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Your Nutrition Guide on Potatoes

Potatoes are underground tubers that grow on the potato plant’s roots, and its scientific name is Solanum tuberosum. This plant is from the nightshade family and is similar to tomatoes and tobacco.

Native to South America, potatoes were brought to Europe in the 16th century and are now grown in myriad varieties worldwide.

They’re generally eaten boiled, baked, or fried and often served as a side dish or snack. Common potato-based foods and products incorporate french fries, potato chips, and potato flour.

Moreover, potatoes are more energy-packed than any other common vegetable. They can even produce more Potassium than a banana. 

Plus, there’s a potato performance recipe option to power up your body and brain throughout the day. This is ideal if you have an active lifestyle or are competing with elite athletes.

This article tells you everything you need to know about potatoes.

Nutrition Facts

Vitamin C

A medium 5.3 oz skin-on potato holds 27 mg of Vitamin C, which is 30% of the daily value. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that is vital for humans.

Vitamin C is obtained naturally only in fruits and vegetables. Potatoes are a great source of vitamin C and add significantly to Americans’ regular vitamin C requirements.

Key facts about Vitamin C:

  • Vitamin C plays an essential role in collagen formation and immune function.
  • As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C supports or eliminates free radicals in the body, thus preventing cellular damage.
  • Fruits and vegetables are the ideal and only natural source of vitamin C.
  • A medium, 5.3 oz potato with skin-on is an excellent vitamin C source, providing 30% of the suggested daily value (DV). There are more vitamin C than one medium tomato (27% DV) or sweet potato (20% DV).
  • For men ages 19 years and older, the suggested dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 90 mg per day. For women ages 19 years and older, the RDA is 75 mg per day.

Functions of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is necessary to synthesize collagen, a structural protein that provides strength and elasticity to specific body tissues like skin, gums, tendons, ligaments, and bone. It also plays an essential role in wound healing.

Vitamin C also works as an antioxidant in the body. It stabilizes or eradicates free radicals, thus helping to limit cellular damage.

Finally, vitamin C supports the intake of iron and is stored in several immune cells, thereby supporting the body’s immune system.

Vitamin C Recommendations

The current RDAs for vitamin C are based on its recognized physiological and antioxidant roles in white blood cells. Thus, it is set higher than the amounts required to stop the deficiency disease (scurvy).

For men ages 19 years and older, the RDA is 90 mg per day, and for women ages 19 years and older, the RDA is 75 mg per day.

Potassium

A medium 5.3 oz skin-on potato holds 620 mg of Potassium, which is 15% of the regular value.

Potassium is a significant mineral that works several significant roles in the body. Most prominently, it is a crucial electrolyte that helps support the fragile balance of fluid inside and outside the cell.

It is said that less than 3% of Americans are meeting the current adequate consumption (AI) for Potassium.

Key facts about Potassium:

  • Potassium is an essential electrolyte that supports muscle, cardiovascular, and nervous system function.
  • Potassium helps support normal blood pressure. Studies suggest diets high in Potassium and low in sodium may lessen the risk of hypertension and stroke.
  • Potatoes with skin-on are a great source of Potassium. This is more Potassium in a medium 5.3oz skin on potato than in a medium-sized banana.
  • Potatoes give one of the most affordable sources of Potassium more than bananas, oranges, and mushrooms.

Functions of Potassium and Relevant Research

Studies suggest foods rich in Potassium and low in sodium reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke.

A scientific analysis promoting dietary approaches to stop and treat hypertension reveals that high potassium consumption can help reduce blood pressure.

Given their high potassium content, potatoes may aid a heart-healthy diet. That said, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage people to raise Potassium by consuming foods that have the most Potassium. This includes beet greens, white potatoes, beet greens, plain yogurt, and sweet potatoes.

Potassium Recommendations

Current references for potassium consumption are expressed as an “adequate intake” or AI.

For males 19-50 years of age, the AI for Potassium is 3400 mg per day, whereas, for females 19-50 years of age, that should be 2600 mg per day.

Carbohydrates

A medium 5.3 oz skin-on potato holds 26 grams of carbohydrates. Carbohydrate-rich foods like potatoes have been getting a bad rap recently.

Many of today’s most famous fad diets suggest restricting all or specific carbohydrate-rich foods.

This is unfortunate because carbohydrates have many essential functions. And excluding them from the diet is neither necessary nor healthy.

Key facts about carbohydrates:

  • One medium 5.3 oz potato with skin-on gives 26 grams of carbohydrates or 9% of the regular value per serving.
  • The brain + red blood cells demand carbohydrates.
  • 130 grams of carbohydrate intake per day can support the central nervous system.
  • Prefer carbohydrates high in “nutrient density.”
  • Fruits + vegetables are great carbohydrates.

Functions of Carbohydrates

The primary function of carbohydrates is to give energy to the body’s cells, particularly the brain.

Carbohydrate is also an essential fuel for the muscles during exercise, especially intense and extended exercise. This explains why carbohydrates are critical to optimal athletic performance.

On the other hand, carb deficiency will render your body unable to produce sugar, also known as “gluconeogenesis.”

The most typical gluconeogenic substrates are amino acids. It is obtained from dietary sources of protein and body proteins, such as muscle and essential organs. Thus, while the body can endure without carbohydrates, it acquires fuel from the body’s protein pool.

Carbohydrate Classification

Carbohydrates can be widely classified as simple or complex based on their chemical composition.

Simple carbohydrates, as their name indicates, have a simple chemical composition. It consists of one or two sugar molecules. Examples involve the monosaccharides (single sugars) like glucose, fructose, and galactose. There’s also the disaccharides (two sugars) like sucrose, lactose, and maltose.

Most fruits and dairy products carry an abundance of simple sugars. Soft drinks, ice cream, sweets, and pastries also have significant volumes of simple sugars.

Complex carbohydrates, like starch, glycogen, fiber, and resistant starch, have a more complicated chemical formation. It has two or more sugar molecules linked together. Glycogen is the body’s glucose storage structure, while starch is a plant’s storage form of glucose.

Foods abundant in starch include grains, cereals, and most vegetables like beans, peas, corn, and potatoes.

Carbohydrates Recommendations

The current RDA for carbohydrates is 130 grams per day based on the amount required to optimally help the central nervous system (i.e., the brain). If you’re involved in physical activity, you need more carbohydrates.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine (the government body that establishes the RDA) has suggested an adequate macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) for carbohydrates of 45-65% of total daily energy consumption.

Some people believe the misconception that they need to cancel out carbohydrates to maintain body weight. But scientific agreement states that excess calories are to blame for weight gain, not diet composition.

Instead of limiting carbohydrates from your diet, exercise common sense when selecting carbohydrate-rich foods. Choose nutrient-dense whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Protein

A medium 5.3 oz skin-on potato holds 3 grams of protein. Protein is an essential element of almost every cell and tissue in the body.

Protein consists of amino acids, and there are 20 amino acids with biological importance. However, only nine are essential. This means that our bodies cannot synthesize them, and they must be obtained through food.

Key facts about protein:

  • A medium-size 5.3 oz potato with skin-on gives 3 grams of plant-based protein.
  • The 3 grams of protein in one skin-on 5.3 oz potato tops all other generally consumed vegetables, except dried beans.
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest eating a variety of plant-based foods to improve overall health.

Functions of Protein

Proteins play many essential roles in the body, including:

  • Providing structure. Protein is a critical element of muscle, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues like collagen. In extension, our skin, hair, and nails contain significant amounts of protein.
  • Controlling metabolic processes. Enzymes that catalyze chemical reactions, hormones that regulate metabolic processes, and cytokines that attach to the surface of cells and influence their functions are all proteins.
  • Transporting substances. Transport proteins provide essential substances in the body. For example, hemoglobin and myoglobin carry oxygen. Albumin has various vitamins and minerals and fatty acids, and transferrin and ferritin have iron.
  • Restoring fluid and electrolytes. Proteins, particularly those found in the blood, help control fluid balance. Amino acids can be positively or negatively charged, allowing them to support the body to produce acid-base balance and optimal pH.
  • Providing energy. Protein gives four calories per gram (similar to carbohydrate). However, under normal conditions, protein supplies little to energy production. Under stressful situations (e.g., severe illness, starvation, diabetic ketoacidosis), protein becomes a more critical energy source, although it may not be suitable for your health.

Protein Recommendations

The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. And the adequate macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) is 10%-35% of total regular energy consumption from protein.

One 5.3-ounce skin-on potato is an excellent source of 3 grams of plant-based protein. Current dietary direction, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, suggests substituting plant-based proteins for animal-based proteins.

This is to promote overall health and support the environment.

Fiber

A medium 5.3 oz skin-on potato carries 2g of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is a kind of complex carbohydrate found in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Most Americans get only about half of the suggested amount of dietary fiber and could benefit from eating more fiber-rich foods.

Key facts about fiber:

  • A medium 5.3 oz potato with skin-on gives 2 grams of fiber or 7% of the daily value per serving.
  • Dietary fiber is known to have many health benefits. This includes improving blood lipid levels, regulating blood glucose, and improving satiety.
  • A popular misconception is that all of the fiber in a potato is found in the skin. While the skin does hold about half of the total dietary fiber, most (> 50 percent) are within the potato itself.
  • In the United States, recommendations for fiber consumption are often made relative to calorie intake. The currently suggested intake for fiber is 14g/1,000 kcal. Thus, an average adult woman should consume 25 grams of fiber per day, and the normal male should consume 38 grams of fiber per day.

Functions of Fiber

Dietary fiber is known to have various health benefits, including improving blood lipid levels and controlling blood glucose. It also helps improve satiety, which makes you feel full longer. This explains why fiber can help with weight loss.

Fiber Recommendations

The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for fiber is 25 g per day for women 19-50 years of age (28 g per day if pregnant or lactating) and 38 g per day for men 19-50 years of age.

Vitamin B6

A medium 5.3 oz skin-on potato is a good source of Vitamin B6, producing 10% of the suggested daily value.

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an essential role in carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It helps the body make nonessential amino acids required to make various body proteins.

Iron

A medium skin-on potato that weighs 5.3 oz gives 6% of the suggested daily value of iron. Iron is a mineral required in making proteins that carry oxygen to all parts of the body, including the muscles.

Health Benefits of Potatoes

Potatoes with skin may have numerous health benefits.

Heart Health

Hypertension, a harmful state characterized by abnormally high blood pressure, is one of the heart disease hazards.

Potatoes include several minerals and plant compounds that may help lower blood pressure.

The high potassium content of potatoes is especially noteworthy.

Many observational studies and randomized controlled tests link high potassium consumption to a reduced risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.

Other substances in potatoes that may help lower blood pressure include chlorogenic acid and kukoamines.

Fullness and Weight Management

Very filling foods may help weight control, prolonging the feeling of fullness after meals, and lessening food and calorie intake.

Related to other carb-rich foods, potatoes are incredibly filling.

One research of 40 common foods found potatoes to be the most filling.

Another small experiment in 11 men showed that eating boiled potatoes as a side with pork steak led to less calorie consumption than pasta or white rice.

Thus, potatoes may help weight loss by helping you reduce overall intake.

Studies show that proteinase inhibitor 2 (PI2), a potato protein, may subdue appetite.

Even though PI2 may suppress appetite when taken in its pure structure, it is unclear whether it impacts the trace amounts present in potatoes.

Safety and Side Effects

Eating potatoes is ordinarily healthy and safe.

However, in some cases, people need to restrict their intake — or avoid them altogether.

Potato Allergy

Food allergies are a recurring condition characterized by a harmful immune reaction to proteins in certain foods.

Potato allergy is comparatively rare, but some people may be allergic to patatin, one of the potatoes’ primary proteins.

Those who are allergic to latex may be receptive to patatin due to a phenomenon identified as allergic cross-reactivity.

Potato Toxins

Plants of the nightshade family, such as potatoes, hold a range of toxic phytonutrients known as glycoalkaloids.

The two principal glycoalkaloids in potatoes are solanine and chaconine.

Glycoalkaloid poisoning after consuming potatoes has been reported in both people and animals.

However, records of toxicity are rare, and the situation may go undiagnosed in many cases.

In low doses, glycoalkaloids usually cause mild symptoms like headaches, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. In more severe cases, the signs carry neurological disorders, rapid breathing, fast heartbeat, low blood pressure, fever, and even death.

Long-term glycoalkaloid consumption in mice shows an increase in the risk of cancer in the brain, lungs, breasts, and thyroid.

Other animal investigations show that low levels of glycoalkaloids may exacerbate inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Typically, potatoes carry only trace amounts of glycoalkaloids. A 154-pound (70-kg) person would have to eat over 13 cups (2 kg) of skin-on potatoes in one day to get a lethal dose. That said, lower amounts may still have adverse effects.

The levels of glycoalkaloids are more significant in the peel and sprouts than other parts of the potato. It’s best to avoid consuming potato sprouts.

Potatoes rich in glycoalkaloids have a bitter taste and cause a burning feeling in your mouth. It is an effect that may be a warning sign of potential toxicity.

Potato varieties with over 25mg per cup of glycoalkaloids cannot be sold commercially. And some types were even banned.

Acrylamides

Acrylamides are contaminants produced in carb-rich foods when they’re cooked at very high temperatures. They are found in baked, fried, or roasted potatoes, but not boiled, fresh, or steamed ones.

The amount of acrylamide develops with higher frying temperatures.

Compared to other foods, potato chips and french fries are very high in acrylamides.

These compounds are used as industrial chemicals. Moreover, acrylamide toxicity has been recorded in people exposed to them in the workplace.

Although the amount of acrylamides in foods is commonly low, long-term exposure may be harmful.

Animal studies show that acrylamides may increase cancer risk and harm the brain and nervous system. In humans, acrylamides have been labeled as a possible risk factor for cancer.

Various observational studies show the effect of eating acrylamide-rich foods on cancer risk. And most did not distinguish any significant adverse effects.

In contrast, a few research studies have connected acrylamides with an increased risk of cancer of the breasts, ovaries, kidneys, mouth, and esophagus.

High consumption of acrylamides, in the long run, may have adverse health effects. But the extent of these effects is unclear, and further investigations are required.

For optimal health, it seems reasonable to restrict your consumption of french fries and potato chips.

French Fries and Potato Chips

Potatoes have been criticized for contributing to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

The main reason for this is that potatoes are generally consumed as french fries and potato chips. These are high-fat foods that harbor several harmful compounds. French fries are also commonly associated with fast food.

Observational studies associate the consumption of fried potatoes and potato chips. Fried potatoes and potato chips may also carry acrylamides, glycoalkaloids, and high amounts of salt.

For this reason, high consumption of fried potatoes — particularly french fries and chips — should be avoided.

Final Thoughts

Potatoes are known to have high carbohydrate content. Nonetheless, it provides several healthy vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds. What’s more, they may aid weight loss and help prevent heart disease.

However, this does not apply to fried potatoes that have been soaked in oil and cooked under high heat. 

For optimal health, it’s best to limit or avoid these products altogether.

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