Potatoes are rich in fiber and potassium, which contribute to most of its benefits. They help lower blood pressure and protect the heart and even treat inflammation and the resultant diseases like cancer and rheumatism.
1. Lower Blood Pressure
Research has revealed that the skin of potatoes is rich in potassium – a mineral that can help lower blood pressure. An average-sized baked potato has about 535 mg of potassium (and just 17.3 mg of sodium), which is roughly about 15 percent of the daily recommended amount. High levels of potassium in the blood can make the kidneys excrete more salt and water – and this helps reduce blood pressure.
In fact, taking potassium is just like taking a diuretic. Potassium was also found to help the heart function optimally and help the nerves and muscles communicate.
Another study states that eating a portion of potato twice a day can help lower blood pressure. Baked and boiled potatoes are also acceptable. Research also has shown that potatoes contain certain plant chemicals similar to those found in blood pressure medication.
But it is important to note that all of this depends on the way potatoes are prepared. The healthiest way to eat potatoes is to first cook them in a microwave oven with no oil, fat, etc. Also, deep frying is a no-no as the process subjects the vegetable to high temperatures that destroy the nutrients present in it.
However, we want you to consult your doctor before you make this vegetable a regular part of your diet (if you have issues with hypertension, that is). Because one study states that the effect of potatoes on hypertension is unclear – they could be high in potassium, but they are also high in glycemic carbohydrates (3).
2. Improve Heart Health
Potatoes don’t contain cholesterol, which is good news. And they contain fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and B6 – all of which are great for heart health. The fiber in the vegetable helps lower excess cholesterol levels in the blood. And potassium protects the heart too – one study concluded by stating that consuming 4,069 mg of potassium in a day can cut the risk of ischemic heart disease by 49 percent.
According to the University of Southern California, consuming more fiber (potatoes especially) can lower the risk of heart disease.
But potatoes are also high in glycemic index, and this could be a negative aspect when it comes to heart health. And though potatoes contain complex carbohydrates (fiber), those found in whole grains are preferred to those in starch-heavy foods like potatoes.
3. Prevent Cancer
Studies have revealed that eating potatoes won’t cause cancer, unless you eat them fried. So, if you have been under the impression that potatoes might cause cancer, well, you can relax. Boiling, mashing, or even baking potatoes could make them far more beneficial. Frying potatoes can lead to the synthesis of a chemical called acrylamide, which causes cancer.
In addition to not causing cancer, potatoes can even cut cancer risk – as per a study. And this can be attributed to the vitamin C content in potatoes. Taking 50 mg of vitamin C (the equivalent of two potatoes) can cut stomach cancer risk by 8 percent.
Baked purple potatoes were also found to cut colon cancer risk. Researchers had observed that extracts of baked potatoes hinder the spread of colon cancer stem cells – and even totally destroyed them in some cases.
4. Improve Brain Health
Potatoes also contain alpha lipoic acid, a coenzyme that contributes to brain health. The acid had shown to improve memory deficits in Alzheimer’s and even had reduced cognitive decline in certain patients.
Potatoes were also found to aid in depression treatment. They can affect the neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for managing mood levels – and interestingly, these are the same neurotransmitters targeted by medication. Eating one plain potato before you go to bed can help your body regulate your emotions and moods. But guess what – just ensure potatoes aren’t the only thing you eat.
The vitamin C in potatoes also has a role to play in treating depression. The vitamin is an antioxidant, and it helps prevent cell damage – especially in the brain.
5. Promote Stronger Bones
As per the University of Maryland Medical Center, the magnesium and potassium in potatoes can contribute to bone health. The two minerals can help prevent bone loss in both men and women.
6. Reduce Inflammation
According to Arthritis Foundation, yellow and purple potatoes can reduce inflammation. This could also mean protection against arthritis and rheumatism.
As per another study, the glycoalkaloids in potatoes (the bitter compounds in the vegetable) and potato peel extracts exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. The study, however, states the necessity for further investigation before the vegetable can be used for therapeutic purposes. Potatoes also contain compounds called anthocyanins that also offer anti-inflammatory benefits. They are particularly effective in treating gut inflammation. Potatoes also suppress oxidative stress and gut inflammation in murine colitis (colitis in mice).
According to another American study, potato consumption can alter inflammatory damage in men.
7. Promote Digestion
The large amount of carbohydrates in potatoes help fuel the reactions in the body required for different processes, one of them being digestion. And coming to fiber – one singled baked potato offers you 12 percent of the RDA. Fiber supports digestion and promotes regularity. Most of the fiber in potatoes is found in the skin. And the starch in the potato also adds bulk to the stool – as it is indigestible.
Potatoes can also keep diarrhea away. Consuming calories and carbohydrates during diarrhea can help revive the energy levels pretty quick. This can accelerate recovery. Potatoes are also rich in potassium, a mineral one loses to a large extent during diarrhea. And as potatoes are bland, they are far less likely to aggravate your symptoms as compared to fatty or spicy foods.
But by potatoes, we only mean baked or boiled or mashed variants, and not potato chips or fries – they only make things worse. And guess what – one bag of potato chips contains about 120 grams of carbs.
8. Enhance Immunity
Research suggests that potatoes can also have beneficial effects on the immune system. Studies have found that consuming potatoes might decrease leucocytes, which are produced in the human body due to inflammation or when a person is ill.
9. Aid In Weight Management
A plain potato is an extremely satiating vegetable – it keeps you full for long periods. So if you are trying to lose weight, this helps. And worry not – you don’t have to always eat potatoes plain to keep your weight in check. You can also top a baked white potato with some steamed broccoli and sprinkle some low-fat cheese on it – this can act as a filling and delicious lunch.
According to a study, potatoes can inhibit food intake. The protease inhibitors concentrate extracted from potatoes was found to reduce food intake and weight gain.
And on the other hand, potatoes can also lead to healthy weight gain. Since the vegetables have a caloric value, consuming them in normal amounts can lead to a sustained and healthy weight gain.
10. Help Lower Blood Cholesterol
The cholesterol-lowering properties of potatoes come from their fiber content. The vegetable is a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber – and the former helps lower bad cholesterol. It is important to note that most of the beneficial fiber of a potato lies in its skin – and removing that simply means removing the fiber. Also, potatoes by themselves can reduce cholesterol – provided you don’t fry them or add stuff that contributes to cholesterol. Baking your potatoes and adding some olive oil on the top can make a great snack.
11. Alleviate Premenstrual Symptoms
Drinking potato juice can help relieve PMS symptoms according to a study. The carbohydrates in the juice can help elevate the levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin production. Serotonin is responsible for improving mood and reducing anxiety.
12. Promote Sleep
The potassium in potatoes acts as a muscle relaxant, which aids better sleep.
13. Help Treat Scurvy
Since potatoes are good sources of vitamin C, they sure can aid in the treatment of scurvy.
14. Treat Kidney Stones
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, eating potatoes (given they are rich in fiber) can improve overall health and prevent the recurrence of kidney stones. And since potatoes are also rich in magnesium (and low in calcium, the excess of which can also lead to kidney stones), they can play a role in preventing kidney stones.