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Potato – An All Rounder?

Yes, you heard it right. We can call potato an all rounder as it comprises all the essential nutrients at a full measure.

There is no such food lover who does not like potatoes.

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For few people “potato” means some delicious preparation. Such people are mainly of today's young generation. These “snacky” potato preparations include Potato Chips, French Fries or Aloo Bhujia.

But you will be surprised to learn that when potato is served in a healthy and proper way, it may turn out to be a full packed nutritious food item. And then can be safe to be consumed by all: Young - old, diabetic - non diabetic.

Now, let's take a look at what all nutrients potato has, in what quantity and also learn how these nutrients are helpful to us.Only then can we choose any food item in a correct amount, isn’t it friends?

The nutrients found in 100 grams of potatoes

Now, let me tell you about something important, that the nutritive values of potato depend largely on the different varieties and the way it is consumed or prepared to be taken in. For example, fried potato could provide more calories and fat, than that of boiled potato.

Look how cooking methods can alter this level-

For example (per 100 grams)

· Boiled potato has 0.2 gram of fat.

· Baked potato has 0.3 gram of fat.

· Roasted potatoes have 5.0 grams of fat.

· Oven baked chips have 6.0 grams of fat.

· A Potato baked in the jacket with added sour cream has 7.0 grams of fat.

· Deep fried chips have 10 to 14 grams of fat.

· Potato Crisps have 34 grams of fat.

Health Benefits of Potatoes

Digestion and regularity: Potato is an excellent natural source of both soluble and insoluble fibre.The dietary fibre in them increases the bulk of bowel motions. Thus, it helps prevent constipation and maintain regularity.

Heart health: Besides caring fibre, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6, potatoes are absolutely cholesterol free.And all this is very beneficial for our heart’s health. They also carry loads of fibre, which in turn lowers blood cholesterol naturally. Thus, we can conclude that potatoes do reduce the risk of heart diseases.

Bone health: The minerals - iron, calcium, magnesium and Zinc are present in potatoes in an adequate amount. These minerals help to build and strengthen our bones.Iron and zinc play crucial roles in the production and maturation of collagen.Phosphorus and Calcium are both important in bone structure.

Blood pressure: Potassium, calcium and magnesium all are present in the potato.These have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally.Potassium encourages vasodilation or the widening of the blood vessels.

Inflammation: The presence of choline in potatoes help in structuring cellular membrane, transmitting nerve impulses, absorbing fat and developing our brain as well.

Diabetes: The fibre content of potato aids in slowing the digestion of starch and absorption of simple sugars in the gut. Thus, it helps in keeping blood sugar within the normal range and avoid wide fluctuation. For the same reason, the potato considered as a reliable source of carbohydrates even in people with diabetes.

Excellent for Athletes and Hard Workers : Potatoes are more energy packed than any other popular vegetables. Adequate energy intake supports optimal body function. Potatoes are nutrient dense complex carbs. Carbs is the primary fuel for brain and a key source of energy for muscles. Its potassium content aids in muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system function efficiently.

Weight management and satiety: Dietary fibres are commonly recognized as important factors in weight management and weight loss. They act as “bulking agents” in the dietary system. They increase satiety and reduce appetite. Fibre containing potatoes are also quite filling, which means they help to lose weight by curbing hunger pains and cravings.

Metabolism : Potatoes are a great source of vitamin B6. This plays a vital role in energy metabolism, by breaking down carbohydrates and proteins into glucose and amino acids. These smaller compounds are more easily utilized for energy within the body.

Antioxidants: Potatoes are rich in compounds like flavonoid, carotenoids and phenolic acids. These compounds act as antioxidants in the body by neutralizing potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they can increase the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

How To Make Potatoes Healthier

If we include potatoes in a moderate amount in our food then it will be an excellent addition in our diet. Potatoes carry a good quantity of fibre and almost all types of nutrients, which are very satiating and versatile. Even when all this completely depends on how we cook or prepare potatoes. The skin of potatoes too contains a lot of nutrients, so if potatoes are prepared inclusive of its skin then we are benefited with the maximum of the nutrients present in potatoes. And of course, it is important that we choose a proper method of cooking.

We should not consume raw potatoes. We must cook it to kill harmful bacteria and to break down anti nutrients as well, which interfere in nutrition absorption. In comparison with fried potato, baked, boiled or steamed ones are a better choice as there is minimum fat and calorie content in these. Rather than using processed potato products available in markets we should consume home preparation, to avoid harmful fat, extra calorie and sodium.

Other than this if we choose healthy toppings we can improve potato’s nutrient profile and make it an allrounder nutritious dish.

Some misconceptions

A common misconception is that all of the fibre in a potato is found in its skin, while the skin contains only half of the total dietary fibre, the majority is within the potato itself.

Another misconception is that, that potatoes are held responsible for contributing to obesity. Earlier we have discussed that potato itself is a completely fat free and cholesterol free vegetable. Then how is it possible to make us it obese? The main reason for this is that potatoes are widely consumed as French fries and potato chips - high fat foods that carry a number of unhealthy compounds.

Some people think that they need to cut out carbohydrates as potato consumption to manage body weight. But actually excess calories are to blame for weight gain not diet composition. Instead of restricting carbohydrates from our diet, we should use common sense when selecting carbohydrate rich foods - choose nutrient dense whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Thus its Glycemic Index is high, the potato consumption is harmful for diabetic, but recent research says that GI depends on a few factors, including -

processing and preparing

variety, origin and maturation

what potatoes are consumed with ( i.e. protein, fat)

Other than this, good quality fibre is present in potato, which is much responsible for controlling blood sugar.

Summary Potatoes are a popular high carb food, containing several healthy vitamins minerals and plant compounds. Potatoes may contain a numbers of unhealthy compounds, particularly when fried. Avoid or limit consumption of french fries and chips. Potatoes are relatively filling due to fibre content and may be useful as a part of weight loss diet as well as good for heart and diabetic diet.

Excellent source of carbs and potassium make the potato crucial for athletes.Keeping the skin on the potato, selecting nutritious toppings and choosing to boil, steam or bake your potatoes make them become all rounder.

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