, they may also help with digestion, heart health, blood pressure and even cancer prevention.
Studies have proven a baked potato, prepared in an oven or microwave, is the healthiest way to eat the vegetable. This particular cooking method causes the least amount of nutrients lost throughout the cooking procedure.
Cooked potatoes eaten with the skin is another way to enhance the source of potassium and vitamin C in your serving. The darker the skin on the potato, the richer the health benefits. Thus, making the healthiest type of potato the purple-skinned Peruvian, which is an heirloom fingerling potato. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that six to eight small purple potatoes twice a day helped lower blood pressure, risk of heart disease and strokes among people who were overweight and suffering from hypertension. Despite the carbohydrates in purple potatoes, the participants did not gain weight.
- Blood pressure – Potatoes may help lower blood pressure for several reasons. The fiber found in potatoes could help lower cholesterol by binding with cholesterol in the blood. As mentioned above, the amount of potassium in a potato is very high. Potassium’s largest benefit is a mineral that helps lower blood pressure.
- Brain functioning and nervous system health – The B6 vitamins in potatoes are critical to maintaining neurological health. Vitamin B6 helps create useful brain chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This means that eating potatoes may help with depression, stress and even perhaps attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Digestion – The largest health benefit offered by potatoes is how they can help with digestion due to their high fiber content. Potatoes’ high level of carbohydrates makes them easy to digest, while their fiber-filled skin can help keep you regular.
- Heart health – The fiber in a potato is associated with clearing cholesterol from blood vessels; vitamins C and B6 help reduce free radicals; and carotenoids help maintain proper heart functioning. Additionally, B6 plays a crucial role in the methylation process. According to Harvard, this processes changes the potentially dangerous molecule homocysteine into methionine.
- Athletic performance – Electrolytes, found in the potato skins, are necessary for optimum body function, and having too few can cause cramps, as many athletes know.
- Skin care – According to Organic Facts, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorous can all help keep skin as smooth and creamy as…well… mashed potatoes! These nutrients are all present in potatoes.
Looking for inspiration/ ideas for potato recipes that have plenty of flavor but maintain the nutritional value of a potato? Here are 30 Healthy Ways to Eat Potatoes
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