Potato (Solanum tuberosum Linnaeus) is an herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the family Solanaceae and the genus Solanum. This plant species growing to about 60 cm high is considered as a comfort food and is taken in a variety of ways: fried, baked and even boiled. There are more than five thousand varieties of potatoes worldwide and are categorized either as mature potatoes or as new ones. Among the mature varieties, the popular ones are the White Rose, the Katahdin, and the Russet Burbank. The Red LeSoda and the Red Pontiac are important types of the new potatoes. The southern country of Peru is regarded as the birthplace or the origin of the potato. Nevertheless today, around 99% of the entire potato cultivation worldwide is descendents of a sub-species, which is indigenous only to the south-central region of Chile. Around a third of the world’s potatoes are harvested in China and India. However, the per capita production of the crop is still the highest in eastern and central Europe.
Health Benefits Of Eating Potatoes
- Recent studies have identified potatoes as effective blood pressure lowering agents as they contain a compound called kukoamines which is beneficial against high blood pressure.
- Potatoes have a high content of Vitamin B6. It is a known fact that Vitamin B6 plays a key role for proper brain cell activity. This vitamin is essential for the formation of a type of neurotransmitter (amines) which is used to transmit impulses from one nerve to the next. Some examples of such neurotransmitters are GABA (essential for normal brain function), melatonin (essential for proper sleep), epinephrine and nor epinephrine (for response to stress) and serotonin (for response to depression).
- Another important function that is played by Vitamin B6 in the body is the prevention of cancer by a process called methylation. This is a chemical process by which methyl groups are transferred from one molecule to another. Hence, a gene called the tumor suppressor p53 gene can be switched on and off as a result of this process. Also, the process aids in the attachment of methyl groups to toxic substances making them harmless or less toxic and encouraging their elimination from the body.
- The process of methylation also plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy cardio-vascular system. High levels of a molecule called homocysteine in the body increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Methylation helps in the conversion of this potentially dangerous molecule into benign substances. Thus, it is seen that eating food products that have high levels of Vitamin B6 reduces the rate of heart disease.
- The vitamin also helps to maintain the endurance level and enhance the performance of athletes, as it is essential for the breakdown of glycogen (the stored form of sugar in human liver and muscle cells).
- A number of important elements in the body like amino acids, nucleic acids, haeme and phospholipids require Vitamin B6 for their synthesis by taking part in the different enzymatic reactions in the body. It is these enzymes that initiate the various chemical reactions everywhere in the body.
- Due to their high fiber content, potatoes are very effective against hemorrhoids. A single baked potato will provide around 11.7% of the daily fiber requirement.
- They have low sodium levels, easy to digest and are almost fat free.
- Potatoes are also used to cure stomach ulcers and certain inflamed conditions of the colon.
- They are also effective for the normal functioning of bowel.
- Leads to increase in the blood sugar levels. It causes rapid increase in the body weight and thus, as a result, the insulin level also rises to balance the rapid increase in body glucose.
- In order to retain the dietary fiber content of potato, consume the vegetable with the skin on.
- It is always best to scrub the potato under cold running water and remove any bruises or deep eyes using a knife. In case you opt for peeling the potato, make sure you remove only a thin outer layer so that the nutrients that remain just underneath the skin remain intact.
- Potatoes discolor if they are kept in the open for some time. Hence, to avoid this, they should be cooked immediately after peeling. In case, you cannot cook them immediately, keep them in a bowl of cold water and add a bit of lemon to it. This will prevent their discoloration.
- Also avoid cooking potatoes in aluminum and iron pots in order to prevent them getting discolored.