Nutritional Benefits of Potatoes: One of the World’s Favorite Foods

Potatoes are a beloved staple food across the globe, first cultivated by Andean civilizations thousands of years ago. Today, they are grown and consumed in almost every country on earth, owing to their accessibility, versatility, and affordability.

Potatoes can be cooked in a variety of ways and can absorb flavors well, making them a favorite ingredient in many dishes worldwide.

While some may question their nutritional value, potatoes are a rich source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that can offer many health benefits when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

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The History and Global Love of Potatoes

Potatoes have been around for a long time, first cultivated by Andean civilizations thousands of years ago. From there, they spread across the globe, becoming a staple food in many cultures.

In North India, spices and boiled potatoes are used to make the popular snack aloo tikki. In England, bangers (sausages) and mash (potatoes) is a classic comfort dish.

Boxty, an Irish pancake made with mashed potatoes, is another popular dish. And in Korea, Gamja ongsimi refers to potato dumplings in broth. Potatoes are a globally-approved classic, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

Are potatoes healthy?

Potatoes are often questioned for their nutritional value, and whether they are a healthy food. While they are root vegetables, most varieties do not count as one of your recommended “5 a day” fruit and vegetable servings due to their high starch content.

Starch is a form of carbohydrate that the body breaks down into glucose. According to the UK’s National Health Service, potatoes are generally used in place of other sources of starch, such as bread, pasta, or rice, when eaten as part of a meal.

However, this doesn’t mean they’re not healthy. Whole potatoes cooked without added salt or fat can provide many nutritional benefits.

The Nutritional Benefits of Potatoes

Potatoes offer a variety of nutrients, including fiber, carbohydrates, protein, vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, folate, manganese, and potassium.

Potatoes are also a good source of antioxidants, which help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Potatoes contain a high level of potassium, which is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and a healthy heart.

In fact, they contain more potassium per serving than bananas, which are often hailed as a potassium-rich food.

One medium-sized potato steamed or baked without added salt or saturated fat, can be a part of a healthy, balanced diet, according to research from Pennsylvania State University.

The study’s co-author, Emily Johnson, told Today in 2020 that “certainly eating chips or French fries should be discouraged, but there are healthy ways to prepare potatoes, so I do think that lumping them all together is a little bit unfair to the poor potato.”

Types of Potatoes

Russet Potatoes: Russet potatoes are also known as Idaho potatoes if grown in the state. They are the most popular variety of potato in the US, and they are relatively large with dark brown skin and white flesh. They are typically used in mashed potatoes, baked potato recipes, and processed into French fries.

Baby Potatoes: Baby potatoes, also known as new potatoes, are small potatoes that are deliberately dug up before they have fully developed. Their skin is paler, their flesh is creamy, and their flavor is a little sweeter than other potatoes.

Yukon Gold Potatoes: Yukon Gold potatoes have distinct yellow skin and flesh with pinkish eyes, and they are usually small or medium in size. They are well-suited to mashed potato dishes because of their creamy texture, but can also be used in most potato recipes.

Red Potatoes: Red potatoes have reddish skin that is usually very thin. While the inside of the potato is white, it is less starchy than other brown-skinned varieties.

Fingerling Potatoes: Fingerling potatoes are narrow and finger-shaped, with a distinctive nutty flavor. They come in different colors, including yellow, red, and purple, and are perfect for roasting, grilling, or boiling.

Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are often confused with yams, but they are a distinct type of potato with a sweeter flavor and orange flesh. They are rich in fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium. Sweet potatoes can be baked, mashed, or used in soups and stews.

Mashed Potatoes: Boil peeled and cubed potatoes until they are tender. Drain the water, add milk, butter, salt, and pepper, and mash until creamy.

Roasted Potatoes: Cut potatoes into small cubes and toss them with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary. Roast in the oven at 400°F for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Potato Salad: Boil cubed potatoes until tender, then mix them with chopped onions, celery, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

French Fries: Cut potatoes into thin strips and fry them in hot oil until crispy. Season with salt and serve with ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce.

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