by Dr. Honeliat Ephrem (MD)
Health benefits of potatoes
Potatoes are stuffed with phytonutrients, which are organic components of plants that are thought to promote health, according to the USDA. Phytonutrients in potatoes include carotenoids, flavonoids and caffeic acid.
The vitamin C in potatoes acts as an antioxidant. These substances may prevent or delay some types of cell damage, according to the National Institutes of Health. They may also help with digestion, heart health, blood pressure and even cancer prevention.
1. Blood pressure
Potatoes may help lower blood pressure for several reasons. Victoria Jarzabkowski, a nutritionist with the Fitness Institute of Texas at The University of Texas at Austin, said that the fiber found in potatoes can help lower cholesterol by binding with cholesterol in the blood. “After it binds, we excrete it,” she said.
Potatoes are also a good source of potassium. “All potatoes are potassium rich,” Jarzabkowski said. “They have even more potassium than a banana, and a lot of it is found in the [potato’s] skin.” She noted that the outer potato peel also contains a good deal of fiber. Potassium is a mineral that helps lower blood pressure, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Potassium, too, can help lower blood pressure through its actions as a vasodilator (blood vessel widener). Scientists at the Institute for Food Research have discovered that potatoes contain chemicals called kukoamines, which are associated with lowering blood pressure.
2. Brain functioning and nervous system health
The B6 vitamins in potatoes are critical to maintaining neurological health. Vitamin B6 helps create useful brain chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This means that eating potatoes may help with depression, stress and even perhaps attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Potatoes’ high level of carbohydrates may have some advantages, including helping maintain good levels of glucose in the blood, which is necessary to proper brain functioning. A 1995 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that modest increases in glucose could help enhance learning and memory. Potassium, which encourages the widening of blood vessels, also helps ensure your brain gets enough blood.
Vitamin C can help prevent everything from scurvy to the common cold, and potatoes are full of this nutrient, with about 45 percent of the daily recommended intake per medium baked potato, according to the Washington State Potato Commission.
Some people think potatoes and other members of the nightshade family — such as eggplants, tomatoes and peppers — trigger arthritis flares. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support this hypothesis, according to the Arthritis Foundation. The organization suggests that people with arthritis try cutting nightshade vegetables from their diets for two weeks to see if symptoms improve.
Some studies suggest these vegetables may actually help reduce arthritis symptoms, the foundation said. For example, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that potatoes may reduce inflammation.
The largest health benefit offered by potatoes is how they can help with digestion due to their high fiber content, Jarzabkowski said. Potatoes’ high level of carbohydrates makes them easy to digest, while their fiber-filled skin can help keep you regular.
6. Heart health
Potatoes give your heart plenty of reasons to swoon, due to the fiber content. Jarzabkowski said fiber is associated with clearing cholesterol from blood vessels; vitamins C and B6 help reduce free radicals; and carotenoids help maintain proper heart functioning.
Additionally, B6 plays a crucial role in the methylation process, which, among other things, changes the potentially dangerous molecule homocysteine into methionine, a component in new proteins, according to Harvard. Too much homocysteine can damage blood vessel walls, and high levels of it are associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
7. Athletic performance
Jarzabkowski described how potatoes can be a win for athletes. “Potatoes can help restore electrolyte balance,” she said. “Sodium and potassium, which are found in potato peels, are two important electrolytes, and athletes lose them in sweat.” Electrolytes are necessary for optimum body function, and having too few can cause cramps, as many athletes know.
8. Skin care
According to Organic Facts, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorous can all help keep skin as smooth and creamy as, well, mashed potatoes. These nutrients are all present in potatoes.
by Dr. Honeliat Ephrem (MD)