Are Potatoes Healthy and How to Pick Up Good Potatoes and Store Them?

It is thought that the potatoes are a dull vegetable, devoid of nutritional value and fattening. 

However, this is a great misconception; potatoes prepared in their skins are whole foods rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber. 

They contain essential components of our body such as potassium, vitamin C, antioxidants and magnesium that are very important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

pictures of potatoes and a woman running

According to various reports, it seems that Millennials prefer to consume their carbohydrates in the form of rice or noodles over potatoes. 

According to the Grocer magazine, potato sales have fallen by 5.4 percent in the last four years, while rice and noodle sales have seen a meteoric rise of 30 percent.

The potato, however, has an impressive and brilliant history. It is one of the most common and diverse root vegetables in the world. 

It was first cultivated by the Incas in Peru more than 7,000 years ago. It reached Europe in the 16th century and has been associated with processes of population growth and urbanization over the years. 

To date, there are about two thousand varieties of potatoes grown in more than 160 countries. 

In some countries, such as England and the United States, potatoes are a staple component of diets that contain between 1000 and 1200 calories a day because they do not contain many calories but they fill the stomach and satisfy one's hunger. 

A medium-sized potato, weighing about 90 grams, contains only 75 calories (compared to a slice of bread weighing 40 grams and contains 105 calories).

Health Benefits of Potatoes

A potato is a vegetable rich in potassium - potassium is not produced in the body so one way to consume it is by eating potatoes. 

Potassium intake prevents heart disease, stroke, and prevents osteoporosis. The potato is also rich in vitamin C and 100 grams of potato contain about 30% of the recommended amount of vitamin C per day. 

Vitamin C contributes to improved iron absorption and is known to prevent disease.

The potato contains 30% of the daily amount of vitamin B6 which helps in the metabolism of protein. 

It also contains iron that is essential for proper functioning of the brain and prevents fatigue and weakness, fiber, which contribute to the regulation of gastrointestinal activity and magnesium that contributes to bone strength, preventing heart disease, blood vessels and diabetes. 

The potato is rich in antioxidants that prevent cancer, strengthen the immune system and neutralize toxins.
  • Potatoes may be helpful in reducing blood pressure - thanks to its high potassium content (most of it in the root's peel), potatoes can help reduce blood pressure. One study found that purple potatoes have a particularly good effect on systolic and diastolic blood pressure in overweight individuals.

  • Potatoes contribute to a sense of satiety - if you make sure to consume them as part of a balanced and diverse diet they will help you feel more satisfied over time. In fact, potatoes are among the most satisfying vegetables there are. In addition, they also contain quite a bit of fiber to help your body digest your meals.

  • Potatoes are also good for brain function - this starchy root is rich in vitamin B6. It is estimated that a medium sized potato contains between 0.37-0.60 milligrams of the vitamin. B6 plays an important role in children's brain development and may slow cognitive decline in adults. It also helps the body to secrete various hormones such as serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin that regulate the mood, help to cope with stress, and support a normal sleep-wake cycle.

  • Potatoes are recommended for athletes - eating potatoes can help restore electrolyte status in the body to normal levels after hard or strenuous training. Sodium and potassium, which are abundant mainly in the potato peel, are two of the electrolytes that athletes tend to lose while sweating. Potassium is especially important because it helps maintain fluid balance in the body and also relieves muscle pain that occurs during recovery from exercise or exertion.

So Why is it Still Considered by Some as Fattening and not Healthy? 

Here are a few reasons:
  • High glycemic index - despite its many advantages, it turns out that potatoes raise blood sugar, or in other words: it has a high glycemic index. This measure is especially relevant for diabetics, but also for anyone who wants to lose weight, because the higher the glycemic index, the less weight loss is delayed. However, when you take a cooked potato and cool it down - its glycemic index drops somewhat. Moreover, a potato cooked in its shell has a relatively low glycemic value and therefore it is recommended to eat for those on a diet. 

  • It is not the potato, it's the sauce - since the potato has a neutral flavor, we have a tendency to "improve its taste" with various additions and sauces such as butter, cream, mayonnaise, fatty meat sauces or ketchup - all of them are quite greasy and some are unhealthy. Therefore, if you want to enjoy the natural benefits of the potato you should avoid, or at least reduce, the amount of sauces.

  • Eating potato chips is not the same as eating potato - as mentioned before, potatoes contain carbohydrates, and carbohydrates absorb a lot of fat. The result is that deep frying potatoes significantly increases the amount of calories in each piece. When we eat potato chips, we usually consume more than one or two pieces, that way we actually consume large portions of potato chips that are also accompanied by fattening sauces - which amount to a fat calorie bomb.
  • Mashed potatoes mean more potatoes and much more calories - who does not like mashed potatoes with butter or cream? The problem is, as mentioned before, that the carbohydrate absorbs a very large amount of fat, and the more fat is added, be it butter, cream or meat sauce, the potatoes taste better. This of course greatly increases the caloric value of the dish. From 100 calories to a cooked potato to about 300 calories, if you add just one tablespoon of butter, and who will be able to stop at mashed potatoes made of only one potato with one tablespoon of butter? In most cases, when we prepare mashed potatoes, we are not satisfied with just one potato, but put a few potatoes in the pot. So at the end of the day we end up overeating and consuming more calories.

How to handle potatoes?

A potato, like other vegetables, loses some of its nutritional value during cooking, so it is best to cook it in its shell after it has been washed thoroughly. If you peel the peel before cooking, make sure it is cooked in a little water and the pot is well covered.

Avoid eating green potatoes or potatoes with green spots - potatoes of this kind may contain high levels of neurotoxins such as solanine and chaconine. Potatoes naturally contain these toxins at very low concentrations. New strains are tested for neurotoxins and permissible values are less than 0.2 mg or toxins per gram of potatoes.

Potatoes exposed to light, moisture and heat can contain high levels of toxins. Their amount in the green areas of the potato, in damaged areas and in sprouting areas can reach more than 1 mg per gram of potato. Peeling potatoes reduces the level of toxins by 30% -80%. Deep frying and microwave cooking reduce the level of toxins slightly. Heating or baking potatoes do not reduce toxin levels.

The potatoes should be kept in a dark, fairly cool place, but not in the refrigerator and without contact with water. Do not store potatoes in sealed containers or in closed bags or even in a bright environment, since prolonged exposure to the light of the potatoes can burn and develop bitter taste and even rot.