One of America’s most popular vegetables has an entire month dedicated to itself, the potato. It is obvious why this tuber is so popular, it can be mashed and added with butter to create a creamy side dish, sliced and fried for a crisp, crunchy snack, or baked, boiled and stuffed with toppings for the main course.
The potato is a tuber, growing underground within the stem, as part of the Solanaceae family. It is originally from South America where it easily has grown at high altitudes in the Andes mountains(1). They are now grown in 30 states in the United States, with the top growers in Idaho and Washington(2).
Potato Nutrition Facts
1 medium russet potato with the skin weighs approximately 5.3 ounces. This fat-free, cholesterol-free, sodium-free vegetable only contains 110 calories. The 26 grams of carbohydrates allow this vegetable to be safely added into a balanced diet for those with diabetes. These potatoes contain 45% of the daily value of vitamin C and 18% of the daily value for potassium, a nutrient of concern in the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, equalling to a higher concentration than a banana. Along with 3 grams of fiber, the potato is jam packed with vitamin B6 and antioxidants(3). Make sure to store potatoes in a cool, dark place to preserve all of the essential nutrients. Though not very high in protein, they are of a higher quality protein. At around 3 grams of high quality protein per potato, this vegetable contains a higher amino acid content than many other vegetables(4).
The resistance starch within a potato is known to act as a prebiotic, catalyzing the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. Consuming these potatoes after they have been cooled down after cooking can increase the amount of resistance starch.
The potato is a high-quality, nutrient dense vegetable and is available at a low cost. Scientists have also been working to formulate potatoes with higher antioxidant and phenolic content to improve nutrition for consumers. Types such as purple majesty, mountain rose and rio grande are rarely featured in grocery stores but soon to be swelling in the future. Creating more of these nutritionally dense varieties can improve food security and reduce poverty worldwide(5).
Consuming potato juice raw has been an original European remedy and can be used as a treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. If applied topically, it can be used to alleviate furuncles, fungal infections of hair follicles(6).
The most abundant phenolic acid in potatoes is chlorogenic acid, linked to significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressures(7). The high potassium content has the potential to lower blood pressure.
As consumers, we notice various types of potatoes in the market; the standard russet potatoes, red potatoes, yellow potatoes, purple potatoes, fingerling potatoes and even bite size petite potatoes. While these all give us many options, there actually exists approximately 3800 varieties of potatoes around the world(8).
Time to Celebrate!
Celebrate this month by trying out new recipes or a different variety of potatoes. More potato facts can be found at the following organizations.
- Whole Foods. Potatoes. 2006. The George Mateljan Foundation. The World’s Healthiest Foods.
- Alena Bosse and Michael Boland. 2016. Potato Profile. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/vegetables/potato-profile/
- Drewnowski A, Rehm CD (2013) Vegetable Cost Metrics Show That Potatoes and Beans Provide Most Nutrients Per Penny. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63277. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063277
- WHO. Choice of Foods and Ingredients For Moderately Malnourished Children 6 Months to 5 Years old. Access: http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/moderate_malnutrition/MM_Background_paper2.pdf
- Vlachojannis JE, Cameron M, Chrubasik S. Medicinal use of potato-derived products: a systematic review. Phytother Res. 2010. 24(2):159-62. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2829.
- J Onakpoya, E A Spencer, M J Thompson and C J Heneghan. The effect of chlorogenic acid on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Human Hypertension. 29: 77-81. 2015. doi:10.1038/jhh.2014.46
- John Roach. Saving the Potato in its Andean Birthplace. 2012. National Geographic News.