Today one cannot even imagine vegetables without potatoes. This shapeless and ugly looking tuber, bearing the scientific name Solanum Tuberosum, has cast a spell on us. Potato lovers (including me), and those who do not like them, will be equally delighted to know that potatoes have more in store for them than just carbohydrates and calories. Let us uncover them
The health benefits of potato include the following:
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. That is why they make an inevitable part of the diet of Sumo Wrestlers.
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.
Skin Care: Vitamin-C and B-complex and minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc are good for the skin. Apart from that, pulp obtained from crushed raw potatoes, mixed with honey, can serve as excellent skin and face packs. This helps even curing pimples and spots on the skin. Again, this pulp, if applied externally on burns, gives a quick relief and heals fast. Smashed potatoes, even water in which potatoes are washed, are very good for softening and cleaning skin, especially around elbows, back of the palms etc.
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. as well as spinach, raw plantain, black grams and certain beans, which drastically increase the level of uric acid in blood. 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.
Diarrhea: It is an excellent energy-rich diet for those suffering from diarrhea, since it is very easy to digest as well as contains mild roughage. But an over intake may cause diarrhea due to excess ingestion of starch.
Other Benefits and Cautions: Juice of potato is a good treatment for burns, bruises, sprains, skin problems, ulcers, effect of narcotics, cancer of prostrate and uterus and formation of cysts or tumors. On the other hand, some care also needs to be taken while eating potatoes. Green potatoes are poisonous, and so are potato leaves and fruits, as they contain alkaloids like solanine, chaconine and arsenic whose overdose may prove fatal. Moreover, the glycemic index (in simple words, the energy or sugar content) of potatoes is very high (above 80) and so obese, diabetic and those who are slimming down should avoid eating potatoes. If eaten, potatoes are better baked than raw or fried.
No! You need not worry because it is not that serious. If you are otherwise fine and healthy (a bit of fat is not at all bad. Instead, it is beneficial), you can always enjoy potato chips and French-fries while watching TV. You won’t become a couch-potato if you eat it within limits.