HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING POTATOES
Potatoes were eaten by 19th Century English and Spanish sailors to fend off scurvy. Surprisingly rich in immune-boosting Vitamin C, a medium potato (150g) with the skin provides 27mg, almost half of the recommended daily intake.
Potatoes are also a rich source of Vitamin B, folate and minerals such as potassium, magnesium and iron. Potatoes are underground tubers, meaning that they store all the vitamins and minerals needed for growing new potato plants in spring.
Rather than being bland and starchy, they’re actually full of nutrients.
Researchers at the Institute for Food Research in Norwich have found blood-pressure lowering molecules in potatoes called kukoamines.
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses a plant, Lycium chinense – which also contains kukoamines – as a tea to lower blood pressure.
While the precise quantity of potatoes you’d need to eat for a therapeutic effect has still to be measured, it is thought that a few good servings of potatoes a day would have some blood-pressure lowering activity.
The Agricultural Research Service in Navarre, America, has identified 60 different kinds of phytochemicals and vitamins in potato skins.
Many of these were flavonoids, which help protect against cardiovascular-disease by lowering levels of bad LDL-cholesterol and keeping arteries fat-free.
The B vitamins in potatoes also protect arteries. Vitamin B6, found in potatoes, reduces levels of a molecule called homocysteine which is involved in inflammation and the furring up of arteries. High homocysteine levels are associated with a significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
A single baked potato will provide nearly 12 per cent of the daily recommended amount of fiber, giving similar levels to whole grain breads, pastas and cereals.
High levels of dietary fiber and ‘bulking agents’ support healthy digestion and regular bowel movements, while giving a protective effect from colon cancer.
While most potato fiber is found in the skin, some of the starch in potatoes is indigestible.
Instead it passes through the gut intact, adding bulk. If you suffer from sluggish bowel movements, eat cooked potatoes that have been cooled. The cooling process increases the amount of indigestible starch from seven per cent to 13 per cent.
Potatoes are exceedingly rich in Vitamin B6, a substance needed for cellular renewal, a healthy nervous system and a balanced mood. Just 100g of baked potato contains 21 per cent of the daily value of the vitamin.
It is used to make neurotransmitters –substances that deliver messages from one cell to the next.
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are needed for the regulation of mood and Vitamin B6 is needed to make them.
It is also used to make adrenaline, hormones that help us respond to stress, and GABA, a substance linked to relaxation and a feeling of wellbeing.