Energetic and diuretic, potatoes are rich in starches but also in minerals and vitamins. These tubers promote sleep, counteract hypertension and promote intestinal functions. Discover the nutritional properties, benefits and contraindications of potatoes.
Potatoes are tubers of a perennial plant belonging to the Solanaceae family, whose scientific name is Solanum Tuberosum. Originally from the Andes, we have news of their presence about 3000 years before the advent of Christ among the Incas population.
In the 16th century, thanks to the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, potatoes arrived in Europe. Potatoes can be found all year round as they can be stored for a long time. In the world there are about 2000 different varieties, the best known are the white and yellow flesh potatoes, but there are also potatoes with red skin and purple potatoes.
Potatoes: varieties and types
As just mentioned, the potatoes that are used in cooking are not all the same, but there are different varieties, which are suitable for different purposes. There are many varieties of potatoes in the world and they differ from country to country. Let’s see together the types of potatoes that we can find on the market and how to use them in our kitchens.
✓ American potatoes
They are also called sweet potatoes or sweet potatoes, however they are not “real” potatoes because they do not belong to the same botanical group, in fact they do not contain solanine. This food is reminiscent of potatoes in shape and texture, the pulp can be yellow or orange and has a slightly sweet aftertaste. The variety with orange pulp in particular reminds the taste of chestnuts. They can be eaten as a side dish or as a conclusion to a meal. They are generally boiled or baked in the oven.
✓ New potato
The new potato is not a variety of potato, but with this term we refer to the potatoes harvested before reaching full maturity, in late summer and autumn. These potatoes are generally small in size with thin skin and are usually cooked whole; they can be kept for a shorter time. Not all potato varieties are optimal for the production of new potatoes: some recommended are the agata variety, the spunta variety and the Galatina new potato, a typical potato of Puglia.
✓ White-fleshed potatoes
These are very starchy tubers and are characterized by a very light pulp and a floury consistency , for this reason they tend to break during cooking so they are not very suitable as a side dish but are ideal for preparations in which they are crushed such as mashed potatoes. Furthermore, these potatoes are ideal for the preparation of one of the traditional dishes of some Italian regions: gnocchi. Among the white-fleshed potatoes we can mention the following varieties: daifla, very famous for its flavor; the Biancone di Esino, typical of Lombardy and the kennebec which is one of the most common white-fleshed potatoes.
✓ Yellow flesh potatoes
They owe their color to the presence of carotenes, they are more compact and more resistant than white-fleshed potatoes and do not tend to flake off during cooking, so they are suitable for use as a side dish. These characteristics actually make yellow potatoes more suitable for use as a side dish, but not usable effectively for the preparation of gnocchi and mashed potatoes. Yellow flesh potatoes are among the most common and we can mention these varieties: amany, a very common type with brown skin and yellow flesh; the bintje, a potato with a yellow skin and very tasty; capucine, a very popular potato because it is disease resistant and easy to store; Cicero, very widespread in northern Italy and in the mountainous areas; jolly German, another variety renowned for its flavor; attention , a very early variety and volumia.
✓ Red potatoes
Potatoes with red skin have light pulp (usually yellow), the color of the skin is due to particular nutrients so the ideal would be to consume them with the skin. In this case, choose potatoes from organic farming and wash them well. These potatoes are used in a similar way to yellow-fleshed ones. They are generally used for the preparation of side dishes or for frying and among the best known varieties we mention the sunred, the cherie, the Mozart, the mulberry beauty and the Colfiorito red potato, a typical potato that has the IGP quality certification (protected geographical indication).
✓ Purple potatoes
Purple potatoes, also generically called vitelotte, have both pulp and skin of this color thanks to the high content of antioxidants. They are used in the kitchen to give dishes this particular color. These antioxidant-rich tubers can be used for the preparation of side dishes. There are several varieties: Bergerac, Bluestar (which differs from the others because the pulp is purple with white veins), Fleur bleu, Violet Queen, Vitellotte. All types of potatoes share the same nutritional properties and possess different benefits. Let’s see them together in detail.
Potatoes: calories and nutritional values
Potatoes consist mostly of water and starch, which accounts for about 15%. 100 grams of potatoes provide about 77 calories and have a high glycemic index, which is why diabetics and those who have impaired glucose tolerance must consume them in moderation and never together with pasta and bread. Furthermore, it is good to know that the glycemic index of potatoes varies according to the cooking method used and, the more they are cooked, the higher their glycemic index. As an example, potatoes boiled for 20 minutes will have a higher glycemic index than potatoes steamed for 15 minutes.
We remind you that potatoes do not contain gluten and can also be consumed by celiacs. Regarding the other macronutrients, we find a fair fiber content, a low protein intake and almost zero fat content. For greater clarity, we now report the table with the nutritional values of potatoes and, to follow, the properties of the micronutrients contained in greater quantities.
Nutritional values per 100g of potatoes:
- Kilocalories: 77
- Waterfall: 79.34 gr
- Carbohydrates: 17.47 gr
- of which starch: 15,44 gr
- Sugars: 0.78 gr
- Proteins: 2.02 gr
- Fat: 0.09 g
- Fibers: 2.2 gr
- Soccer: 12 mg
- Iron: 0.78 mg
- Magnesium: 23 mg
- Phosphorus: 57 mg
- Potassium: 421 mg
- Sodium: 6 mg
- Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid: 19.7 mg 32.8% RDA
- Vitamin B1 or Thiamine: 0.08 mg 5.7% RDA
- Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin: 0.032 mg 2% RDA
- Vitamin B3 or Niacin 1.054 mg 5.9% RDA
- Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid: 0.296 mg 4.9% RDA
- Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine: 0.295 mg 14.8% RDA
- Folate: 16 µg 8% RDA
- Lutein + zeaxanthin: 8 µg
- Vitamin K: 1.9 µg 2.7% RDA
- Glycemic index Baked potatoes: 1) 89 (on average, but ranges from 56 to 111) 2) Boiled potatoes 56 to 101
Potatoes: nutritional properties
As we can see in the table above, various nutritionally important substances are present in potatoes. Among the minerals, the most present are certainly potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. The most abundant vitamins are instead vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folate. Let’s see them in detail.
- Potassium: this mineral, very present in potatoes, promotes the elimination of excess fluids, reduces blood pressure and regulates the rhythm of heartbeats;
- Magnesium: as we have said, potatoes are rich in magnesium, an important element for health and, in particular, it is useful in case of muscle pain, insomnia, depression and to prevent menstrual pain as it relaxes the muscles and regulates muscle contractility;
- Vitamin C: this vitamin, also called ascorbic acid, with a strong antioxidant action, is essential for stimulating the immune system, it also stimulates the production of collagen and promotes the absorption of the iron contained in food. Prolonged cooking reduces its content;
- Vitamin B6: This vitamin, also called pyridoxine, protects the functions of the central nervous system by preventing depression, irritability and insomnia. Furthermore, it is necessary for the synthesis of the sheath that covers neurons, that is myelin;
- Folate: Folate is called provitamins as it is converted into folic acid or vitamin B9 in the intestine. Folic acid is essential for the growth, reproduction and proper functioning of the nervous system and takes part in the synthesis of some amino acids and hemoglobin.
Potatoes: Health Benefits
The consumption of potatoes brings many benefits to our body thanks to the components present in them. Specifically, among the properties of potatoes we mention:
- They are restorative and nourishing: potatoes are rich in starches and sugars that provide energy in a short time, so they are useful for tiredness and asthenia;
- They lower blood pressure: thanks to the potassium contained in potatoes, the consumption of these tubers is indicated in people suffering from hypertension;
- They are diuretic and purifying: the presence of potassium and magnesium and the high quantity of water make potatoes capable of counteracting water retention and also the formation of kidney stones;
- Useful for the nervous system: vitamin B6 present in potatoes helps maintain the correct functioning of the nervous system as it facilitates the transmission of nerve impulses, prevents mood swings and depression;
- Antitumor prevention: in the peel of potatoes there is chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant substance with anticancer action. The potatoes, however, should be eaten with the peel, making sure that they come from organic farming;
- Useful in case of diarrhea: potatoes are able to “compact” the stool and are beneficial in case of diarrhea. Furthermore, they are remineralizing, another useful property in these cases;
- They help you sleep: if you eat in the evening, potatoes are a good food for not disturbing sleep. This is thanks to the presence of complex carbohydrates, which do not burden digestion, and potassium, which helps to relax the muscles;
- They are soothing for the stomach: potatoes are very digestible and counteract stomach acid, torching the gastric walls in case of gastritis or acidity;
- Useful for skin burns: an old grandmother’s remedy for burns involved placing a slice of potato on the burns. The positive effect is given by the soothing and decongestant power of this tuber.
How many potatoes to eat per day
Potatoes are a source of starch and in an adult’s diet they could replace cereals with an advisable frequency of 2 times a week. The portion can and must vary according to the needs: let us remember that each of us is different; however a standard quantity is around 200 g. This quantity, if taken correctly (thus checking the combinations and condiments), is also compatible with low-calorie diets. In case of diabetes, however, it may be necessary to reduce the quantity given the high glycemic index of potatoes. In this case, however, it is essential to follow the advice of your doctor or trusted nutritionist.
Potatoes: storage and usage tips
First of all, let’s see how potatoes are preserved. It is best to store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place with a temperature not lower than 5 ° C and not higher than 10 ° C, thus avoiding the refrigerator. It is possible to keep them with their net bag as it is made to favor proper ventilation. Another tip is to divide and consume the ripest and most damaged potatoes first, if any.
Potatoes can be consumed in various ways, the ideal would be to steam them or in the oven as they are lighter cooking, or boiled. For steam cooking it is advisable to cut the potatoes into cubes and place them in the steamer for about 10 minutes; in the oven they can be kept for 15/20 minutes at a temperature of about 180 ° C. In order not to raise the glycemic index of the entire meal, it is advisable to consume potatoes instead of bread or pasta. This applies to both diabetics and those on a weight loss diet.
In the kitchen, potatoes are very versatile and can be eaten alone or used for pies and mashed potatoes but in this case it increases both the glycemic index and the calorie content for the toppings used. These tubers, then, are the basis of many vegetable soups as they are able to make the consistency of the dish denser. Finally, for cosmetic use, potato slices can be applied to dark circles for 15 minutes to deflate and flare them.