Potato Power for Heart and Overall Health

February 21, 2014

Potatoes can be an excellent addition to your diet, properly prepared, potatoes pack a serious nutritious punch!

Potatoes have long been a dietary staple, they were one of the main foods of indigenous populations in the Andean region of South America for centuries. The Spanish conquistadors brought potatoes with them back to Europe, along with tons of gold and silver. Most noteworthy, they discovered eating potatoes prevented scurvy; a vitamin C deficiency that leads to depression, pale skin and sores. Scurvy was common among those who were aboard ships longer than perishable fruits and vegetables could be stored - subsisting instead mostly on cured and salted meats, and dried grains. Potatoes ended up being true lifesavers for those on long journeys at sea. 

The commonly held perception regarding potatoes as unhealthy is not exactly true. Their health promoting properties are mostly overshadowed by the high consumption of fried versions; therefore excluding French fries and chips, potatoes are highly nutritious and available just about everywhere. Potatoes are an edible nightshade, a starchy, tuberous crop (Solanaceae family) and the world’s fourth largest crop with 4,000 varieties!

When it comes to carbohydrates, potatoes are a great choice. One medium potato clocks in at 118 calories and is a terrific source of filling fiber.  Potatoes, particularly the skins are high in a variety of nutrients. Potatoes contain all twenty-two amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), therefore forming complete proteins after digestion. Potatoes are a great source of potassium, (more than bananas), and are rich in other minerals including copper, manganese, and tryptophan. They are also rich in vitamin C and B6.

Some potato varieties phenolic levels rival those of broccoli and spinach. Others contain high amounts of folic acid, quercetin, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.

The magnesium and potassium in potatoes is a powerful duo when it comes to heart healthy nutrients. Research shows that a diet rich in these two vital nutrients can help to lower blood pressure. Studies also suggest that the ratio of potassium to sodium may be more important for blood pressure and heart health than the amount of either individually, so keep that in mind when preparing your potatoes, and use sodium-free alternatives to spice up your spuds.

Whether mashed, roasted or baked, potatoes are an inexpensive and simple side dish that will add a heart healthy boost to your favorite meals.