The lowly Irish potato is a highly nutritious vegetable that is more than just a delicious accompaniment to a meal. In fact the health benefits of potatoes are so great, you could describe them as “underground health superstars”.
All plants that support underground storage of nutrients in a modified plant structure (usually the thickened underground part of a stem of rhizone) contain a substantial amount of starch, which provides energy, as well as vitamins and minerals, particularly Vitamin C and potassium. In fact, if you eat a medium-sized 150 g potato, you will get close to half the daily adult requirement of vitamin C. Potatoes are also a reasonably good (moderate) source of iron, and because vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, you get maximum benefit from it. It is also a great source of several B vitamins, specifically B1, B3, and B6, as well as some vital minerals. In addition to potassium, which aids the heart, our muscles, and even our digestion, potatoes are a source of phosphorous and magnesium; and they contain folate, pantothenic acid and riboflavin.
It doesn’t end there: potatoes are also a source of valuable antioxidants that are recognized as playing an increasingly important role in preventing diseases that are related to ageing, including cancer, and dietary fibre that benefits the health of people of all ages.
Breakdown of the Nutrient Content of Potatoes
Many people think that because potatoes are essentially a starch that they are fattening; but this is a misconception. In fact only 20 to 30 percent of a potato is starch – the rest is water. Further, nutritionists will confirm that potatoes are an excellent, if not the best, source of natural starch you will find.
According to the National Nutrient Database of the United States Department of Agriculture, after boiling a potato and then peeling it before eating it, every 100 g contains:
- Water 77 g
- Energy 87 kcal
- Vitamin C 13 mg
- Protein 1.87 g
- Fat 0.1 g
- Fibre 1.8 g
- Carbohydrate 20.13 g
- Calcium 5 mg
- Potassium 379 mg
- Phosphorus 44 mg
- Iron 0.31 mg
- Niacin 1.44 mg
- Thiamin 0.106 mg
- Riboflavin 0.02 mg
Blue and Red Potatoes
Not very long ago, potatoes were generally white-fleshed, and known as either white or Irish potatoes. In recent years, the available range of potatoes has grown to include several highly coloured varieties, including those with red and blue skins and tinted flesh. These colours are the result of anthocyanins, which are pigments that also occur in other brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, including blueberries and grapes. This adds extra nutrients to these types of potatoes, adding quite dramatically to the health benefits of potatoes.
Apart from being colourful and attractive, blue and red potatoes have been found to protect human cells against oxidative damage that is the cause of a number of diseases suffered in old age.