Despite the popularity of the potato today, there was a time when this vegetable was considered poisonous by people. Along with tomatoes and eggplants, potatoes belong to the nightshade family, some of which are actually poisonous. Today potatoes, due to their versatility and low cost, are one of the most popular crops available all year round.
Potato is a starchy vegetable from the nightshade family. The underground part of the plant, which is called the tuber, is eaten. The potato is the fourth most popular food crop in the world. Its glory is second only to rice, wheat and corn.
Today there are several known hundreds of varieties of potatoes. They vary in size, shape, color, odor, and starch content. As they ripen, young and old potatoes are distinguished.
The skin of most ripe fruits is brown, yellow or reddish, and may be smooth or rough. Meanwhile, there are more unusual representatives of the species - with a purple skin, and some have the same deep purple flesh.
Today, this once-infamous vegetable is one of the most consumed vegetables in the world. For commercial purposes, it is grown in Russia, Poland, India, China, the USA and many other countries.
Varieties of potatoes
When choosing a potato, it is important to consider for what culinary purposes the vegetable should serve. High-starchy varieties (Elizaveta, Sineglazka, Adretta, Lorch) are considered ideal for mashed potatoes. Such tubers are quickly boiled, turning into a gentle puree. For soups, it is important to choose potatoes from varieties with a low starch content. As a rule, Red Scarlett, Luck, Leader, Ivan da Marya are suitable for such purposes. They will not overcook and will not spoil the look and taste of the soup. If you are planning to cook fried potatoes, then all the attention is on varieties in which the starch does not break down into sugar, so that the finished potato retains its shape. For frying, potatoes from the varieties Nadezhda, Feloks, Kolobok, Leader are ideal.
And now a little secret for those who do not want to remember the name of potato varieties suitable for certain purposes.
So, the fewer days a vegetable needs to ripen, the less starch it contains.
There is a classification according to which all varieties of vegetables are divided into 4 classes:
- group A - does not boil soft, minimum starch, ideal for salads;
- group B - poorly boiled, suitable for making chips;
- group C - very soft, suitable for cooking french fries;
- group D - very quickly boiled, good for mashed potatoes.
Potato connoisseurs also distinguish varieties by skin color:
- white: Bellarosa, Minerva, Tiras; they contain a lot of vitamin C and starch, quickly boil soft;
- Reds: Sheri, Red Tamb, Rose Finn Apple, Kamensky; they are rich in antioxidants, do not boil soft, are suitable for long-term storage;
- yellow: Symphony, Vineta, Rosalind; vegetables are rich in carotene, with a sweetish aftertaste, poorly boiled soft.
The history of potatoes
Today it is difficult for many to imagine life without potatoes. But in the old days, people with fear avoided these fruits, although 2000 years ago, the ancient Incas in the highlands of South America grew this plant. But even this date historians do not call the “birthday” of potatoes.
It is believed that this representative of nightshade grew on the territory of modern Peru as early as the 8th millennium BC. When the Spanish conquistadors conquered Peruvian lands, they first discovered potatoes, which they brought with them to Europe. By the end of the 16th century, the families of Basque sailors in northern Spain were willingly growing it. Just a few years later, this tradition was adopted by the inhabitants of Ireland. It took about four decades for potato tubers to captivate the rest of Europe. In the end, European farmers realized that it was much easier to grow potatoes than wheat or oats. And during the period of the "gold rush" (the end of the 19th century) in Alaska, this nutritious vegetable was valued almost by the weight of the precious metal. An equally interesting fact from the "biography" of this plant is that in 1995 NASA and American scientists developed a technique for growing potatoes in space.
Potatoes are extremely popular in most cuisines of the world. But modern people often use this vegetable in its not the most useful form - in the form of chips or french fries. Even baked potatoes stuffed with butter, sour cream, melted cheeses and bacon lose many of their health benefits. In this form, this representative of the nightshade not only ceases to be useful, it sometimes turns into food dangerous to humans. This is especially true for people with diabetes, heart disorders, diseased blood vessels, liver or pancreas dysfunction.
But in spite of everything, if you follow the rules for preparing and eating this vegetable, it is very useful for humans. Potatoes contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant abilities. Among them are health-promoting carotenoids, flavonoids, caffeic acid, glycoprotein patatin (important for fighting free radicals).
In addition, studies have shown that potatoes reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and promote healthy hair and skin.
Benefits for the heart and blood vessels
British scientists have identified a unique substance in the potato that has hypotensive properties. Previously, it was believed that the found compound is found only in Chinese barberry.
It is also important to remember that potatoes contain fiber, vitamins C and B6, which are necessary for a strong heart. Fiber helps lower total cholesterol levels, which prevents the risk of heart disease and blockage of blood vessels, and potassium reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. As for vitamin B6, it prevents the accumulation in the body of homocysteine , the excess of which leads to vascular damage.
Healthy bones and joints
Phosphorus, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium contained in potatoes contribute to the creation and maintenance of bone health. Iron and zinc play a fundamental role in the production of collagen, which is important for joints and cartilage. And phosphorus and calcium are indispensable components of optimal bone mineralization.
Benefits for the brain and nervous system
The pyridoxine (vitamin B6) contained in this vegetable is extremely beneficial for maintaining neurological health. This component contributes to the production of various beneficial substances, including serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine. That is, eating potato dishes will help prevent or overcome depression, stress, and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The large amount of carbohydrates in potatoes has its advantages, since these substances are also important for the adequate functioning of brain cells. Americans have determined that even a slight increase in doses of glucose improves the quality of learning. And potassium, the very element that is essential for heart health, also plays an important role in maintaining the functioning of the brain. This substance, causing vasodilation, improves the supply of brain cells with oxygenated blood, without which mental activity is impossible.
Among the chemical constituents of the potato, mention should be made of choline. This is the "universal soldier". It is important for maintaining healthy sleep, enhancing memory, improving learning abilities, and strengthening muscles. Choline affects the structure of cell membranes, promotes the transmission of nerve impulses, fat metabolism, and is also important in the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammation.
It has long been believed in scientific circles that potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and other members of the nightshade family cause arthritis to flare up. Meanwhile, not so long ago, the results of new studies have refuted this opinion. Volunteers who took part in the study agreed: A 2-week potato diet reduces arthritis symptoms.
This led to the conclusion that nightshades are useful for chronic inflammation, particularly in the joints. However, research in this area is still ongoing.
Raw vegetables contain folic acid, which is an essential component in the process of DNA formation. Avoiding complex scientific terms, we can say that it is folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) that prevents mutations in DNA cells and prevents the formation of cancerous tumors in the body. In addition, scientists have long proven the anti-cancer abilities of fiber, which is very abundant in potatoes. And speaking of the anti-cancer properties of potatoes, one cannot help but recall vitamin C and quercetin. Both substances are found in the vegetable and both have antioxidant properties, which means they are necessary for the body as a defense against free radicals.
Digestion and obesity
And again, we have to remember the beneficial properties of dietary fiber contained in potatoes. They prevent irritation of the mucous membrane of the digestive tract. Fiber-rich foods have a positive effect on bowel function and are also important for preventing and losing weight. Fiber, getting into the digestive tract, provides a feeling of satiety for a long time and prevents overeating. But in this case, we are talking about potatoes cooked without additional high-calorie ingredients and with a limited amount of salt. For example, it can be a baked potato or boiled in their skins without butter, fat, bacon or other ingredients.
When choosing potatoes as an ingredient in a weight loss diet, it is important to know that the calorie content of boiled and fried products is significantly different.
This starchy vegetable is one of the best sources of soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as B vitamins. It is extremely rich in potassium, but in addition to this nutrient, it contains a lot of iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. Most of us are accustomed to the fact that the best "suppliers" of ascorbic acid are citrus fruits. Meanwhile, 100 grams of potatoes contain almost half of the daily requirement of vitamin C (especially large reserves of ascorbic acid are present in young potatoes).
Interestingly, the proteins contained in the vegetable contain almost all the amino acids necessary for a person .
|Vitamin B1||0.08 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.038 mg|
|Vitamin B3||1.15 mg|
|Vitamin B5||0.28 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.24 mg|
|Vitamin B9||18 mcg|
|Vitamin A]||7 IU|
|Vitamin C||11.4 mg|
|Vitamin K||2.9 μg|
|Zinc [1 85]||0.33 mg|
Truths and lies about poisons in potatoes
Sometimes people wonder if potato "eyes" are poisonous and whether they can be eaten. Experts in healthy nutrition say that the "eyes" become poisonous only after germination. Also, the stems, leaves and fruits of the potato plant should not be eaten, as they actually contain poisonous components such as arsenic and solanine. For the same reason, green tubers are not eaten either.
As already mentioned, the Incas were the first to learn how to grow potatoes. They noticed the healing properties of this vegetable. For them, the nightshade representative served not only as a nutritious dinner. Here are some interesting uses of potato tubers as a medicine:
- The Incas applied raw vegetable slices to fractures to speed up the healing of an injury.
- Potato has been used as a remedy for rheumatism.
- The vegetable was used as a remedy for indigestion.
- In folk medicine, potato juice was used to get rid of age spots.
- Frostbite and sunburn were treated with raw vegetable gruel or its juice.
- Ancient healers used to treat sore throats with baked potatoes wrapped in cloth tied to the throat.
- In the old days, any kind of pain was relieved by rubbing the sore spot with a decoction in which a vegetable was boiled.
Possible side effects
Potato itself is not dangerous to humans. However, there are some nuances that determine the quality of the product and its useful properties. If during the growing process the vegetable succumbed to the abundant exposure to pesticides, it can become hazardous to health. Also, nutritionists call french fries harmful, in which trans fats and carcinogens are often present.
Do not forget that starchy potatoes contain quite a lot of carbohydrates that can be quickly absorbed, that is, they belong to food with a high glycemic index. And a sharp increase in the concentration of sugar in the blood is an extremely undesirable reaction for diabetics. For this reason, people with "sugar disease" are advised to refrain from large portions of potatoes.
Potatoes in cosmetics
Healthy appearance and youthfulness of the skin directly depend on the concentration of collagen in the body. Vitamin C, which is part of the potato, not only works as an antioxidant, protecting the skin from the harmful effects of dust, smoke and UV radiation, but also activates collagen production. Thus, we can say that ordinary potatoes smooth out wrinkles and improve the overall condition of the skin.
Potato will also help:
- removes dark circles under the eyes (apply raw slices for 20 minutes or apply potato juice with a cotton swab);
- smoothes wrinkles;
- removes age spots (apply a mask of crushed raw vegetable to the face);
- heals sunburn (apply vegetable juice to damaged areas or apply raw potato slices);
- nourishes dry skin (make masks from cottage cheese and raw potatoes);
- relieves itching after insect bites (apply a slice to the bite site);
- reduces swelling of the eyelids.
Potato is not only an excellent cosmetic product for the skin, it is also good for hair:
- strengthens hair (make a mask of potato gruel, egg and lemon juice);
- prevents graying (rinsing hair with water in which potatoes have been boiled);
- stops hair loss (make a mask of honey, aloe juice and potatoes).
How to select and store properly
Healthy potato tubers should be firm, relatively smooth, free of external damage and rot. When buying potatoes in a store or market, it is important to avoid germinated tubers or green vegetables. In both cases, this is a sign of the presence of the toxic alkaloid solanine, which gives the vegetable an unpleasant aftertaste, and also negatively affects the state of the heart, blood vessels, respiratory system, causes headaches and diarrhea. Since young potatoes are harvested before full maturity, these tubers are more vulnerable to damage and rot. It is important to carefully inspect such a product.
The ideal storage conditions for potatoes is a dry room where the temperature does not exceed 7-10 degrees Celsius. In heat (even at room temperature), the vegetable dries quickly and germinates.
Another important condition for the proper storage of potatoes is to avoid direct sunlight, as under their influence solanine is formed in the tubers. However, storing a vegetable in the refrigerator, as some do, is also not worth it. Under such conditions, starch is transformed into sugar, giving the vegetable an undesirable aftertaste. Eliminate the close proximity of potatoes and onions, otherwise both vegetables will spoil faster than usual. And no matter where the potatoes are stored, do not put them in plastic bags. It is better to give preference to paper or burlap.
Ripe potatoes can be stored from 2 months to six months (under acceptable conditions), young - as a rule, a week or two. Vegetable dishes can be kept in the refrigerator for several days. But it is impossible to freeze the root crop and dishes from it.
What does the appearance of a potato say:
- the thicker the skin, the more mature the vegetable, this is suitable for storage for the winter;
- holes on the surface - the vegetable was damaged by a wire beetle;
- easy to “cut” with a fingernail – contains nitrates;
- brown spots - the vegetable is sick with a fungus;
- The brighter the color of the potato, the more antioxidants it contains.
We are used to having potatoes regularly in our diet. We know that potatoes are tasty, satisfying and easy to prepare. For many readers, this list of benefits is already enough to ensure that there are always a couple of fresh tubers in the house. Potatoes are not only affordable, but also healthy food. However, it is useful only if properly prepared.
- Wikipedia - Solanaceae
- Internet portal "Agrosbornik" - Determination of the content of free starch
- BBC Russian news service - What does everyone need to know about potatoes?
- Wikipedia - Potatoes
- Archive of the State Sort Commission - Potato varieties included in the State Register
- International Potato Center – Indicators show potatoes can grow on Mars
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – Potatoes, nutrition and diet
- ResearchGate (social network for scientists) - Biochemical composition and table qualities of potato varieties
- Federal Research Institute for Nutrition, Biotechnology and Food Safety - Media issues
- CyberLeninka (electronic scientific library) - Ode to potatoes
- Internet portal "All about Allergy" - Allergy to potatoes?
- Russian quality system (Internet portal) - Useful and harmful potatoes