The humble potato has been given a bad rap. What was once a cheap staple of many nations ’ diets has been branded in the past few years an “unhealthy” food best avoided.

Eating too much of any kind or group of food ( like carbs ) isn’t wholesome, and some research indicates eating too many potato products in particular might be connected with higher blood pressure. However, it’s typically how we prepare and eat potatoes ( such as frying them) that cause negative effects.

In actuality, potatoes have a whole lot of vitamins and other nutrients that are important for health. Here, s six reasons why potatoes are good for you.

1. Vitamin C

People typically associate vitamin C oranges and citrus fruit. But a significant source of vitamin C in British diets for most of the 20th century actually came from potatoes. Normally, a little (150g) curry supplies us with about 15 percent of our everyday vitamin C.

Vitamin C is important as not only does it support immune function and contain antioxidants, it has a vital role in forming connective tissues, which helps our joints operate – and holds our teeth in place. This is why vitamin C deficiency (scurvy) is connected to teeth falling out.

2. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is an essential co-factor (a small molecule) in the body. It helps over 100 enzymes in the body to work properly, allowing them to break down proteins a process key to great nerve function. This might also be why B6 is connected to great mental health.

Typically, a small potato will contain around a quarter of an adult’s recommended daily intake of B6.

3. Potassium

Having potassium within our cells is important for regulating the electrical signalling in nerves and muscles. Consequently, if potassium gets too high or low, it may stop our heart working .

Roast, fried and baked potatoes contain higher levels of potassium than boiled or mashed potatoes, with a jacket potato containing around a third of those recommended daily intake. This is because boiling diced potatoes can cause around half of the potassium to leak out to the water.

However, people with kidney disease – which can limit the ability to remove excess potassium in the body – might need to limit the number of potatoes they consume. And if you do roast or fry your potatoes, be careful how much oil you use.

4. Choline

Choline is a small compound which attaches to fat to create phospholipids, the buildings blocks of cell walls, as well as the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (which assists us contract muscles, dilate blood vessels, and slow heart rate). Potatoes include the second highest degrees of choline, next to protein-rich foods, like meat and soya.

It’s vital to eat enough choline since it’s crucial for a healthy brain, nerves, and muscles. And subtle differences in our genes may indicate some of us are naturally more deficient in making choline. A jacket potato contains around 10 percent of a person’s daily choline requirements. Choline is very important in pregnancy, as the growing baby is making tons of new organs and cells.

5. Good for our stomach

Cooking and cooling potatoes before eating them allows resistant starch to form. This wholesome starch helps our bodies in many ways, including by acting as a prebiotic ( that are important for a healthy gut microbiome).

The cooling of fluffy cooked starches causes them to fall. While this actually makes them harder to digest, it follows that the bacteria in our colon then ferments them, producing compounds similar to vinegar called short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids nourish our guts and keep it healthy.

Short-chain fatty acids can also change our metabolism in a fantastic manner, helping lower blood glucose and blood sugar levels. This – with their high water and low-fat content – makes boiled and steamed potatoes a low calorie, nutrient dense and filling food .

6. Naturally gluten free

Potatoes are also naturally gluten free, so are a terrific option for those who have coeliac disease or who must avoid gluten.

The same is true for sweet potatoes, which also have a lower glycaemic index – which means they don’t cause a sudden spike in blood sugar, which may help control appetite and weight . However, sweet potatoes are slightly higher in calories and carbs than regular potatoes – though they contain more beta carotene (a form of vitamin A).

Potatoes in your plate

Some people may choose to avoid potatoes because of concerns about weight gain – however a typical boiled potato is just about 130 calories, which is actually fewer calories than a banana of the identical size. But it’s important to remember how potatoes are prepared and what they’re eaten with.

Boiling or steaming ( possibly with cooling to increase the resistant starch) is the best way to keep the amount of calories per gram low. Baking will increase calories per gram (as water is lost), as can mash with butter or cream. The least healthy way to eat potatoes is as chips or crisps, as they soak up oil like a sponge.

You’ll also want to steer clear of green potatoes. This occurs when the potato was stored in light and produces a toxin which can irritate our gut. Otherwise, for most people including potatoes as part of a healthy and varied diet may actually be a good thing.

And alongside being healthy, potatoes also have environmental advantages. They need less water than rice to produce, and less greenhouse gases than both wheat and rice – which may be yet another good reason to include potatoes in your daily diet.

Duane Mellor, Associate Dean Education – Quality Enhancement, Aston University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the first article.

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