When you think of potatoes, you probably think of French fries and potato chips, which mostly leads to obesity and increases the risk of diabetes. It is time to correct that myth. It might surprise you to know that potatoes are one of the most important food sources on the planet.
Potatoes contain a wealth of health benefits that make an essential staple dietary item. In fact, rather than being bland and starchy, they’re actually a hub of fiber.
Potato belongs to the nightshade family whose other members are tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatos. They are the swollen portion of the underground stem which is called a tuber and is designed to provide food for the green leafy portion of the plant. Potatoes are full of disease-preventing nutrients and have immune-boosting values.
These health benefits include their ability to improve digestion, reduce cholesterol levels, boosts a healthy heart, protect from polyps, prevents cancer, manages diabetes, strengthens the immune system, reduces signs of aging, protects the skin, increases circulation, reduces blood pressure, maintains fluid balance, reduces insomnia, and boosts eye health. Even with all of these numerous benefits, they are very delicious.
After sugar, carbohydrates such as potatoes, are one of the first things that those keeping an eye on their weight loss should eat. A cooked potato has only 26 calories and is packed with nutrients. There are about 80 different species of potatoes commercially grown across the world. In Nigeria however, there are just two species that are mainly eaten; the Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes. They are mainly grown in the northern part of Nigeria.
You can still find purple potatoes in certain food stores but they are not so common in Nigeria. Just like it is in the animal kingdom, all potatoes are equal but some species are more equal than others. While Irish and sweet potatoes are good, on the calory scale, sweet potatoes has 90 calories per 100g while Irish potatoes has 93 calories per 100g. On the sugar level, Irish potatoes are better than sweet potatoes, with 5g less sugar per 100g and on the protein level as well. However, sweet potatoes are better off than Irish potatoes in its nutrition profile. They are higher in carbohydrates which is necessary for energy level, higher in fibre which is responsible for digestive health, much more higher in vitamin A which contributes to normal growth and development and keeps the eye, skin and immune systems healthy.
For health conscious adults, sweet potatoes are definitely a better option.
However if you have low sodium, low sugar level, Irish potatoes or a combination of both will do you good. Researchers at the Institute for Food Research in Norwich America have found blood-pressure lowering molecules in potatoes called kukoamines. While the precise quantity of potatoes you’d need to eat for a therapeutic effect still has to be measured, it is thought that a few good servings of potatoes a day would have some blood-pressure lowering activity. Potatoes are also a rich source of Vitamin B, folate and minerals such as potassium, magnesium and iron. A single cooked potato will provide nearly 12 per cent of the daily recommended amount of fibre. High intake of dietary fibre and ‘bulking agents’ support healthy digestion and regular bowel movements, while giving a protective effect from colon cancer.
How to reduce loss of potato nutrients
Avoid peeling the potatoes before cooking them. The outer shell provides a good protection against nutritional loss during the cooking process. The protein and mineral content beneath the skin is very high, so if you cook the potatoes after peeling them, most of these proteins and minerals will be lost.
When you boil potatoes, first heat the water to its boiling point and then add the potatoes. This will reduce the cooking time and help you maintain the Vitamin C content. The method of cooking or preparation is as important as the food you eat, as this can greatly impact the quality of your meals.
Potatoes are no exception. Minimize frying of potatoes, as 75% of Vitamin C is lost during frying. You can use other cooking methods such as baking and steaming. You could also roast them.
Steaming or baking them will improve the bioavailability of beta-carotene, making the antioxidant more accessible to your body.
Selection and storage
- Fresh potatoes can be bought in the open market and other food stores. Avoid those that feature soft in hand, have slumpy appearance, with cuts, patches and bruises.
- Oftentimes, you may come across greenish discoloration with sprouts over their surface. Do not buy them since the discoloration is an indication of outdated stock and a sign of formation of toxic alkaloid, solanine.
- At home, they should be stored in cool, dry and dark place. Exposure to sunlight and excess moisture will cause potatoes to sprout and produce toxic solanine alkaloid.
Preparation And Serving Methods
Being a root vegetable, potatoes are often being subjected to infestation, and therefore, should be washed thoroughly before cooking. Fresh, cleaned tubers can be enjoyed with the skin to get the benefits of its fiber and vitamins. Potato dishes are prepared in many ways:
- Skin-on or peeled, whole or chopped, with or without seasonings.
- Mashed- Here potatoes are boiled and peeled, and then mashed.
- Whole baked, boiled or steamed.
- Fried in oil or chips.
- Cut into cubes and roasted; scalloped, diced, or sliced and fried.
- Grated and prepare dumplings and pancakes.
Recipe: Irish potatoe pottage
- 4 Irish potatoes
- 1/2 of a fresh tomato
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup of grounded crayfish
- 5 large fresh prawns
- Seasoning cubes
- Vegetable/Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut beef and prawns into little cubes and boil with seasonings of your choice.
- Wash and blend fresh tomato, red bell pepper and onions.
- Set pot on medium heat, add canola oil to the pot and let it heat up.
- Add a pinch of salt to the hot oil and add cut onions.
- Add your blended tomato paste to the hot oil.
- Add salt, pepper, seasoning cubes, a little water and crayfish to the tomato paste and allow to cook.
- Unfortunately for pottage you have to peel the skin and cut into bite sizes.
- Let the tomato paste cook for close to 15mins.
- Add more water if needed. We don’t want the paste “slappy”
- Add your boiled meat to the stew.
- Add your cut up potatoes.
- Allow potatoes to completely cook then add your spinach, stir and turn off heat.