The potato (Solanum tuberosum) is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial nightshade Solanaceae family whose other members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos. The English word potato comes from Spanish patata (a compound of the Quechua papa (potato) and the Taino batata (sweet potato)).
There are about 100 varieties of edible potatoes and are classified as either mature potatoes (commonly used), and new potatoes (smaller since they are harvested before maturity). Some of the popular varieties of mature potatoes include the Russet Burbank, the White Rose and the Katahdin, while the Red LeSoda and Red Pontiac are two types of new potatoes.
The skin of potatoes is generally brown, red or yellow, and may be smooth or rough, while the flesh is yellow or white. As potatoes have a neutral starchy flavor, they serve as a good complement to many meals. Their texture varies slightly depending upon their preparation, but it can be generally described as rich and creamy. Whether it is mashed, baked or made into French fries, many people often think of the potato as a comfort food.
Potatoes originated in the Andean mountain region of South America. Potatoes were brought to Europe by Spanish explorers who “discovered” them in South America in the early 16th century. Potatoes initially had such a poor reputation in Europe as many people thought eating them would cause leprosy. Potato was first brought to the United States in the early 18th century by Irish immigrants who settled in New England and large scale cultivation of potatoes did not occur in the U.S. until the 19th century.
14 YUMMY HEALTH FACTS OF YOUR FAVORITE POTATO:
- Boosts Brain Function: Brain function depends largely on the glucose level, oxygen supply, various components of the vitamin-B complex and certain hormones, amino acids and fatty acids like omega-3, almost all of which potatoes provide. Carbs in potato provide glucose, iron boosts haemoglobin which is key for oxygen supply, and potassium has vasodilating properties to stimulate the brain function.
- Prevents Kidney Stones: Kidney Stones are caused mainly due to increased levels of uric acid, iron and calcium in the blood. Potatoes contain magnesium, which inhibits the accumulation or deposition of calcium (calcification) in the kidney and other tissues, thereby proving beneficial for treatment of kidney stones.
- Remedy for Bruises: Potatoes are used for treating sprains, bruises, ulcers, and even burns, aiding in the healing process.
- Fights Rheumatism: Vitamins like the calcium and magnesium in potatoes help to provide relief from rheumatism. Also, water obtained from boiling potatoes can relieve the pain and inflammation of rheumatism.
- Anti Inflammation: Potatoes contain vitamin C -that repairs tissue wear and tear; potassium and vitamin-B6 that help relieve any inflammation of the intestines and digestive system. People who suffer from arthritis, gout and mouth ulcers find quick relief from consuming potatoes.
- Cancer Prevention: Potatoes contain high levels of flavonoid antioxidants, vitamin A (zeaxanthin and carotenes), Vitamin C, and a compound called quercetin, which has been proven to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties.
- Helps Weight Gain: Potatoes are rich in carbohydrates and contain very little protein, making it an ideal diet for those excessively lean or thin people who desperately want to put on weight. They also contain carb-absorbing vitamin-C and B-complex, providing vital and easy energy for strenuous work.
- Boosts Digestion: Since they are made up of carbs, they are easy to digest. Potatoes also contain a considerable amount of fiber that stimulates peristaltic motion and increased secretion of gastric juices, which eases digestion, prevents constipation, and protects against colorectal cancer.
- Skin Care: Vitamin-C and B-complex as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc are good for the skin curing pimples, diminishing spots and dark circles, and easing the swelling and pain in case of burns.
- Prevents Scurvy: Scurvy causes cracked lip corners, spongy and bleeding gums, and frequent viral infections due to Vit C deficiency. Potato is rich in Vitamin C and helps prevent this condition.
- Regulates High Blood Pressure: The fiber present in it is helpful in lowering cholesterol and improves functioning of insulin in the body, which aids in the lowering of blood pressure. Also potassium found in potatoes lowers blood pressure, since potassium functions as a vasodilator.
- Prevents Cardiovascular Disease: Potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates, protein, calcium, niacin, carotenoids, and Vitamins C and B-complex that help fight heart disease and keep blood pressure at normal levels.
- Stress Reliever: Potatoes stimulate cellular renewal due to its rich source of vitamin B6, boost the adrenaline hormones, and produce GABA (Gamma Amino Butyric Acid), a hormone that can also reduce stress and help the brain ready itself for relaxation or sleep.
- Cures Diarrhea: Potatoes are an excellent component of an energy-rich diet for those suffering from diarrhea, since it is very easy to digest and contains mild roughage. Eat in moderation though.
Side effects and Precautions:
- Pesticide Residues: Conventionally grown potatoes are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of potatoes unless they are grown organically.
- Acrylamides: Acrylamide, a potentially toxic and potentially cancer-causing substance is found in fried, processed foods made with potatoes—such as potato chips and french fries.
- Blood Sugar Effects: Potatoes, particularly peeled potatoes, have a high glycemic index, and increase your risk of blood sugar imbalances, poor appetite control, type 2 diabetes and diabetes complications. To guard against blood sugar imbalances, consume potatoes with the peels on with low-glycemic foods, such as whole grains or low-fat milk.
- Weight-Related Effects: Preparing potatoes with popular high-fat toppings, such as butter, cheese, bacon and sour cream, add significant amounts of fat and calories to your diet, which might also contribute to weight gain. By offsetting your blood sugar levels, potatoes lead to increased hunger between meals, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
- Gastrointestinal Effects: All starches except for rice stimulate gas during digestion and potatoes might trigger gas, gas pain and bloating, particularly if you are prone to gas and sensitive to the sugars that occur naturally in starches.
- Inflammation: Although it remains unproven, some people believe that unripe potatoes trigger inflammation and joint pain due to natural inflammatory substances known as glycoalkaloids.