“Potatoes served at breakfast,
At dinner served again;
Potatoes served at supper,
Forever and Amen!”
~ Pennsylvania Prayer
Baked, grilled, fried or simply mashed with just an added hint of seasoning of a few drops of olive oil, salt and pepper– the Potato (Binomial name: Solanum tuberosum ), is widely served across the world, for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. According to the United Nations FAO report, world production of the potato in the year 2010 (which was celebrated as the Year of the Potato) was about 324 tones with China being the leading producer of potatoes in the world. Today, the potato is a primary food for the Western people as it is for the people of Southern and Eastern Asia.
Table of Content:
- Types of Potatoes
- The Potato Timeline
- Potato Nutrition Facts
- Is it safe to eat potatoes if they look green?
- Health Benefits of Potatoes
- Potatoes for Skin
- Potatoes in Your Kitchen
- Storing and Preparing Potatoes
- Concerns and Adverse Health Effects
Different Types of Potatoes: Also Known As:
The Potato Timeline
5th Century BC: According to findings by archaeologists, potato remains, dating back to 500 BC proves that the Incas grew, ate and worshipped potatoes. Potatoes were buried along with the dead; they were stored and stashed away for use in times of famine and war. The Incas called the potato “Pappas”.
16th Century AD: When Spanish Conquistadors first arrived in Peru in 1532, in search of gold, they came across the potato, which they took with them to Spain, and realized that sailors who ate them did not suffer from scurvy.
In 1585 AD the potato reached the shores of Italy and England.
In 1587 AD Belgium, Germany and France were introduced to the by now infamous potato. Fearing that potatoes caused leprosy, Syphilis, sterility and early death, the town of Besancon in France, passed an edict forbidding the cultivation of potatoes.
18th Century AD: 1719 AD The United States of America got their first potato cultivation.
19th Century AD: 1845-1849 AD “The Great Famine” also known as “The Irish Potato Famine” was caused in Ireland due to a diseased potato crop, due to which at least one million people died of starvation.
1872: Luther Burbank, an American horticulturist, developed the Russet Burbank potato which led to the success of the Idaho Potato Industry.
20th & 21st Century: Today, consumption of potato has become so common in the Western diet, that it has become a matter of concern, and a major cause for the incidence of obesity in the US.
Nutritional Value of Potatoes
Potatoes are loaded with nutrients and Phytochemicals, including Flavonoids and a recently discovered compound called Kukoamine, which has potential to lower blood pressure. The diagram shows the nutrient content of potatoes, per 100 gms, after boiling with their skins on and peeling just before consumption.
FAQ: Is it safe to eat potatoes if they look green?
- The green coloration on potatoes is caused when they are exposed to sunlight, natural, artificial or fluorescent, which is the chlorophyll that is starting to develop, due to which increased quantities of a substance called Solanin is formed, which might be harmful if taken in large quantities. You can either remove the green part before cooking or just discard the whole potato.
Uses and Benefits of Potatoes
Health Care Benefits
Potatoes are wholesome vegetables, containing carbohydrates, protein, calcium, niacin, and Vitamin C. They are soft and easily digestible and contain anti oxidants which repair damaged body cells, thereby reducing inflammation in the intestines and digestive tracts.
Promotes Brain Health:
Vitamin B Complex, amino acids, Omega-3 and other fatty acids in the potato helps keep the brain healthy and active.
Prevents Cardio Vascular Disease:
Being a great source of carbohydrates, proteins, calcium and other vitamins and minerals, potatoes help fight heart diseases and keeps blood pressure at normal levels.
Prevents Formation of Kidney Stones:
Studies indicate that potatoes, being a rich source of magnesium, can help offset the accumulation of calcium in the kidneys and prevent kidney stones.
Potato juice is also an excellent remedy for relieving pain caused by sprains, gout, heartburn, sciatica, bruises and helps to flush out the harmful toxins from our body. Blend potatoes with their skin and drink the juice. If you find it too bland, add some celery or carrots to the potatoes.
Benefits of Potatoes for Skin:
Potatoes are not only a tasty addition to your meal, but are also great for your skin. Rich in Vitamin C, they help ward off free radicals, which are the main cause for dull and sagging skin. Here are some ways potatoes can benefit your skin:
Potatoes helps in clearing Acne, Blackheads and Whiteheads:
- Cut a potato in half and rub the cut portion on the affected parts of your face and skin. Leave it on for five minutes and rinse with cold water.
- Make a paste of a potato in a blender and apply this paste on your face. Leave on for half an hour and rinse off with cold water.
- Face mask to removes blemishes, wrinkles and discoloration: Make a paste of potato with a teaspoon of honey. Apply over face and leave for 20 minutes. Wash off with warm water. (More home remedies for Acne)
Removal of Dark Circles around Eyes:
- Take two slices of potatoes and place them over the eyes for about half an hour. Follow this regularly for at least two weeks to find dark circles miraculously disappear.
- Blend a potato and squeeze out the juice on a small plate. Soak two circular pieces of cotton in this juice and refrigerate for half an hour. Cover your eyes with these cool pieces of cotton for at least half an hour. This treatment not only helps in removing dark circles but is also effective in reducing puffiness around your eyes. (You can also use almond oil for dark circles)
- Peel and grate a potato. Apply on face and massage into skin with small circular motions of the tips of your fingers. Let it stand for 10 minutes and rinse with cold water.
- Make a paste of half a potato and half a cucumber, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda and water. Washing your face with this helps to cleanse all the dirt and grime off your face.
Other Uses of Potatoes:
- Potato starch is also used in the Textile, Wood, Paper and Pharmaceutical industries, as a binder, adhesive and texture agent.
- Being completely biodegradable, potato starch is also used as an alternative to polystyrene to manufacture plastic and packaging materials.
Potatoes in Your Kitchen
The potato is the fifth largest cultivated crop in the world and an important vegetable in your kitchen. Being soft and easily digestible, it is suitable for people of all ages, and its easy availability and cost effectiveness has led this vegetable to become the staple diet for many people around the world.
# Broadly classified as high on the Glycemic Index (GI), potatoes are often excluded from the diet of diabetics or others following a “low GI” eating program.
Potatoes can be cooked in a myriad ways- baked, steamed, fried or simply mashed- whole or cut-with seasoning or without.
Given below are some healthy ways of cooking potatoes, which apart from being scrumptious and flavorsome, are good for your health.
Baked: Baked potatoes complement all types of meat and are one of the healthiest ways to cook them, as you don’t need to add any butter or oils. Wrap each potato, with the skin, in an aluminum foil and bake in a pre heated oven at 450 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.
Mashed: A healthy way to enjoy the potatoes and still retain its nutrition value is to make mashed potatoes without adding butter or other fattening agents like sour cream or milk. Boil potatoes, mash them fine and add low sodium vegetable or chicken stock to make it smooth.
Grilled: Cut potatoes into slightly thick slices and place them on the grill on an aluminum foil. Season lightly with some low sodium salt and pepper, and allow to brown on both sides.
Fries: Yes, you can enjoy your French fries, a healthier version, without the fear of added calories. Cut potatoes into wedges, place on a baking sheet sprayed with olive oil. Sprinkle a dash of oil over the wedges as well, along with a little salt and pepper. Bake in the oven at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, turning once to ensure browning on all sides.
FAQ: Can I cook my potatoes in the microwave?
- Yes indeed! Cooking the potato in the microwave is a healthier way as it is exposed to nutrient draining heat for a shorter period of time as compared to other conventional methods.
Tip: For best results, cut the potatoes in half, with the skin on, and put them in a Microsoft safe dish containing water. Microwave on high heat for about fifteen minutes, or till they become soft.
Tips on Storing and preparing Potatoes
- Store potatoes in a dry, dark, cool and well ventilated place.
- Do not refrigerate them or the starch will get converted to sugars.
- Do not store them along with onions; both will rot faster.
The Potato – More Sinned Against than Sinning
It is scrumptious, loaded with nutrients, minerals and vitamins, good for the brain, heart, kidneys and for your skin too- so what has made the potato so notorious and a cause for concern around the world? Well, the answer lies in those innocent looking bags full of a potato product, The Potato Chips, crowding the shelves of the small corner shops, shopping malls, the cinemas and super markets. Today, potato chips are the most highly sought after snack in the whole world. High in refined carbohydrates, sodium and fats, eating these chips regularly does not bode well for a healthy diet. The reasons are:
Calories: Potato chips contain a high caloric count, which when combined with a passive lifestyle, can contribute to Obesity, Hypertension as well as Cardio Vascular Diseases.
Sodium: Flavored with salt and other additives containing sodium, potato chips, if eaten in excess, could raise Blood Pressure levels, increasing the risk of Heart problems.
Fats: Generally fried in oils, chips often contain high amounts of fats, including saturated fats, which could pose a serious health risk like clogging of the arteries leading to Heart attacks and Stroke. It could also increase the risk of Diabetes and Obesity.
Harmful for Unborn Babies: Pregnant women who eat a large amount of chips could cause as much harm to their unborn babies as those who smoke during pregnancy.
Damage to DNA: When starchy, processed foods, such as crisps, are industrially cooked at very high temperatures, a toxic chemical, Acrylamide, (a nerve poison), is produced. A recent study by the Bradford Institute for Health Research, has found a link between high levels of exposure to Acrylamide and lower birth weight in newborns, indicating high levels of risk to the health of the babies, which could lead to delayed development of the Brain and Nervous System, Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Diseases as well as damage to the DNA structure in the long run.
Apart from the potato chips, recipes for mashed potatoes and French fries also require a lot of unhealthy added ingredients like butter and sour cream which has been responsible for the potato getting a bad name. Indeed, this humble tuber has been more sinned against than sinning!
While it is fine to enjoy an occasional packet of chips or French fries, it is advisable to control your cravings with healthy alternatives like baked potatoes, fruits, whole wheat crackers or cheese.