The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum. Potatoes prefer cooler weather, but they will grow in almost any conditions. There are literally thousands of different varieties of potatoes grown around the world. Potatoes are seasonal and are usually harvested, depending on the variety. They are the swollen portion of the underground stem which is called a tuber and is designed to provide food for the green leafy portion of the plant.
Added to the culinary uses of potatoes are these;
Potatoes are used to brew alcoholic beverages such as vodka, potcheen or akvavit.
They are also used as food for domestic animals.
Potato starch is used in the food industry as, for example, thickeners and binders of soups and sauces, in the textile industry, as adhesives, and for the manufacturing of papers and boards.
Companies are exploring the possibilities of using waste potatoes to obtain polylactic acid for use in plastic products; other research projects seek ways to use the starch as a base for biodegradable packaging.
The potato contains vitamins and minerals, as well as an assortment of phytochemicals, such as carotenoids and natural phenols. A medium-size potato with the skin provides of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6 and trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. The fiber content of a potato with skin (2 g) is equivalent to that of many whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals. In terms of nutrition, the potato is best known for its carbohydrate content. The predominant form of this carbohydrate is starch.
Potatoes provide the body with an essential source of fuel and energy, which you need even when dieting. As a rich carbohydrate source, they help to fuel all reactions in the body which you need for movement, thinking, digestion and cellular renewal.
Stress: Potatoes are exceedingly rich in Vitamin B6, a substance needed for cellular renewal, a healthy nervous system and a balanced mood. It is used to make neurotransmitters –substances that deliver messages from one cell to the next.
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are needed for the regulation of mood and Vitamin B6 is needed to make them.
It is also used to make adrenaline, hormones that help us respond to stress, and GABA, a substance linked to relaxation and a feeling of wellbeing.
Gut health: A single baked potato will provide nearly 12 per cent of the daily recommended amount of fibre, giving similar levels to whole grain breads, pastas and cereals.
High levels of dietary fibre and ‘bulking agents’ support healthy digestion and regular bowel movements, while giving a protective effect from colon cancer.
While most potato fibre is found in the skin, some of the starch in potatoes is indigestible.
Weight Gain: Potatoes are mounds of carbohydrates and contain little proteins too. This makes it an ideal diet for those lean and thins who desperately want to put on weight. The vitamins like vitamin-C and B-complex also help in proper absorption of this carbohydrate.
Digestion: Since potatoes predominantly contain carbohydrates, they are easy to digest and facilitate digestion. This property makes them a good diet for patients, babies and those who cannot digest hard food but need energy. But you must remember that eating too much of potatoes regularly may cause acidity in the long run. Potatoes also contain considerable amount of fiber or roughage, more in raw potatoes and cold ones than boiled or hot ones.
Scurvy: The vitamin-C present in potatoes can help prevent this dreaded deficiency disease, caused due to lack of vitamin-C. It is characterized by cracked lip corners, spongy and bleeding gums, frequent viral infections like cold etc.
Rheumatism: There are two aspects of this factor. Vitamins, calcium and magnesium in potatoes help giving relief in rheumatism. Water obtained from boiling potato gives relief in rheumatism. But due to high starch or carbohydrate content it tends to increase body weight which may have adverse effects on rheumatic people.
Inflammation: Potato is very effective in inflammation, internal or external. Since it is soft, easy digestible and has a lot of vitamin-C (very good anti-oxidant and repairs wears and tears), potassium and vitamin-B6, among others, it relieves inflammation of intestines and the digestive system. It is very good diet for those who have mouth ulcers. Again, raw smashed potato can be applied to relieve external inflammation, burns etc.
High Blood Pressure: Since high blood pressure is caused due to a number of reasons, including diabetes, tension, indigestion, nature of food and many such, different are the cures. Potato can be used to relieve High Blood Pressure due to tension, indigestion etc. due to abundance of vitamin-C and B in it, but should be avoided if it is due to diabetes. The fiber present in it is helpful in lowering cholesterol and improves functioning of insulin in the body, which aids to lowering of blood pressure, since there is a direct relation between the blood pressure and the glucose level in the blood and insulin regulates this glucose level.
Brain Function: Proper functioning of the brain depends largely on the glucose level, oxygen supply, some members of the vitamin-B complex and some hormones, amino acids and fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acids. Potatoes cater to almost all the needs mentioned above. They are high in carbohydrates and thus maintain good level of glucose in the blood which does not let brain fatigue creep in and keeps the brain active and alert. Next is oxygen which is carried to the brain by the haemoglobin in the blood and whose main constituent is iron. Potato contains iron too and thus aids to this function also. Next is the turn of vitamin-B complex. Here again, potato is rich in vitamin-B6 and contains traces of other members of this complex. In addition, it contains certain other elements like phosphorus and zinc which are good for brain too.
Heart Diseases: Apart from the vitamins (B-complex, C), minerals and roughage, potatoes also contain certain substances called Carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin etc.) which are beneficial for heart and other internal organs. But again, since it raises the glucose level in the blood and over intake may cause obesity, which in turn can put a lot of pressure on your heart; hence it is not recommended for obese or diabetic people.
Kidney Stones: Kidney Stones, also known as Renal Calculi, are caused mainly due to raised level of uric acid in blood. In such cases, high proteins should be avoided, particularly animal proteins such as meat, turkey, shrimps, sea fishes, eggs, milk etc. Iron and calcium also help form the stone. Potato is rich in both of these and normally seems not fit from this point of view. But it is very rich in magnesium which resists accumulation or deposition of calcium (calcification) in the kidney and other tissues, thereby proving beneficial for treatment of renal calculi.