Also called Solanum tuberosum, this starchy crop is a favorite of most people. And though it has become a staple food in several parts of the world, it did garner a bad reputation as well.
But is that true? Maybe not. Because the humble potato has some superb benefits. And we will talk about all of them in this post.
Table Of Contents
- What Are The Health Benefits Of Potatoes?
- Are Potatoes Good For The Skin?
- What Are The Benefits Of Potatoes For The Hair?
- What Are The Different Types Of Potatoes?
- Their History
- What About The Nutritional Profile?
- How To Incorporate More Potatoes In Your Diet
- Potato Recipes
- What About The Facts?
- Any Other Uses Of Potatoes?
- How To Select And Store
- Any Tips For Cooking And Eating?
- Any Side Effects Or Concerns?
What Are The Health Benefits Of Potatoes?
Potatoes are rich in fiber and potassium, which contribute to most of its benefits. They help lower blood pressure and protect the heart and even treat inflammation and the resultant diseases like cancer and rheumatism.
1. Lower Blood Pressure
Research has revealed that the skin of potatoes is rich in potassium – a mineral that can help lower blood pressure. An average-sized baked potato has about 535 mg of potassium (and just 17.3 mg of sodium), which is roughly about 15 percent of the daily recommended amount. High levels of potassium in the blood can make the kidneys excrete more salt and water – and this helps reduce blood pressure (1).
In fact, taking potassium is just like taking a diuretic. Potassium was also found to help the heart function optimally and help the nerves and muscles communicate.
Another study states that eating a portion of potato twice a day can help lower blood pressure (2). Baked and boiled potatoes are also acceptable. Research also has shown that potatoes contain certain plant chemicals similar to those found in blood pressure medication.
But it is important to note that all of this depends on the way potatoes are prepared. The healthiest way to eat potatoes is to first cook them in a microwave oven with no oil, fat, etc. Also, deep frying is a no-no as the process subjects the vegetable to high temperatures that destroy the nutrients present in it.
However, we want you to consult your doctor before you make this vegetable a regular part of your diet (if you have issues with hypertension, that is). Because one study states that the effect of potatoes on hypertension is unclear – they could be high in potassium, but they are also high in glycemic carbohydrates (3).
2. Improve Heart Health
Potatoes don’t contain cholesterol, which is good news. And they contain fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and B6 – all of which are great for heart health. The fiber in the vegetable helps lower excess cholesterol levels in the blood. And potassium protects the heart too – one study concluded by stating that consuming 4,069 mg of potassium in a day can cut the risk of ischemic heart disease by 49 percent.
According to the University of Southern California, consuming more fiber (potatoes especially) can lower the risk of heart disease (4).
But potatoes are also high in glycemic index, and this could be a negative aspect when it comes to heart health. And though potatoes contain complex carbohydrates (fiber), those found in whole grains are preferred to those in starch-heavy foods like potatoes (5).
3. Prevent Cancer
Studies have revealed that eating potatoes won’t cause cancer, unless you eat them fried. So, if you have been under the impression that potatoes might cause cancer, well, you can relax. Boiling, mashing, or even baking potatoes could make them far more beneficial. Frying potatoes can lead to the synthesis of a chemical called acrylamide, which causes cancer (6).
In addition to not causing cancer, potatoes can even cut cancer risk – as per a study. And this can be attributed to the vitamin C content in potatoes. Taking 50 mg of vitamin C (the equivalent of two potatoes) can cut stomach cancer risk by 8 percent (7).
Baked purple potatoes were also found to cut colon cancer risk. Researchers had observed that extracts of baked potatoes hinder the spread of colon cancer stem cells – and even totally destroyed them in some cases.
4. Improve Brain Health
Potatoes also contain alpha lipoic acid, a coenzyme that contributes to brain health. The acid had shown to improve memory deficits in Alzheimer’s and even had reduced cognitive decline in certain patients (8).
Potatoes were also found to aid in depression treatment. They can affect the neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for managing mood levels – and interestingly, these are the same neurotransmitters targeted by medication. Eating one plain potato before you go to bed can help your body regulate your emotions and moods. But guess what – just ensure potatoes aren’t the only thing you eat.
The vitamin C in potatoes also has a role to play in treating depression. The vitamin is an antioxidant, and it helps prevent cell damage – especially in the brain (9).
5. Promote Stronger Bones
As per the University of Maryland Medical Center, the magnesium and potassium in potatoes can contribute to bone health. The two minerals can help prevent bone loss in both men and women (10).
6. Reduce Inflammation
According to Arthritis Foundation, yellow and purple potatoes can reduce inflammation (11). This could also mean protection against arthritis and rheumatism.
As per another study, the glycoalkaloids in potatoes (the bitter compounds in the vegetable) and potato peel extracts exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. The study, however, states the necessity for further investigation before the vegetable can be used for therapeutic purposes (12). Potatoes also contain compounds called anthocyanins that also offer anti-inflammatory benefits. They are particularly effective in treating gut inflammation. Potatoes also suppress oxidative stress and gut inflammation in murine colitis (colitis in mice) (13).
According to another American study, potato consumption can alter inflammatory damage in men (14).
7. Promote Digestion
The large amount of carbohydrates in potatoes help fuel the reactions in the body required for different processes, one of them being digestion. And coming to fiber – one singled baked potato offers you 12 percent of the RDA. Fiber supports digestion and promotes regularity. Most of the fiber in potatoes is found in the skin. And the starch in the potato also adds bulk to the stool – as it is indigestible.
Potatoes can also keep diarrhea away. Consuming calories and carbohydrates during diarrhea can help revive the energy levels pretty quick. This can accelerate recovery. Potatoes are also rich in potassium, a mineral one loses to a large extent during diarrhea. And as potatoes are bland, they are far less likely to aggravate your symptoms as compared to fatty or spicy foods.
But by potatoes, we only mean baked or boiled or mashed variants, and not potato chips or fries – they only make things worse (15). And guess what – one bag of potato chips contains about 120 grams of carbs.
8. Enhance Immunity
Research suggests that potatoes can also have beneficial effects on the immune system (16). Studies have found that consuming potatoes might decrease leucocytes, which are produced in the human body due to inflammation or when a person is ill.
9. Aid In Weight Management
A plain potato is an extremely satiating vegetable – it keeps you full for long periods. So if you are trying to lose weight, this helps. And worry not – you don’t have to always eat potatoes plain to keep your weight in check. You can also top a baked white potato with some steamed broccoli and sprinkle some low-fat cheese on it – this can act as a filling and delicious lunch.
According to a study, potatoes can inhibit food intake. The protease inhibitors concentrate extracted from potatoes was found to reduce food intake and weight gain (17).
And on the other hand, potatoes can also lead to healthy weight gain. Since the vegetables have a caloric value, consuming them in normal amounts can lead to a sustained and healthy weight gain.
10. Help Lower Blood Cholesterol
The cholesterol-lowering properties of potatoes come from their fiber content. The vegetable is a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber – and the former helps lower bad cholesterol (18). It is important to note that most of the beneficial fiber of a potato lies in its skin – and removing that simply means removing the fiber. Also, potatoes by themselves can reduce cholesterol – provided you don’t fry them or add stuff that contributes to cholesterol. Baking your potatoes and adding some olive oil on the top can make a great snack.
11. Alleviate Premenstrual Symptoms
Drinking potato juice can help relieve PMS symptoms according to a study. The carbohydrates in the juice can help elevate the levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin production. Serotonin is responsible for improving mood and reducing anxiety (19).
12. Promote Sleep
The potassium in potatoes acts as a muscle relaxant, which aids better sleep.
13. Help Treat Scurvy
Since potatoes are good sources of vitamin C, they sure can aid in the treatment of scurvy (20).
14. Treat Kidney Stones
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, eating potatoes (given they are rich in fiber) can improve overall health and prevent the recurrence of kidney stones (21). And since potatoes are also rich in magnesium (and low in calcium, the excess of which can also lead to kidney stones), they can play a role in preventing kidney stones.
Are Potatoes Good For The Skin?
The potato peel, and even the potato juice, can greatly improve your skin health. A potato facial or face mask helps treat acne and other skin conditions like dark spots and blemishes. The vegetable also works equally well for skin whitening.
15. Remove Dark Circles
Applying potato under the eyes helps banish those under eye dark circles. And this is how you do it.
- Peel a raw potato and slice it into large, even pieces.
- Wrap them in a clean cloth and place it over your dark circles for about 20 minutes. Gently wash your eyes with warm water.
This procedure can also help you get rid of puffy eyes.
16. Treat Wrinkles
Potato works effectively well in slowing down the signs of aging, especially wrinkles. The antioxidants in the vegetable, like vitamin C, can do the job.
Applying potato paste on the face can do wonders. Just peel and mash potatoes and apply the paste on your skin. Leave it on for about 20 minutes and then wash with cold water.
17. Eliminate Dark Spots
Potatoes can help eliminate dark spots as well. This is how you can use them:
- Blend peeled potatoes in a blender.
- Apply the paste on your face. Gently massage for about 5 minutes.
- Wash your face with clean and cold water.
- Repeat this every day for best results.
You can also use potatoes for removing blemishes and pimples. Simply use potato juice as a daily facial rinse. The remedy might also help treat pimples.
Using potatoes as a cleanser can also help remove dark spots and other impurities on the skin. It works well for oily skin too. For this purpose, you need a cucumber and a potato.
- Cut the two into medium pieces and blend them for about 20 seconds.
- Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda and some water to this mixture. Use it to clean your face – post which you can rinse with regular water.
18. Treat Sunburns
The vegetable works well to treat sunburns. Just place cold potato slices on the affected areas of your skin. Leave them on for about 20 minutes and remove. You can also dab potato juice on the spot. Doing so gives you a cooling sensation and even diminishes your suntan.
19. Help Lighten Skin
Did you know that potatoes are a natural skin lightening agent? This is what you can do with the vegetable:
- Grate a raw potato and apply the mask on your face. Rinse with water after 30 minutes.
- Using this regularly can make your face clean and bright.
You can also use the juices of potato and lemon to lighten your skin naturally. The potato lemon mask can act as a mild bleach and do the job well.
20. Treat Dry Skin
If you have dry skin, all you need to do is turn to your kitchen. And pick one potato and half a teaspoon of curd.
- Grate the potato and mix it with the curd.
- Apply the paste on your face and leave it on for 20 minutes.
- Wash with regular water.
This mask replenishes skin moisture and treats dry skin.
21. Exfoliate Skin (Remove Dead Skin Cells)
Simply apply grated and peeled potatoes on your face and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse with clean water. Doing this regularly can help remove dead skin cells and rejuvenate your skin.
22. Improve Collagen Health
We already saw that potatoes are rich in vitamin C. And vitamin C builds collagen. Having potatoes regularly (in a healthy way, of course) can help improve collagen health.
What Are The Benefits Of Potatoes For The Hair?
Potatoes have important benefits for the hair as well. They help slow down premature graying of hair and even prevent hair loss – both conditions that can even affect one’s self-esteem.
23. Help Treat Gray Hair
A potato hair tonic can do wonders for your hair and prevent and even treat premature graying. This is how you prepare it:
- Boil potato peels in a pan of water. The level of water should just be enough to cover the peels.
- After boiling, strain the water into a tumbler.
- Use this water to rinse your hair after shampooing. This can restore the natural color of your hair.
Following this for every alternate hair wash can get you good results. This is one of the uses of potato peel. For this purpose, you can also use normally boiled potato water if you are preparing any dish using the vegetable.
24. Prevent Hair Loss
A hair mask consisting of potato and honey can help prevent hair loss. And this is the procedure –
- Peel the potato and extract the juice.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of this potato juice with 2 tablespoons of aloe vera and 1 tablespoon of honey.
- Apply this mixture to the roots and massage your scalp.
- Cover your hair with a shower cap and leave it on for a couple of hours.
- Wash your hair with a mild shampoo.
You can apply this mask twice a week for best results.
That’s with the benefits. But are you aware there are different types of potatoes?
What Are The Different Types Of Potatoes?
Russet – These are the classic potatoes. They are ideal for baking and are also good fried and mashed.
Fingerling – These are finger-shaped and small and stubby. They naturally grow narrow and small.
Red – They have a waxy texture, which is why their flesh stays firm throughout the entire cooking process. They have thin yet vibrant red skins.
White – They hold their shape well even after cooking. They make a great addition to salads as their delicate and thin skins add the right amount of texture.
Yellow – They have golden skin and yellow to golden flesh. Grilling them gives them a crispy skin that enhances the dense flesh.
Purple – They have moist and firm flesh and add a vibrant color to salads. The purple color of this type of potatoes is preserved best by microwaving.
And wait, they do have an interesting history.
Potatoes were first domesticated between 8000 and 5000 BC in modern-day Peru and northwestern Bolivia. The introduction of potatoes was responsible for over a quarter of the growth in Old World population and urbanization from 1700 to 1900.
But the lack of genetic diversity left the potato crop vulnerable to disease. In 1845, a plant disease known as late blight spread through Western Ireland and parts of the Scottish Highlands – resulting in crop failures that caused the Great Irish Famine.
And well, as of 2014, the world’s production of potatoes had crossed 380 million tonnes.
What About The Nutritional Profile?
|Nutrition FactsServing Size 369g|
|Amount Per Serving|
|Amount Per Serving||Calories from Fat 3|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||1%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 68g||23%|
|Dietary Fiber 8g||32%|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)||0.0mg||0%|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
One small potato contains about 30 grams of carbohydrates. And one cup of mashed potatoes contains about 214 calories. One small baked potato contains 129 calories, and so does one small roasted potato.
If you are wondering…
How To Incorporate More Potatoes In Your Diet
Most of the nutritious content of a potato is in its skin. Hence, it makes sense to consume the vegetable with its skin on. You can make potatoes a part of your meal by adding them to salads or use mashed potato as a side-dish for your breakfast.
Potato recipes are both delicious and healthful – given that most individuals like them. A few of the most popular recipes include homemade BBQ chips, roasted rainbow potatoes, and stuffed peppers and potatoes.
1. Homemade BBQ Chips
What You Need
- 2 pounds of russet potatoes
- 2 tablespoons of smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon of light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons each of kosher salt and chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder and onion powder
- ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
- Canola or any other vegetable oil, for frying (amount as required)
- Firstly, rinse and peel the potatoes and then boil them for about 5 minutes. Once boiled, transfer the slices to a kitchen towel.
- Place all the spices in a food processor. Blend evenly and add the spices to a zip-top bag.
- Heat about 2 inches of canola oil to 350o F. Line a baking sheet with a few paper towels and a wire cooling rack.
- Fry the potato slices till they are golden brown. Remove the cooked chips using a metal skimmer and drain on the baking sheet.
- Allow them to cool for a minute and then put them in the zip-top bag. Shake gently to distribute the spices.
6. Remove the chips from the bag and serve.
2. Roasted Rainbow Potatoes
What You Need
- 2 pounds of rainbow fingerling potatoes, cleaned and halved
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- Preheat the oven to 425o F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Clean and halve the potatoes and put them in a bowl. Over these potatoes, add the lemon zest, olive oil, crushed garlic cloves, and salt. Toss.
- Spoon out the potatoes evenly on the lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven, turn them over, and bake for 10 more minutes.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with cilantro.
3. Stuffed Peppers And Potatoes
What You Need
For the pepper bowl
- 4 bell peppers
- ¼ tablespoon of olive oil
- ½ teaspoon of salt
For the filling
- 3 large shredded potatoes
- 1 shredded yellow onion
- 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- A few sprinkles of chilli peppers
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
For the topping
- 1 tablespoon of sour cream for each half of the pepper
- Preheat oven to 375o F.
- Wash the peppers and cut them into halves. Remove the seeds.
- Place them in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- Add the salt, ground black pepper, chilli peppers, and oil. Mix well.
- Take the peppers out of the oven and stuff them completely with the filling mixture.
- Once done, cover the baking pan with aluminum foil for the first 15 minutes. Remove the foil. Continue baking uncovered at 375o F for about 40 minutes or until the potatoes are done.
The recipes are great. But…
What About The Facts?
- An average human eats about 33 kilograms of potatoes in a year.
- Way back in 1995, potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space.
- The world’s biggest potato weighed about 3.8 kilos.
- China is the leading producer of potatoes in the world.
- Potatoes contain a toxin called solanine, which can reach dangerous levels in green potatoes. In rare cases, they can cause headaches, cramps, and diarrhea.
- Potato consumption around the world grew from 30 million tonnes in the 1960s to 165 million tonnes in 2000s.
Any Other Uses Of Potatoes?
You can use potatoes to remove stains on the hands. Even rubbing a potato on the face can help you quickly cleanse it.
You can also use potatoes to remove tarnish from silverware. Boil potatoes, keep them aside for further use, and place your silverware in the boiled water. Let it stay for an hour, and then remove and wash them normally.
Restore old shoes using potatoes. Cut potatoes in half and rub them over your old shoes before you apply polish – this will give them a better shine.
Now, we come to the most important part…
How To Select And Store
These days, potatoes are easily available at most retail outlets in the 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, 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, check properly to discard any rotten potato as it can spoil the others.
- Often, stores offer cleaned potatoes that 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 40o F to 45o 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 gases they emit will cause both the vegetables to go 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.
Any Tips For Cooking And Eating?
Potatoes fall under the category of the most delicious and filling vegetables that can match well with any ingredient. Their skins are not only edible but also a great source of dietary fiber. Thus, they can be cooked with their skins to get the most nutrition value from these vegetables. Potatoes have high calories, but they are also quite healthy.
- 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 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.
We saw the great stuff about potatoes. But there also is the not-so-great stuff.
Any Side Effects Or Concerns?
Damaged or green potatoes or those with sprouts contain harmful chemicals that can lead to headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and, in certain cases, even death. The poisonous substances in such potatoes cannot be destroyed by cooking – so, take care.
And though unblemished and ripe potatoes are safe for pregnant women, don’t use potatoes as medicine in this case as we don’t know what might happen.
Make the humble potato a part of your diet. If you eat it right, it only is going to serve you well.
And tell us how this post has made your day better. Comment in the box below!
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Can you eat potatoes raw?
Not really. Eating potatoes raw can cause abdominal cramps and fever. Cooking them kills the bacteria.
Can you eat seed potatoes?
There is insufficient information on this. Because seed potatoes are usually not treated to prevent sprouting. Sprouting can make a potato poisonous. So stay safe and avoid use.
Do you lose the nutrients if you peel a potato’s skin?
Does the potato diet work?
The potato diet has potatoes, obviously, as the main ingredients. And most often, it can work. Because potatoes can keep you full for long. However, it is better you speak to your health care provider once.
Can you eat potatoes that are still sprouting?
Is it safe to eat potatoes if they look green?
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- “Potato diet for lower blood pressure… and no weight gain“. DailyMail. 2011 September.
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- “A Patient’s Guide to Heart Surgery“. University of Southern California.
- “Heart-healthy diet“. University of Maryland Medical Center.
- “Cancer news: Potatoes aren’t bad for you unless you eat them like THIS“. Express. 2017 June.
- “Potatoes can help cut cancer risk“. The Telegraph. 2015 November.
- “Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function“. University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA. 2008 July.
- “Depression and Diet“. WedMD.
- “Osteoporosis“. University of Maryland Medical Center.
- “Arthritis Food Myths“. Arthritis Foundation.
- “Anti-inflammatory properties of potato glycoalkaloids…“. University College Cork, Cork, Ireland. 2013 April.
- “ANTI-INFLAMMATORY AND ANTI-OXIDANT EFFECTS OF POTATO ANTHOCYANINS — ROLE OF GUT BACTERIA“. United States Department of Agriculture.
- “Pigmented potato consumption alters oxidative stress and inflammatory damage in men“. Washington State University, USA. 2011 January.
- “Nutritional Management of Diarrhea“. University of Michigan.
- “Potato Salad May Help the Immune System“. Science Daily.
- “Potato protease inhibitors inhibit food intake…“. Rutgers University, USA. 2010 September.
- “Potatoes: Yes, They Are Healthy!“. Clemson Cooperative Extension.
- “Drink potato for PMS relief“. DailyMail.
- “Is a potato-only diet good for you?“. BBC News. 2010 November.
- “Kidney stones“. University of Maryland Medical Center.
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