Potatoes are edible plant tubers first cultivated in the Andes. Spanish explorers brought the potato back to Europe from their South American expeditions in the early 16th century.
Despite the potato’s widespread popularity today, it was previously thought to be completely inedible and even poisonous.
Along with the tomato and eggplant, the potato plant belongs to the nightshade family, some of which are truly poisonous. Today, potatoes are one of the cheapest universal crops to produce and are available year-round.
In many cases, if a food lacks color, it also lacks necessary nutrients; potatoes, however, are an exception.
The humble potato is vastly underrated in regards to its nutritional benefits. Due to the increased interest in foods that are low-carb or low-glycemic index, the potato has unjustly earned a bad reputation because of its starchy makeup, leading many to believe that it should be cut out of the diet altogether.
However, this nutrient-dense tuber is, in fact, packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that ward off disease and benefit human health.
The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and zinc in potatoes all contribute to the building and maintenance of bone structure and strength.
Iron and zinc play crucial roles in the production and maturation of collagen. Though phosphorus and calcium are both important in bone structure, the careful balance of the two minerals is necessary for proper bone mineralization – consumption of too much phosphorus with too little calcium can result in bone loss.
Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential for maintaining a healthy blood pressure, however, increasing potassium intake may be just as important because of its vasodilation effects.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, fewer than 2 percent of American adults meet the daily 4,700 milligram recommendation.
Also, potassium, calcium, and magnesium (all present in the potato) have been found to naturally decrease blood pressure.
The potato’s fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health.
Potatoes contain significant amounts of fiber, which helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease. In one study, those who consumed 4,069 milligrams of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease compared with those who consumed less potassium (about 1,000 milligrams per day).
Choline is an important and versatile nutrient present in potatoes; it helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, assists in the absorption of fat, and reduces chronic inflammation.
Potatoes contain folate, which plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, thus preventing the formation of cancer cells from mutations in the DNA.
Fiber intake from fruits and vegetables like potatoes are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer. Vitamin C and quercetin function as powerful antioxidants that help protect cells against free radical damage.
Because of their fiber content, potatoes help to prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.
Dietary fibers are commonly recognized as important factors in weight management and weight-loss by functioning as “bulking agents” in the digestive system. These compounds increase satiety and reduce appetite, making an individual feel fuller for longer and thereby lowering overall calorie intake.
Potatoes are a great source of vitamin B6, which 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.
Collagen, the skin’s support system, relies on vitamin C as an essential nutrient that works in our bodies as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution, and smoke. Vitamin C also promotes collagen’s ability to smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.
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