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THE HEALTHY BENEFITS OF POTATOES

T he potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial nightshade Solanum tuberosum L. The word potato may refer either to the plant it...

The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial nightshade Solanum tuberosum L. The word potato may refer either to the plant itself or the edible tuber. In the Andes, where the species is indigenous, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species. Potatoes were introduced outside the Andes region approximately four centuries ago, and have since become an integral part of much of the world's food supply. It is the world's fourth-largest food crop, following maize, wheat, and rice.

Whether it is mashed, baked or made into French fries, many people often think of the potato as a comfort food. This sentiment probably inspired the potatos scientific name,Solanum tuberosum, sincesolanumis derived from a Latin word meaning soothing. The potatos name also reflects that it belongs to theSolanaceaefamily whose other members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos.


Tips for Preparing Potatoes:
The potato skin is a concentrated source of dietary fiber, so to get the most nutritional value from this vegetable, dont peel it and consume both the flesh and the skin. Just scrub the potato under cold running water right before cooking and then remove any deep eyes or bruises with a paring knife. If you must peel it, do so carefully with a vegetable peeler, only removing a thin layer of the skin and therefore retaining the nutrients that lie just below the skin.


Inflammation:
 Potatoes are very effective inreducing inflammation, both internal and external. Since it is soft, easily digested and has a lot of vitaminC (a very good antioxidant that repairs tissue wear and tear), potassium and vitaminB6, it can relieve any inflammation of the intestines and the digestive system. It is very good dietary element for those who have mouth ulcers as well. Therefore, people who suffer from arthritis and gout can use potatoes for their antiinflammatory impact, but again, since it can add to weight gain, which exacerbates these conditions, and is commonly eaten with meat and other rich foods that make gout worse, a fine balance must be struck.

Cancer Prevention:
Certain types of potatoes, particularly red and russet potatoes, contain high levels offlavonoid antioxidantsand vitamin A like zeaxanthin and carotenes, they can protect you against many types of cancer. Also, research at the Agricultural Research service has shown that potatoes contain a compound called quercetin, which has been proven to have anticancer and antitumor properties. Finally, the high levels of vitamin A and C both have antioxidant qualities that can protect your body from the devastating effects of cancer.

High Blood Pressure
Since high blood pressure can occur for a number of reasons that include diabetes, tension, indigestion, nutrient balance, food content and many others, different treatments are required. Luckily, potatoes can alleviate multiple possible causes; potatoes can be used to relievehigh blood pressuredue to tension. They can also treat indigestion due to abundance of vitaminC and fiber within it, but they should be avoided if the high blood pressure is a result of diabetes. The fiber present in it is helpful in lowering cholesterol and improves functioning of insulin in the body, which aids in the lowering of blood pressure.


Brain Function:
Proper functioning of the brain depends largely on the glucose level, oxygen supply, various components of the vitaminB complex and certain hormones, amino acids and fatty acids like omega3. Potatoes cater to almost all the needs mentioned above. They are high in carbohydrates, and thereby maintain good levels of glucose in the blood. This prevents the brain from letting fatigue creep in and it keeps your cognitive activity and performance high. Next, the brain needs oxygen, which is carried to the brain by the hemoglobin in the blood; its main constituent is iron. Potatoes contain iron as well.


Heart Diseases:

Apart from the vitamins (Bcomplex, C), minerals and roughage, potatoes also contain certain substances called Carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin). Carotenoids are beneficial for heart health and the functioning of other internal organs. Again, since potatoes raises the glucose level in the blood and overconsumption may cause obesity, which puts pressure on your heart, you must be careful about how often you use potatoes for this health benefit. This method ofpreventing heart diseaseis not recommended for obese or diabetic people.


Kidney Stones:
Kidney Stones, also known as Renal Calculi, are caused mainly due to increased levels of uric acid in the blood. In such cases, foods high in protein should be avoided, particularly animal proteins such as meat, turkey, shrimp, fish, eggs, and milk, as well as spinach, raw plantain, black grams and certain beans, which drastically increase the level of uric acid in the blood. Iron and calcium also contribute to forming the stones. Potatoes are rich in both of these so logically, they wouldn


Diarrhea:



Potatoes are an excellent component of an energyrich diet for those suffering from diarrhea, since it is very easy to digest andcontains mild roughage. However, eating too many potatoes can cause diarrhea due to the excessive ingestion of starch.



Other Benefits and Cautions:
Juice from potatoes is a good treatment for burns, bruises, sprains, skin problems, ulcers, effects of
narcotics, prostate cancer, uterine cancer, and the formation of cysts or tumors. On the other hand, some care also needs to be taken while eating potatoes. Green potatoes are often poisonous, and so are potato leaves and fruits, as they contain alkaloids like solanine, chaconine and arsenic. An overdose of those chemicals could easily prove fatal. Moreover, the glycemic index (in simple words, the energy or sugar content) of potatoes is very high (above 80), so people that are obese, trying to lose weight, or diabetic should avoid eating potatoes. If eaten, potatoes are healthier when baked, rather than raw or fried.

Potatoes for Cancer:

Research has revealed that lectins like those present in potatoes inhibit cancer cell growth. Potatoes also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity. Among these important healthpromoting compounds are carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, as well as unique tuber storage proteins, such as patatin, which exhibit activity against free radicals.






Potatoes for Weight Loss:




A study has demonstrated that people can incorporate potatoes into their diet and still lose weight. Researchers studied 86 overweight women and men over twelve weeks to determine how a reduced calorie diet with the addition of potatoes affected weight loss. The individuals were randomly allocated to 3 groups and each one had a diet that included 5 to 7 helpings of potatoes each week. The outcomes showed that all 3 groups lost weight.


Boiled potatoes:
Boiled potatoes are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium, phosphorus, Bcomplex vitamins and vitamin C. They are low in calories and fat, and their high fiber content helps you feel full. Contrary to popular belief, potatoes are not inherently fattening. If you add butter or sour cream to potatoes, you increase the numbers of calories and fat grams significantly, so if you are trying to lose weight, season them with herbs or lowcalorie condiments.

Boiled in its skin:
Boiled in its skin, a large potato, weighing about 300 grams, has 261 calories, 5.6 grams of protein and .3 grams of fat. If you peel the potato before boiling it, you lose about a half gram of protein, but the calorie and fat contents remain similar. Peeled or unpeeled, the potato has 5.4 grams of fiber, about the same amount as a bowl of bran flakes cereal, and 2.6 grams of natural sugar.


BComplex Vitamins and Vitamin C :
A large, unpeeled boiled potato is rich in Bcomplex vitamins, which help your body form blood cells and make energy from the protein, carbohydrates and fat from the food you eat. A boiled potato provides more than half of the vitamin B6 you need each day, as well as about 30 percent of your recommended daily intake for thiamin and niacin. It is also high in vitamin C, giving you onehalf of your daily requirement for that nutrient. A peeled boiled potato loses half of its vitamin C content and provides 25 percent of the vitamin C you need daily.

History :
Potatoes originated in the Andean mountain region of South America. Researchers estimate that potatoes have been cultivated by the Indians living in these areas for between 4,000 and 7,000 years. Unlike many other foods, potatoes were able to be grown at the high altitudes typical of this area and therefore became a staple food for these hardy people.

Nutritional Valueof Potatoes :
The reason that potatoes have spread across the globe so quickly and has been so widely accepted is because they are astorehouse of energy and nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, andessential organic compounds. Their minerals include very good amounts of manganese, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous, and moderate amounts of iron, copper, zinc, and calcium. In terms of vitamins, a single serving of potatoes contains great amounts of vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, and niacin, as well as good amounts of pantothenic acid, thiamin, vitamin K, and riboflavin. On top of that, potatoes are a wonderful source of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Overall, this unremarkable tuber contains many of the essential building blocks for good health!

Health Benefits:
Potatoes are a very popular food source. Unfortunately, most people eat potatoes in the form of greasy French fries or potato chips, and even baked potatoes are typically loaded down with fats such as butter, sour cream, melted cheese and bacon bits. Such treatment can make even baked potatoes a potential contributor to a heart attack. But take away the extra fat and deep frying, and a baked potato is an exceptionally healthful low calorie, high fiber food that offers significant protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer

BloodPressure Lowering Potential:
UK scientists at the Institute for Food Research have identified blood pressurelowering compounds called kukoamines in potatoes. Previously only found inLycium chinense, an exotic herbal plant
whose bark is used to make an infusion in Chinese herbal medicine, kukoamines were found in potatoes using a new type of research called metabolomics. Potatoes have been cultivated for thousands of years, and we thought traditional crops were pretty well understood, said IFR food scientist Dr Fred Mellon, but this surprise finding shows that even the most familiar of foods might conceal a hoard of healthpromoting chemicals. Another good reason to center your diet around the Worlds Healthiest Foods!

Vitamin B6Building Your Cells:
If only for its high concentration of vitamin B61 medium potato contains over onehalf of a milligram
of this important nutrientthe potato earns high marks as a healthpromoting food. Vitamin B6 is involved in more than 100 enzymatic reactions. Enzymes are proteins that help chemical reactions take place, so vitamin B6 is active virtually everywhere in the body. Many of the building blocks of protein,amino acids, require B6 for their synthesis, as do thenucleic acidsused in the creation of our DNA. Because amino and nucleic acids are such critical parts of new cell formation, vitamin B6 is essential for the formation of virtually all new cells in the body.

Potatoes Belong to the Nightshade Family:
Potatoes are one of the vegetables in the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, which includes eggplant, tomatoes and bell peppers. Anecdotal case histories link improvement in arthritis symptoms with removal of these foods;however, no casecontrolled scientific studies confirm these observations.

Processed Potato Products and Acrylamides:
Regularly cooked potatoes are not a concern when it comes to acrylamide, a potentially toxic and
potentially cancercausing substance. Yet, fried, processed foods made with potatoessuch as potato chips and french friesare considered among the highest risk of foods when it comes to acrylamide exposure. This is yet another reason to avoid or minimize your intake of these foods. For more on acrylamides, see ourdetailed writeupon the subject.


Nutritional Profile:
Potatoes are a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C,
manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, and pantothenic acid. The potato belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family whose other members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos. They are the swollen portion of the underground stem which is called a tuber and is designed to provide food for the green leafy portion of the plant. If allowed to flower and fruit, the potato plant will bear an inedible fruit resembling a tomato.


Weight Gain:
Potatoes are primarily made of carbohydrates and contain very little protein. This makes it an ideal diet for those excessively lean or thin people who desperately want toput on weight. The vitamin content includes vitaminC and Bcomplex, which also help in proper absorption of carbohydrates. That is one of the reasons that potatoes make up a large part of the diet of sumo wrestlers, as well as many other athletes who need large energy reserves to burn off in order to compete!



Digestion:
Since potatoes predominantlycontain carbohydrates, they are easy to digest and facilitate digestion. This property makes them a good diet for babies or for those who cannot digest hard food, but need energy. However, remember that eating too many potatoes on a regular basis may cause acidity over time. Potatoes also contain a considerable amount of fiber or roughage, more in raw potatoes and cold ones than boiled or hot ones. This stimulates peristaltic motion and increased secretion of gastric juices, which eases digestion and prevents conditions like constipation and protects the body from more serious conditions like colorectal cancer. Fiber is also connected with scraping cholesterol out of the arteries and blood vessels, thereby increasing heart health.

Skin Care:


VitaminC andBcomplexas well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc are good for the skin. Apart from that, pulp obtained from crushed raw potatoes, mixed with honey, can work well in skin and face packs. This even helps to cure pimples and spots on the skin. Again, this pulp, if applied externally on burns, provides quick relief and faster healing. Smashed potatoes, and even water in which potatoes have been washed, are very good for softening and cleaning skin, especially around the elbows, and the back of the hands.



Scurvy:
ThevitaminC present in potatoescan help prevent this disease, caused by a deficiency of vitaminC. It is characterized by cracked lip corners, spongy and bleeding gums, and frequent viral infections. Although it has been eliminated from most first and second world countries with ready access to vitamin C, it still exists in certain nations of the world, so the prolific presence of potatoes in the world helps with this problem.

How to Select:



While potatoes are often conveniently packaged in a plastic bag, it is usually better to buy them individually from a bulk display. Not only will this allow you to better inspect the potatoes for signs of decay or damage, but many times, the plastic bags are not perforated and cause a build up of moisture that can negatively affect the potatoes.


How to store:
Potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator, as their starch content will turn to sugar giving them an undesirable taste. In addition, do not store potatoes near onions, as the gases that they each emit will cause the degradation of one another. Wherever you store them, they should be kept in a burlap or paper bag.


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