Potatoes are underground tubers that grow on the roots of the potato plant, Solanum tuberosum.
This plant is from the nightshade family and related to tomatoes and tobacco.
Native to South America, potatoes were brought to Europe in the 16th century and are now grown in countless varieties worldwide.
They’re generally eaten boiled, baked, or fried and frequently served as a side dish or snack.
Common potato-based foods and food products include french fries, potato chips, and potato flour.
Potatoes aren’t usually thought of as nutritious. However, this all-purpose vegetable has some surprising health and nutrition benefits. Although french fries and potato skins may be heavy in fat and calories, the potato itself is fat and cholesterol free as well as low in sodium. Prepared the right way, potatoes can make a delicious, satisfying, and healthy dish.
Potatoes are the most commonly consumed vegetable in the United States. In 2017, it was calculated that each person consumed 49.2 pounds of potatoes. This beloved vegetable is easy to grow and is used in countless dishes across the country year-round.
Cooked potatoes with skin are a good source of many vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and vitamin C.
Aside from being high in water when fresh, potatoes are primarily composed of carbs and contain moderate amounts of protein and fiber — but almost no fat.
The nutrients found in 2/3 cup (100 grams) of boiled potatoes — cooked with the skin but without salt — are:
- Carbs: 20.1 grams
- Sugar: 0.9 grams
- Fiber: 1.8 grams
- Fat: 0.1 grams
- Calories: 87
- Water: 77%
- Protein: 1.9 grams
Vitamins and Minerals
Potatoes are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium and vitamin C.
The levels of some vitamins and minerals drop during cooking, but this reduction can be minimized by baking or boiling them with the skin on.
Potassium. The predominant mineral in potatoes, potassium is concentrated in the skin and may benefit heart health.
Vitamin B6. A class of B vitamins involved in red blood cell formation, B6 is found in most foods. Deficiency is rare.
Vitamin C. The main vitamin found in potatoes, vitamin C is significantly reduced with cooking — but leaving the skin on appears to reduce this loss.
Folate. Concentrated in the peel, folate is mostly found in potatoes with colored flesh
Health Benefits of PotatoesPotatoes are a good source of fiber, which can help you lose weight by keeping you full longer. Fiber can help prevent heart disease by keeping cholesterol and blood sugar levels in check. Potatoes are also full of antioxidants that work to prevent diseases and vitamins that help your body function properly.
Hypertension, a harmful condition characterized by abnormally high blood pressure, is one of the main risk factors for heart disease.
Potatoes contain a number of minerals and plant compounds that may help lower blood pressure.
The high potassium content of potatoes is particularly noteworthy.
Several observational studies and randomized controlled trials link high potassium intake to a reduced risk of high blood pressure and heart disease
Other substances in potatoes that may promote lower blood pressure include chlorogenic acid and kukoamines
Potatoes are packed with antioxidants — compounds that fight free radicals from causing damage to your cells. A diet high in antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables lowers your risk of heart disease and cancer.
To get the most out of potatoes, leave the skins on and choose colorful types such as purple potatoes. The more color in the potato, the more antioxidants it contains. On top of that, the skin of the potato can have up to 12 times more antioxidants than the flesh. So, don’t be afraid to eat your potato skins.
The fiber found in potatoes is a special type called “resistant starch,” which has the health benefits of both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber and causes less gas than other types of fiber. You can up the amount of resistant starch in potatoes by cooking them a day ahead of time and cooling them in the fridge overnight. Feel free to reheat them before you eat.
Like soluble fiber, the resistant starch in potatoes acts as a prebiotic – food for good bacteria in the large intestine that improves gut health. Like insoluble fiber, it can prevent or treat constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
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Lower Blood PressureBaked potato skin is a great source of potassium and magnesium. When you don’t have enough potassium in your diet, your body retains extra sodium, and too much sodium raises your blood pressure. A potassium rich diet can help decrease blood pressure, protecting the heart and reducing the risk of stroke.
Potatoes are naturally gluten-free, which makes them an excellent food choice for people with celiac disease or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
The gluten-free diet is one of the most popular diets worldwide. It involves eliminating gluten, which is a family of proteins found in grains like spelt, wheat, barley and rye.
Most people do not experience adverse symptoms from consuming gluten.
However, people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity can experience severe discomfort when consuming foods that contain gluten. Symptoms include sharp stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating and skin rashes, just to name a few .
If you follow a gluten-free diet, then you should consider adding potatoes to your diet. They are naturally gluten-free, which means they won’t trigger uncomfortable symptoms.
While potatoes are gluten-free, many common potato recipes are not. Some potato dishes that contain gluten include certain au gratin recipes and potato bread.
If you have celiac disease or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, be sure to read the full list of ingredients before eating a potato dish.
Potatoes are rich in compounds like flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids (4).
These compounds act as antioxidants in the body by neutralizing potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they can increase the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
For example, a test-tube study found that the antioxidants present in potatoes may suppress the growth of liver and colon cancer cells.
Studies have also found that colored potatoes like purple potatoes can have three to four times more antioxidants than white potatoes. This makes them potentially more effective at neutralizing free radicals
However, most of this evidence is from test-tube studies. More human-based research is necessary before making any health recommendations.
Potatoes are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which make them very healthy.
Studies have linked potatoes and their nutrients to a variety of impressive health benefits, including improved blood sugar control, reduced heart disease risk and higher immunity. They may also improve digestive health and combat signs of aging.
Potatoes are also quite filling, which means they may help you lose weight by curbing hunger pains and cravings.
All in all, potatoes are a great addition to your diet in moderation. They are also naturally gluten-free, which means they can be enjoyed by almost everyone.