THE humble potato sure does get a bad rep these days, says WA Potatoes clinical nutritionist Carmen Hudson.
People have started to fear the potato either because they think they’re high in calories or they are afraid of excessive carbohydrates.
But it may come as a surprise to you that the potato has an extensive nutritional profile that shouldn’t be left behind.
When it comes to the potato and its health benefits it is all about the way it’s prepared.
Obviously if you take it, peel it, cut it and deep fry it in a load of vegetable oil at extreme heats then you won’t maximise its health benefits, just like you wouldn’t with any food put through that process.
In fact, potatoes are little power houses, they are very versatile, economical and satiating.
Potatoes play an important role in providing the body with complex carbohydrates needed for energy and contain fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Their nutritional profile when consumed within a balanced diet can aid in lowering the incidence of a wide range of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
So, let’s dive a little deeper into the nutrients found in these little power houses.
First up is Potassium: the potato provides a whopping 26 per cent of your daily requirements value (DRV).
That’s twice what a banana delivers.
Potassium is needed to keep your fluid in balance, so without adequate stores your kidneys, brain and muscle tissue will be impacted.
You can also experience muscle cramping when your levels are out of balance.
Improving your potassium consumption will have an array of health benefits including increasing muscle strength, heart health, lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke, protecting against osteoporosis and can even improve the appearance of cellulite.
Vitamin C benefits the body from the inside out, from helping fight against the signs of aging to reducing cholesterol levels.
Vitamin C is essential for proper body function, without adequate levels we can’t keep inflammation at bay and our immune system struggles.
It also helps the absorption of iron making potatoes a great match for your lamb stews.
Iron is needed to move oxygen around the body which in turn provides the body with energy.
It improves muscle strength, immunity, concentration, aids in good quality sleep and the list goes on – it’s one of the most vital minerals for human health.
Vitamin B6 is part of the B vitamin complex and is especially important when it comes to movement, energy expenditure, blood flow and memory.
It is is needed to keep your blood vessels in check, keeps your brain healthy, your nervous system in balance and has also been shown to improve your mood.
Potatoes are really low in phytic acid which is good news when it comes to the bioavailability of certain nutrients such as iron and zinc.
Phytic acid inhibits the absorption of these nutrients, so even when a food has a good nutritional profile you need to look at how high its phytic acid content is as this will determine how easily your body will be able to absorb those nutrients, something to consider if you are vegan or vegetarian.
Potatoes are a great alternative side dish to grains, nuts and legumes which are high in phytic acid.
Studies have found that by cooking the potatoes and then allowing them to cool in the fridge for more than 12 hours changes the properties of the potato by increasing the levels of resistant starch.
The bacteria in our guts love to feed on resistant starch so eating your leftover cold potato the next day has even further health benefits.