One of the most eaten staple crop in the world (the fourth, right after rice, wheat and corn). There are several funny and interesting stories related to this plant: queens weared its blossoms in hair, people invented new ways to cook it by accident and created whole feasts consisted only from it. From century to century, the potato became more and more essential, ended up as the first vegetable to be grown in Space. But did you know that the potato could at the same time be an exciting source of vitamins and toxic?
Let’s start from the very beginning. In 1536 Spanish conquistadors conquered Peru and one of the “treasures” they brought back to Europe were potatoes. People looked with suspicion at this plant they have never seen before. Some even believed that eating potatoes could cause leprosy. Nonetheless, it took only 40 years for potatoes to spread all over Europe. Obviously, peasants found out that it’s easier to plant and cultivate this crop compared to oat and wheat.
Probably the first image which comes to your mind is a big portion of French fries. Statistics show that only in the USA two-thirds of all amount of available potatoes (115.6 pounds in 2013) were consumed in the form of French fries, potato chips and frozen (processed) products.
Potato is usually considered as unhealthy food, leading to weight gaining, diabetes and heart disease: mashed with butter, fried in boiling oil or served with sour cream. Delicious? For sure! But there are other ways of cooking it in order to keep its nutritional value. It’s obvious that cooking potato with cheese, sour cream or as French fries is not the best way. But which is better: boiled, baked or steamed? Nutritionists say: baking causes the lowest amount of nutrients to be lost. Steaming comes next and is followed boiling. Cooking peeled potatoes leads to a significant nutrition lost, so it’s recommended to consume this vegetable with the skin.
Baked potato is rich in fiber (8% of daily value), vitamin C (45% of daily value), vitamin B6 (10% of daily value) and potassium (18% of daily value).
What does it mean for your health?
- potassium helps to lower blood pressure;
- fiber can clear cholesterol from blood;
- vitamin C acts like an antioxidant and can support immune system;
- vitamin B6 is crucial in maintaining neurological health, creating important brain chemicals.
It’s important to highlight that potassium and fiber can be found mostly in potatoes skin.
While having plenty of health benefits, potatoes can also be dangerous for people with diabetes and obesity. This vegetable is high in simple carbohydrates – elements which consists from only one or two sugars. Because of it’s simple chemical structure, these carbohydrates utilized by our bodies quickly and often leads to a faster rise of the blood sugar. Which means that you can easily gain weight.
Also, it is very important not to consume sprouting or green potatoes. Green meat under the potatoes’ skin means that solanine (a toxic component, dangerous even in a small amount) is present. High level of potassium is dangerous for individuals with damaged kidney as it is unable to filter potassium from the blood, which can cause enormous harm for the whole organism.
But it’s not the reason to exclude potatoes from your diet completely. As usual you just need to keep the balance, review your habits and find some alternatives (non less delicious) for the French fries.