Think about a relaxed afternoon at home and chances are you will think of a perfect time on the couch, munching on some yummy potato chips!
Potatoes have been an integral part of everybody’s diet. These are one of the most widely used vegetables that are found in almost every kitchen around the world.
About the Potato
A typical potato can be described as a starchy vegetable belonging to the Solanaceae or nightshade family which also includes tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos. The swollen portion of the underground stem called the tuber is edible. This is the part that we refer to as a potato and it provides food for the leafy portion of the plant. Potatoes, also known as ‘aloo‘ in Hindi, ‘Alu Gadda’ in Telugu, ‘Urulai Kizhangu‘ in Tamil, ‘Urula Kizhangu‘ in Malayalam, ‘Aaloo Gadde‘ in Kannada, ‘Batata‘ in Gujarati, ‘Batata‘ in Marathi and ‘Gol Alu‘ in Bengali are available all the year round and are usually harvested every month.
Considering the fact that potatoes are the fourth largest food crops after rice, wheat and maize, they form an integral part of the world’s cuisine. They are an important staple food and the leading vegetable crop in the world. These vegetables can fit into almost every dish and hence, are regarded as a comfort food.
Apart from being delicious when cooked, potatoes are quite nutritious. They have a high content of carbohydrates and vitamin C. Potatoes offer several health benefits. Of late, the cosmetic benefits of potatoes have also been recognized.
Skin Benefits Of Potato
Apart from being used as a food source, potatoes have an important role to play in skincare as well. As pointed out earlier, they are rich in vitamin C which is vital for maintaining skin health. Thus, this starchy vegetable is beneficial for your skin in the following ways.
1. Removal of Dark Circles
Potatoes are a natural under eye brightener and so, applying potato juice or potatoes directly on the affected area can banish dark eye rings.
How To Use
- Peel and slice a raw potato into large pieces.
- Placing them in a cloth or handkerchief, stick them on your eyes for 15-20 minutes.
- Wash off with warm water.
- Doing this regularly will reduce your dark circles considerably.
- You can also apply potato juice under your eyes with a cotton ball to fade away dark circles.
2. Treatment Of Wrinkles
Potato is considered as an effective anti-aging beauty agent, particularly in warding off wrinkles. Regular application of potato juice imparts a healthy glow to your skin. It also helps to soften your skin as well as keep wrinkles at bay.
3. Treatment Of Dark Spots
Potatoes are a natural way of fading away those dark spots.
How To Use
- If you have black spots on your face, you can blend peeled potatoes in a blender
- Next, apply them on your face.
- Give a gentle massage
- Then do peeling for 5 minutes
- Once done, rinse off with clean water.
4. Removal Of Facial Blemishes
Facial blemishes adversely affect your appearance and potato juice is a great natural way to get rid of them.
How To Use
- Use cold potato juice as a daily facial rinse
- This can help you get rid of your blemishes
- It will help reveal clear and perfect skin.
5. Treatment Of Sunburns
Potatoes are wonderful for treating sun burnt skin.
How To Use
- All you need to do is place cold potato slices on the affected areas
- Alternatively, you can simply dab potato juice on the spot.
- This will give you a soothing and cooling sensation as well as diminish your suntan.
6. Skin Lightening
Potatoes are a natural skin lightening agent.
How To Use
- Apply a mask of grated raw potato on your face and rinse off with water after 30 minutes.
- Using this on a regular basis will make your face smooth, clean and bright as well as reduce facial swelling.
- You can also apply a mixture of lemon and potato juices to lighten your skin naturally.
- This acts as mild bleach for your skin and yields quick results.
7. Potato For Dry Skin
If you have dry skin, potatoes will help give you that smooth skin feeling in minutes.
How To Use
- Make a face mask by mixing a grated potato with half a teaspoon of curd.
- Apply it on your face for 20 minutes and then wash it off.
- This will act as an anti-aging mask to hydrate your skin from within
- It will also help to replenish moisture into dry skin to iron out fine lines effectively.
8. Lifting Of Dead Skin Cells
Potatoes can also remove dead skin cells on the face.
How To Use
- You can apply grated peeled potatoes on your face for 10 minutes
- Once done, rinse with clean water.
- Doing this regularly will rejuvenate your skin.
9. Natural Cleanser
Potato can be used as a natural facial cleanser.
How To Use
- For this purpose, cut one cucumber and one potato into medium pieces
- Now blend these in a blender for 20 seconds.
- Next, add one teaspoon of baking soda and a little water to the mixture.
- You can use this mixture to clean your face. This will make your skin more shiny and refreshed.
10. Treatment Of Rashes, Itching Sensation And Insect/Pest Bite
How To Use
In case of rashes, itching sensation and insect bites:
- Place a slice of raw potato on the affected area for a few minutes.
- This should be done several times a day for quick relief.
11. Removal of Eye Puffiness:
To remove puffiness around the eyes:
- Apply a mixture of cucumber and potato juice on your face, particularly around the eyes.
- Cucumber contains ascorbic acid and caffeic acid whereas potato has liquid starch and catecholase.
- These two ingredients work well in lightening your skin tone and treating puffiness of eyes.
Hair Benefits Of Potato
Besides being wonderful for your skin, potatoes used along with other ingredients can benefit your hair. Some of the ways in which potato can be beneficial for hair are the following:
12. Promotes Healthy Hair
Potatoes are a great natural ingredient to help achieve healthy hair.
How To Use
- Blend grated raw potato to make a smooth paste and squeeze water from it.
- Mix this water with one whole egg, 3 drops of lemon juice and curd (optional).
- Apply this on your hair from scalp to ends and wash off after 20 to 25 minutes
- Use your normal shampoo and warm water to get naturally healthy and shiny hair.
- This mask should be used once in 20 days for best results.
13. Treatment Of Grey Hair
Potato peelings can be used to restore Grey hair.
How To Use
- You can prepare your own hair tonic by boiling potato peelings in a pan in water that is just enough to cover them.
- Strain the water in a tumbler or a glass.
- Use this water to rinse your hair after shampooing it as usual.
- This will darken your hair back to its natural color.
- This should be followed religiously for every alternate hair wash to get best results.
- Alternatively, you can use normally boiled potato water if you are preparing any dish from potatoes.
14. Potato For Hair Loss
To combat hair loss, you can make a hair mask comprising of potato and honey.
How To Use
- For this purpose, peel the potato and press out the juice.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of potato juice with 2 tablespoons of aloe vera and 1 tablespoon of honey.
- Apply this mixture on the roots and massage your scalp with it.
- Cover your hair with a shower cap and leave for 2 hours.
- Wash off with a mild shampoo.
- This mask should be applied twice a week for best results.
Health Benefits Of Potato
Let us have a look at potato health benefits:
15. Beat Those Frequent Food Pangs
Are you trying to lose weight or have frequent food pangs? Unlike what you are led to believe, potatoes are actually good for you. Potatoes are made of complex carbohydrates and nutrients. Rather than being harmful, a properly cooked new potato has only 26 calories in it making it a very good choice while you are on a diet.
Potatoes have low Glycemic Index ranking which makes it filling. As the complex carbohydrates in it break down much slower than sugar, biscuits etc it is much more filling. Having a potato for lunch will keep your stomach full and will keep those food cravings away. Also, it should be noted that the nutritional contents vary with the type of potato and the area of produce. The way the potato is produced also comes into account, but nonetheless, it can be a good addition to your diet.
16. Get A Vitamin Boost
Potatoes were eaten by 19th Century English and Spanish sailors to protect themselves from scurvy. Potatoes are rich in Vitamin C, a needed vitamin to boost immunity. A medium potato (150g) with the skin intact provides 27mg, almost half of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. Potato benefits include a good amount of Vitamin B, and minerals such as potassium, magnesium phosphorus, zinc and iron.
17. Good For The Digestive System
Potatoes mostly contain carbohydrates and do not contain fat or proteins which make it a good choice for those who cannot digest hard foods. Be careful as too much intake of potatoes can lead to acidity.
18. For Cardiovascular Diseases
Potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates, protein, calcium, niacin and Vitamins C and B-complex. These help to fight heart diseases and keep blood pressure at normal. Potatoes contain carotenoids, which play a key role in keeping you fit and healthy. It also contains Flavonoids which keep bad cholesterol levels low.
19. Great Source Of Fiber
Potatoes are great as they contain good amounts of fiber. Fiber helps in a healthy bowel movement and keeps your digestive system happy. If you suffer from bad bowel movement, try eating cooked potatoes that are left to cool. This helps to increase the indigestible starch in the potato, helping in good bowel movements.
20. Keep Stress At Bay
Potatoes have high amounts of Vitamin B6 helping in cellular repair. Adding it to your diet will result in greater cell renewal and will result in a good mood and less stress. Neurotransmitters, namely serotonin and dopamine are made with Vitamin B6 which is needed for the regulation of moods.
How to Select and Store?
These days, potatoes are easily available at most retail outlets in packaged form, inside a plastic bag. But it is always better to buy them individually from a bulk display so that that you can properly inspect them for any signs of decay or damage. Moreover, since the plastic bags are not perforated, they can cause a build-up of moisture which negatively affects the potatoes.
- While buying potatoes, choose the ones that have smooth and firm skin without eyes or discoloration.
- Avoid the potatoes that have wrinkled or wilted skins, soft dark areas, sprouts, cuts or bruises and green tinges.
- Green tinged potatoes should particularly be avoided as they contain toxic alkaloids such as solanine formed due to exposure to light.
- This alkaloid not only imparts an undesirable taste but also causes a host of health problems such as circulatory and respiratory depression, diarrhea and headaches.
- Potatoes with sprouts should also be avoided as they are old.
- If you are buying potatoes in a bag, it should be checked properly to discard any rotten potato as it can spoil the others.
- Often stores offer cleaned potatoes which are a bit costlier. However, these should be avoided as their protective coat has been removed by washing, making them more vulnerable to bacteria.
- New potatoes should be preferred for boiling and salads as they have a thinner skin and are firmer.
Storing the potatoes properly is also equally important.
- As far as storage is concerned, potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark, dry and properly ventilated place at a temperature of 40F to 45F. Higher temperatures or even room temperature will cause them to sprout and dehydrate.
- Root cellars are quite appropriate for providing this type of environment.
- Alternatively, potatoes can also be stored in a cool, dark closet or basement.
- They should not be exposed to sunlight as light triggers the formation of toxic Solanine.
- They should not be refrigerated as this will cause their starch to get converted into sugar giving them a sweet taste.
- Moreover, they should not be kept near onions because the gasses which they emit will cause both the vegetables to turn bad.
- Potatoes should be kept in a burlap or paper bag.
- Mature potatoes have a shelf life of 2 months. They should be frequently checked to discard the sprouted or shriveled ones as they might adversely affect the quality of others.
- New potatoes, being more perishable can be stored up to a week.
- Cooked potatoes can be refrigerated for several days but it is advisable not to freeze them as they tend to become watery after reheating.
- Potato contains nearly 80% water which separates from the starch making the reheated potato dish watery.
Tips for Usage (Cooking/Eating)
Potatoes come in the category of the most delicious and filling vegetables that can match well with any ingredient. Not only are their skin edible, but also a great source of dietary fiber. Thus, they can be cooked with their skins to get the most nutrition value from this vegetable. Potatoes have high calories, but they are also quite a healthy vegetable.
- It is advisable to wash the potatoes just before cooking them.
- They should be scrubbed under cold running water and any deep eyes and bruises should be removed with a paring knife.
- If you are peeling them, you can do so with a vegetable peeler, removing only a thin layer of skin to retain the nutrients that lie just below the skin.
- Cleaned and cut potatoes should not be exposed to air to avoid any discoloration.
- If it is not possible to cook them immediately after cutting, they should be placed in a bowl of cold water to which you have added a little bit of lemon juice.
- This will prevent them from darkening as well as help maintain their shape during cooking.
- Moreover, they should not be cooked in iron or aluminum pots or cut with a carbon steel knife as they are sensitive to certain metals that may cause them to discolor.
Delicious Potato Dishes
Potatoes can be cooked in numerous ways. Given below are some of the tips by which you can make several delicious potato dishes:
- New potatoes are delicious when boiled. They can be drizzled lightly with olive oil and then dusted with dill weed.
- Cooked potatoes can be pureed with roasted garlic and olive oil to make delicious garlic mashed potatoes and season with your favorite herbs.
- Potatoes can be paired with chunks of tuna fish and steamed green beans dressed in oil and vinegar to prepare the classic dish ‘Salad Nicoise’.
- Potatoes can also be baked to make a delicious dish. For this purpose, scrub the potatoes well and pierce their skins with a skewer or a fork to allow the steam to escape. To make their skin crisp, you can rub them lightly with oil or butter. Leave them dry if you want tender skin. These should be placed in a pre-heated oven and baked for approximately one hour. Prick their skin to check their fluffiness.
- Potatoes can also be steamed by wrapping them in aluminum foil. Their texture is different from that of baked potatoes as they contain their own moisture.
- You can make a yummy dish combining mashed potatoes and butter. For this purpose, heat one tablespoon of butter for each potato until it melts and then add milk or light cream that has been heated but not brought to a boil. Mix this liquid with each potato to make them smooth and fluffy. Make sure not to over beat the mixture so that the potatoes remain soft and moist but firm enough to hold their shape.
Potato sprouts are nothing but warning signs that tell the potato has undergone chemical reactions and that it is no longer healthy.
As a potato over-ripens, the carbohydrates in the tuber get converted into sugars, and these undergo further conversion into alkaloids known as solanine and alpha-chaconine. Incidentally, these alkaloids are highly concentrated in the stems, leaves, the potato sprouts, and as well as the green skin of over-ripe potatoes.
The amount of these alkaloids present depends on the storage conditions and age of the potatoes.
If you see saggy potatoes with green skin and sprouts while buying, you should now be aware enough to know that they can potentially poison you.
But if you come across firm potatoes with sprouts, then you can safely assume that the conversion from starch to the toxic alkaloids has not occurred yet, and that the potatoes are safe. You can even remove the sprouts to be extra safe.
Symptoms Of Potato Poisoning
Potato plant poisoning, also called Solanum tuberosum poisoning, can occur if you eat green- skinned potatoes or the potato sprouts.
Some of the symptoms of potato poisoning are:
- Solanine and alpha-chaconine produce mild gastrointestinal problems such as cramps, vomiting and diarrhea if their dose is low.
- If the poisoning is more severe, your symptoms will also be more severe and distressing. Which means you may experience severe neurological problems along with gastrointestinal problems such as:
- Delirium (1)
- Dilated pupils
- Hypothermia (2)
- Slowed breathing
- Stomach ache
- Vision problems
How well you recover from potato poisoning depends on the amount of alkaloid ingested and how quickly you get treatment and medical help. Potato poisoning symptoms can last for 1-3 days. Hospitalization can also be necessary. Even death due to potato poisoning has also been reported, though it’s rare (3).
How Can Poisoning By Potato Sprouts Be Avoided?
- This can be avoided easily by storing potatoes properly, eating them early after buying them and cutting off the green potato skin and sprouts if they are present on firm potatoes. Always bin the saggy, old potatoes with sprouts.
- Also, choose only firm potatoes without sprouts when buying them at the supermarket.
- Sprout formation is accelerated due to warmth, moisture, and light. So make sure to store potatoes unwashed, in a cool, dark, dry area if they can’t be eaten right away.
- The container should allow for proper flow of air and prevent the buildup of moisture.
- The way you cook your potatoes can also determine the concentration of solanine and alpha-chaconine. The best way to reduce the alkaloid toxicity is to fry potatoes at high temperatures (170 degrees Celsius).
You probably never did so much research about this very important vegetable that is a part of almost your daily life. Now that you know of its many health benefits, we are sure you will show it more love. Grab your favorite potato dish right now and start your way to good health!