The Potato – A Virtual Powerhouse
Posted: December 19, 2011
The potato’s introduction into Irish agriculture actually permitted the land holdings to get smaller while the size of the Irish farming families increased and this was one of the contributing factors to the “Irish Potato Famine”. The Irish peasants had become so dependent on the potato for food since you could actually exist by eating the potato alone. This is not to be said for any other vegetables.
Potatoes are indeed one of the richest sources of starch, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. They contain very low fat (just 0.1 g per100 g) and no cholesterol. Both soluble and insoluble fiber in them increases the bulk of the stool, thus, it helps prevent constipation, decrease absorption of dietary cholesterol and thereby lowering plasma LDL cholesterol. Additionally, the rich fiber content also helps protect from colon cancer.
The fiber content helps slow absorption of starch in the gut thereby keeping blood sugar levels within normal range. For the same reason, potato is still a favored source of carbohydrates in diabetics.
The tubers are one of the richest sources of B-complex group of vitamins such as Vitamin B6, Niacin, Pantothenic acid and folates.
Fresh potato skin as well as flesh are good source of antioxidant vitamin; vitamin-C. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
They also contain adequate amounts of many essential minerals like iron, manganese, copper and potassium.
Potatoes also come in a range of colors both flesh and skin, including purple, red, yellow, orange and blue. These brightly colored potatoes provide many health benefits because of the nutrients they provide.
Orange-fleshed potato varieties may contain as much as four times the amount of zeaxanthin and lutein as white potatoes contain, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. These nutrients offer particular benefits for your eyes, reducing your risk of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and blindness. The zeaxanthin and lutein in bright colored potatoes are critical for keeping your vision clear.
Potatoes with bright skin and flesh, particularly red and blue potatoes, contain large quantities of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins, or pigments that give these potatoes their color, provide antioxidant benefits. These pigments may help reduce your risk of developing heart disease and reduce inflammation in the body. A study published in the September 2, 2011 issue of "Nutrition and Cancer" indicates that the anthocyanins in potatoes may also stop the growth of colon and liver cancer.
Eat a red-skinned potato or a potato with pink or red flesh, and you will get a boost of lycopene. This compound may protect against cancer. A study in the August 2011 "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" notes that lycopene tested against colon cancer cells in mice models suppresses the growth of colon cancer cells. More studies are needed to confirm this finding in humans.
In closing, I am sure that a steady diet of French fries or home fries is not the best way to good health but you can see that the potato is certainly a powerhouse and has many positive health benefits. It is certainly one of my personal must have survival vegetables.