Potatoes are a common ingredient in the diet of most of people, but sometimes their importance in nutrition is overlooked. There are large differences in the nutritional value of meals prepared from potatoes, depending on how they are prepared, which greatly affects how potatoes are perceived as food by consumers. Potatoes have a special position due to the fact that they combine the properties of starchy foods and vegetables.
In the 16th century, potatoes were imported from South America, but it took another 150 years before they became one of the most important food crops. At present, the people of Central and Eastern Europe are the largest consumers, but potatoes play an important role in the nutrition of people across the continent; in 2005, the average consumption was 94 kg per person. The following are important and interesting aspects that confirm the importance of potatoes in a healthy and balanced diet.
Health Benefits of Potatoes
- Boiled and baked potatoes are practically fat-free. They contain an important nutrient – carbohydrates in the form of starch, which is the main source of energy and provides the body with at least half a daily dose of energy. The advantage of potatoes as a source of carbohydrates is that they also supply a significant amount of micronutrients. Potatoes also contain a small amount of protein, one serving of 180 g of boiled potatoes contains about 3 g. Although less than a tenth of the recommended daily allowance for adults, potatoes are a good source of the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, and in combination with milk or eggs are high quality food.
- Potatoes are also a source of fiber, which contributes to the feeling of fullness and supports healthy digestive functions. A portion of 180 g of boiled potatoes contains about 3 g of fiber, which exceeds one tenth of the recommended daily allowance – about 25 g. Some people prefer to consume potatoes cooked in their skins for their more pronounced taste, in this form they also have a higher fiber content. However, it is necessary to avoid eating a green-colored skin. Green spots contain elevated levels of glycoalkaloids – especially solanine, the ingestion of which in large quantities can lead to health problems. A small proportion of potato starch is not subject to digestion (resistant starch), it occurs mainly in cases where boiled potatoes are consumed cold, eg in potato salad. Resistant starch works similarly to fiber in the body and can affect blood glucose and lipid levels.
- Potatoes are an important source of vitamin C – one serving of boiled potatoes (180 g) contains about 10 mg, which is one-eighth of the daily dose. New potatoes contain about twice the amount, which is about a quarter of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Although there are many fruits and juices that contain vitamin C, no other starchy food that is commonly consumed is a significant source of this vitamin compared to potatoes.Although vitamin C is sensitive to high temperatures and decomposes to some extent during cooking, it still remains in its original state for boiled potatoes to be considered an important source. Vitamin C has a beneficial effect on the health of the skin, teeth, gums, muscles and bones, it also improves the absorption of iron from foods of plant origin, which is otherwise used by the body only to a very limited extent.
- Potatoes are also a source of B vitamins. One serving of boiled potatoes (180 g) contains amounts of vitamins B1, B6 and folic acid, representing more than one sixth of the daily dose for adults.This group of B vitamins has a number of functions in the body, including participation in carbohydrate metabolism to gain energy, maintain healthy skin and nervous system. Folic acid is involved in supporting cell development and growth, so it is essential to ensure adequate intake during pregnancy. It is also necessary for the production of red blood cells.
- Potatoes are an important source of potassium and contain small amounts of magnesium and iron. Potassium has several functions in the body, including influencing muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses and regulation of blood pressure. The amount of potassium in potatoes is about the same as in most fruits and vegetables, but potatoes are commonly consumed and therefore represent a reliable source of this mineral. A medium portion of boiled potatoes of 180 g also provides one tenth of the daily ration of magnesium and iron.
- Potatoes do not contain any sodium, an element that forms table salt with chlorine. In accordance with the nutritional recommendations, it is advisable to limit salt consumption due to the risk of increased blood pressure. Other starchy foods are also low in sodium, but potatoes are the most potassium-containing. It is not advisable to add excessive amounts of salt in the form of salty spices or sauces during cooking or other preparation of potatoes.
- Potatoes are also a suitable food for people who want to lose weight. The middle portion (180 g) of cooked peeled potatoes is around 140 calories, which is a much lower amount of energy than the same amount of cooked pasta (186 calories) or cooked rice (248 calories). However, it should be borne in mind that fried potatoes in the form of chips or french fries have an energy value 2 to 3 times higher than boiled or baked potatoes, and therefore such potato preparations are not suitable for people trying to reduce their weight.
- Another good news for people who lose weight is the fact that potatoes do not have a high saturation index. The energy density (ie the number of calories in 1 g of food) of boiled or baked potatoes does not represent a high energy intake. Therefore, you can eat potatoes to satiety. A 2005 study looked at the saturating effect of various foods and dishes and found that boiled potatoes had a saturating effect three times higher than white bread.
- The nutrient content of potato dishes varies greatly depending on how they are prepared. Nutritional losses during cooking depend on the temperature and length of cooking. Water-soluble minerals and vitamins, such as B vitamins and vitamin C, are leached into the water during cooking. Cooking potatoes in their skins (they can be peeled after cooking and eaten without their skins) significantly reduces these nutritional losses. Some losses also occur during storage, from this point of view it is advisable to store potatoes in a dry, dark and cool place. However, they should not be stored at temperatures of 4 ° C or lower, as this may lead to increased acrylamide formation in the preparation of french fries. During storage, green spots may form on the tubers or start to sprout. Such potatoes must be carefully peeled and the shoots removed, or not used at all for cooking. Although the fat content of potatoes is very low, in the preparation of potato dishes, the fat content of the whole dish can increase significantly depending on the method of preparation. This applies, for example, to french fries or gratinated potatoes with whole cream and cheese.
- People with gluten intolerance in gluten, which is part of all common cereals (including rice), must follow a gluten-free diet and therefore cannot eat many types of common foods, including bread, pastries, pasta and most breakfast cereals. Potatoes do not contain gluten, and for this group of patients they represent a very important food that they can consume practically without restrictions.