Apart from rice, maize and wheat, potatoes are the fourth main food crop. Certain populations in different regions of the world actually cultivate potatoes as their main cash crop, earning them billions of dollars annually. After growing in the wild for a long time, potatoes are now commercially grown for food and other purposes. The popularity of potatoes all over the world cannot be rivaled by any other crop. According to the United Nations FAO, China leads in the production of potatoes, producing slightly over 70 million metric tones annually. Russia, India, US, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Belgium Netherlands and France with 6 million metric tones are the other major producers of potatoes in the world.
Although there are thousands of potato varieties, these have been subjected to different breeding procedures, which have produced standard varieties that are now commercially cultivated. Note that there are many Potato Research Institutions located in different parts of the world, collaborating to develop varieties of potatoes that are resistant to diseases and infections. So far, the standard potato varieties include russet potatoes, red potatoes, white potatoes, purple potatoes and yellow potatoes. In addition to these, genetically modified varieties are also available.
Regardless of the variety, potatoes are very nutritious. They are very rich in
- Dietary fiber
- Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, and C)
- Minerals (Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Potassium and Sodium).
In addition, potatoes are also rich in phytochemicals (carotenoids and phenols), cryto-chlorogenic acid and neo-chlorogenic acid amongst others.
Health Benefits of Potatoes
Eating potatoes is certainly good for your health because your body is bound to receive accruing benefits, some of which include:
- Food – Potatoes are consumed all over the world as food, providing the body with the necessary carbohydrates that they are high on. Potatoes are prepared in different ways including boiling and frying. In preparing potatoes however, note that your method of preparation can degrade the nutrients and render them ineffective.
- Vital Minerals, Vitamins & Acids – Eating potatoes provides your body with vital minerals, vitamins and acids that your body needs to undertake varied processes. These are taken up by body cells and used by enzymes in achieving the same.
- Dietary Fiber – Potatoes are rich in dietary fiber, which is very important in achieving smooth and easy bowel movement. In addition, fiber plays a major role in helping to clear your body of toxic and waste substances.
- Protection Against Cancer – A small proportion of starch found in potatoes is resistant to digestion by your body enzymes and reaches your large intestines while still intact. The resistant starch has been established to offer protection against cancer of the colon. It is also effective in improving blood glucose levels in addition to lowering high triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Note that you can easily damage the resistant starch through intensive cooking such as deep-frying. The level of the resistance starch has been found to increase as potato cools after cooking. You may therefore let your cooked potatoes cool before eating to obtain the benefits.
Although eating potatoes is certainly beneficial, you need to watch the amount that you consume. This is because potatoes contain toxic substances in form of glycoalkaloids (solanine and chaconine). In excess amounts, these toxins affect your nervous system and you are bound to suffer confusion and general body weakness. These toxins are use by potatoes as a form of protection against predators. The toxins are also found in potato leaves, sprouts and stem. Although intense cooking destroys the toxins, vital nutrients are also destroyed.