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Health benefits

This article was contributed by Carmen Hudson Health

The humble potato sure does get a bad rep these days. People have started to fear the potato either because they are thought to be high in calories or they are simply afraid of excessive carbohydrates but it may come as a surprise to you that the potato has an extensive nutritional profile that shouldn’t be left behind. 

When it comes to the potato and its health benefits it is all about the way that it is prepared. Obviously if you take it, peel it, cut it and deep fry it in a load of vegetable oil  at extreme heats then no! You won’t maximise its health benefits, just like you wouldn’t with any food put through that process.

Potatoes are natives to the Andes mountains of Bolivia and Peru, where they were cultivated for over 7,000 years. Fast forward to today and potatoes are enjoyed all across the globe. Potatoes range in size, shape and colour, and all have different nutritional profiles so when shopping for potatoes try mixing it up to maximise the different benefits rather than sticking to the same variety all the time. 

Potatoes are little power houses. They are very versatile, economical and satiating. Potatoes play an important role in providing the body with complex carbohydrates needed for energy, they are contain fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Their nutritional profile when consumed within a balanced diet can aid in lowering the incidence of a wide range of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. So, let’s dive a little deeper into the nutrients found in these little power houses. 

First up is Potassium. The potato provides a whopping 26% of your daily requirements value (DRV). That’s twice what a banana delivers. Potassium is needed to keep your fluid in balance, so without adequate stores your kidneys, brain and muscle tissue will be impacted. You can also experience muscle cramping when your levels are out of balance. Improving your potassium consumption will have an array of health benefits, from increasing muscle strength, heart health, lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke, protect against osteoporosis and can even improve the appearance of cellulite. 

Vitamin C benefits the body from the inside out, from helping fight against the signs of aging to reducing cholesterol levels. Vitamin C is essential for proper body function, without adequate levels we can’t keep inflammation at bay, our immune system would struggle and it also helps the absorption of iron making potatoes a great match for your lamb stews. 

Iron is needed to move oxygen around the body which in turn provides the body with energy. Iron improves muscle strength, immunity, concentration, aids in good quality sleep and the list goes on. Iron is one of the most vital minerals for human health. 

Vitamin B6 is part of the B vitamin complex. Vitamin B6 is especially important when it comes to movement, energy expenditure, blood flow and memory. Vitamin B6 is needed to keep your blood vessels in check. It keeps your brain healthy and your nervous system in balance, it has also been shown to improve your mood. 

Potatoes are really low in phytic acid. This is good news when it comes to the bioavailability of certain nutrients such as Iron and Zinc. Phytic acid inhibits the absorption of these nutrients, so even when a food has a good nutritional profile you need to look at how high its phytic acid content is as this will determine how easily your body will be able to absorb those nutrients. Something to consider if you are vegan or vegetarian. Potatoes are a great alternative side dish to grains, nuts and legumes which are high in phytic acid.

Potatoes and gut health. Studies have found that by cooking the potatoes and then allowing them to cool in the fridge for over 12 hours changes the properties of the potato by increasing the levels of resistant starch. The bacteria in our guts love to feed on resistant starch so eating your leftover cold potato the next day has even further health benefits. They just keep giving!