What more could you want in a superfood? Potatoes have healing powers, aids digestion, lowers blood pressure, prevents cancer, tastes great with steak and almost anything else... Why do we eat them? They're nutritious and delicious!
Let’s nip it in the bud from the start, this is not about "paddywhackery" or awful stereotypes. It’s about a superfood that we love! For years on IrishCentral, recipes such as colcannon, boxty, shepherd’s pie, and wild garlic gratin have been among our readers' favorites. What do they all have in common? The humble spud.
There are reports that in pre-Famine Ireland laborers ate potatoes by the pound. Given how high many carvery plates are still stacked today with roast and boiled potatoes slathered in gravy, it’s not hard to imagine. However, nowadays, given globalization and influences from abroad, pasta and rice have arrived as very stiff competition for Ireland’s favorite starch.
Read more: Ten Irish potato recipes with a twist
Although we Irish have shown that we love global cuisine, Bord Bia, Ireland food board, recently asked the Irish what their favorite dinner was. Their national response made this writer’s heart swell… bacon, cabbage, and potatoes! Delicious.
But backing away from what the heart wants (potatoes) and on to the health kick!
Irish potatoes, also known as the tuberous crop from the perennial nightshade solanum tuberosum, are a superfood because they are:
- An excellent source of vitamin C
- A good source of potassium (more than a banana!)
- A good source of vitamin B6
- Fat, sodium and cholesterol free
- also only 110 calories per serving – so dig in!
They’re also packed with other vitamins and minerals, such as carotenoids and natural phenols, trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, but here’s a breakdown of the basic.
Reasons the Irish potato is a superfood:
A potato provides 45% of your “Daily Value” (DV, the amount you need per day) of Vitamin C. That’s more than a medium tomato (40%) or a sweet potato (30%).
And, what does Vitamin C do? It is a water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant, stabilizing free radicals and, therefore, it helps prevent cellular damage. It also aids collagen production, iron absorption, and helps heal wounds, and keep your gums healthy.
A medium sized potato, with the skins on, contributes 2 grams of fiber (that’s 8% DV).
Fiber is a complex carbohydrate. It is the part of the plant material that cannot be digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. Soluble fiber may help with weight loss, as it makes you feel full longer, and research has shown it also may help lower blood cholesterol.
The high levels of dietary fiber present in potatoes support healthy digestion and regular bowel movements while giving a protective effect from colon cancer.
One medium potato provides 6% of your DV of iron. Imagine if you have that with a grilled lean steak!
Potatoes are rich in vitamin B6 (10% DV), needed for the renewal of cells and maintenance of a healthy nervous system and a balanced mood. Vitamin B6 aids in the production of adrenaline, a hormone that helps us respond to stress, and GABA, a substance linked to relaxation.
Read more: Irish potato and cheese soup recipe
It also helps the body make nonessential amino acids needed to make various body proteins; it is a cofactor for several co-enzymes involved in energy metabolism. Vitamin B6 is required for the synthesis of hemoglobin – an essential component of red blood cells.
Lowers blood pressure
The fiber and potassium found in potatoes are like a miracle worker.
Fiber helps in lowering cholesterol and improves the functioning of insulin in the body, which helps lower blood pressure.
A potato includes 620 milligrams / 18% of your Daily Vale of potassium. This is needed to neutralize the adverse effects of sodium which could lead to an increase in blood pressure.
Boosts brain function
The B6 vitamins in Irish potatoes are critical to maintaining neurological health. Vitamin B6 helps create useful brain chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
In addition, it contains other elements like phosphorus and zinc which are good for the brain.
Irish potatoes contain minerals, roughages, and a substance called carotenoids, which promote good heart health.
Potatoes are rich in the sources of flavonoid antioxidants and vitamin A, like zeaxanthin and carotenes, as well as a compound called quercetin. To mere mortals that doesn’t mean a whole lot, but in essence, what it comes down to, is that potatoes protect you from cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells.
So, what are we saying? Dig in! Whether they’re boiled, roasted or baked get those Irish spuds into ye!
*Originally published in 2018.