The all-round healthy potato can be prepared easily, quickly and in a wide variety of ways. By the way, potatoes don’t make you fat, and you don’t have to be afraid of blood sugar fluctuations after eating potatoes. The versatile tuber is also considered a basic vegetable. Read everything about the potato, its origin, preparation, nutritional values and much more.
The potato originally comes from South America
The potato (Solanum tuberosum), which belongs to the nightshade family (Solanaceae), originally comes from the highlands of South America. It was already cultivated there by the Incas. In 1526, the tuber traveled to Europe for the first time in the luggage of the Spanish conqueror and discoverer Pizarro.
As an unusual souvenir, the tuber was initially viewed with suspicion, as it was considered poisonous and inedible. Many upset their stomachs by eating the poisonous aerial parts of the plant instead of the tuber. For a long time, the potato was only used as an ornamental plant.
Its true value as a foodstuff was not recognized until 1770, when after the end of the Seven Years’ War there was a great famine and the tuber was remembered. Since then, the importance of its cultivation in Europe has increased enormously.
Today, alongside Germany, Italy, Spain, France, England, the Netherlands, Poland and China are among the major growing countries of the nutritious tuber. Incidentally, the potato is only very distantly related to the sweet potato.
The vitamin C content of the potato
More than 500 years ago, there was not only a threat of shipwreck and pirates on the high seas, but also a hitherto mysterious disease. It rotted teeth, weakened the sailors and could ultimately lead to death. The mystery was only solved in the 18th century. It was scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency.
In 1753 the British naval doctor Dr. James Lind finally found the appropriate antidotes: sauerkraut, citrus fruits and the basic potato. Although it was not yet known whether the potato was alkaline or acidic, it was immediately on board to prevent scurvy.
Well, the tuber is not THE vitamin C star per se, but there are still about 15 mg of vitamin C in the cooked potato (per 100 g) if it is cooked with the skin, and 19 mg in the raw tuber. And since you can easily eat 400-500g of potatoes (which doesn’t mean you should do it every day, but certainly did in the olden days because there wasn’t much else), that’s a relevant dose too.
There are about 5,000 potato varieties
There are around 5,000 potato varieties worldwide, but only 180 potato varieties are approved for cultivation in Germany.
However, the variety classification is mainly based on the ripening period, which varies between at least 90 and a maximum of 160 days. Accordingly, a distinction is made between very early varieties (early potatoes), early varieties, mid-early and mid-late to late varieties.
Another criterion is the respective cooking properties: There are waxy potatoes (e.g. Sieglinde, Charlotte, Bamberger Hörnchen, Pink fir Apple), predominantly waxy potatoes (e.g. Agria, Gala, Blauer Schwede) and floury potatoes (e.g B. Bintje, Concordia). The latter are used for mashed potatoes, the former for potato salads. For most other potato dishes, the predominantly waxy potatoes are suitable.
However, the colored potatoes are particularly interesting from a nutritional point of view. They not only impress with their colorful appearance — they come in red, yellow, purple, or blue — but also because of their particularly high antioxidant content compared to “regular” potatoes.
Most antioxidants in colorful potatoes
According to various studies, the potato is one of the most important sources of antioxidants in human nutrition. These are sometimes secondary plant substances such as flavonoids (e.g. the blue-violet pigments called anthocyanins), kucoamines and also the yellow-orange carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. All of these substances have an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect, so they can reduce oxidative stress and thus prevent cell damage, reduce the risk of cancer and general diseases and inhibit the aging process.
Flavonoids and kukoamines in particular are known to lower blood pressure that is too high. Kukoamine was previously only known as a component of the exotic Lycium Chinense berry (also marketed as Goji berry), which has long been used as a medicinal in traditional Chinese medicine. The antioxidant content is particularly high in blue and violet potatoes and their consumption, e.g. B. in high blood pressure.
In a study from 2011, for example, the participants ate 6 to 8 tubers of blue varieties every day for just four weeks – with the skin but without the addition of butter or other fats. The astonishing result: the systolic value had fallen by an average of 3.5 percent and the diastolic value by 4.3 percent. And the best thing about it: No participant had gained weight, which brings us to an important question:
Potatoes don’t make you fat
According to US researchers, the potato is often held responsible for obesity. But the tuber itself does not make you fat. Because it only provides 73 kcal per 100 g. The problem is that the tuber is often consumed in a highly processed form and with a lot of fat added. In the form of dishes such as fries and chips, the potato quickly mutates into a calorie bomb.
However, potatoes baked with their skins or jacket potatoes can be eaten without worrying about looking at the scales and do not lead to high blood sugar levels or high insulin release, as is often assumed. Both are associated with imminent obesity.
The glycemic load (GL) of jacket potatoes is around 18. Above 20, the values of the glycemic load are considered high and therefore critical for the blood sugar level. The glycemic load describes the ability of a food to affect blood sugar levels.
Now, for example, oat porridge also has a value of 18 – and that, since oats are known to reduce the risk of diabetes. Values such as the glycemic load alone cannot provide any information about whether a food is healthy, whether it makes you fat or not.
The GL values are also very dependent on the potato variety. For example, the Nicola salad potato is said to only have a glycemic load of 9 (when cooked unpeeled).
However, the insulin index – which describes the ability of a food to raise the insulin level – is 120 for the potato (unfortunately the variety is not given here), which is very high and actually means that the tuber drives up the insulin level sharply. (A Mars bar is 112 and white bread is 100).
Potatoes help you lose weight
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition looked at the impact of potatoes and glycemic load on subjects’ health and weight.
90 overweight people were divided into three groups: All three groups should eat 5 to 7 servings of potatoes per week. Two of the groups also had to reduce their daily calorie intake by 500 calories. One of them should eat plenty of foods with a high glycemic load, the other should eat foods with a low glycemic load.
After 12 weeks, there were no significant differences between the three groups (in terms of blood lipid levels, insulin levels and insulin resistance). However, all three groups had lost some weight. So it seems that the tuber can even help with weight loss – without negatively affecting blood sugar levels.
You should also keep in mind that hardly anyone eats only potatoes day in and day out. So you eat other foods such. B. Vegetables, sauces, tofu or whatever. But then these foods – their fiber or proteins – also affect the blood sugar level. And even if the tuber would increase blood sugar, this no longer happens because the dietary fibers, fats or proteins in the other foods prevent this.
So there’s no use looking at the glycemic load or insulin index of a single food if you’re not eating it on its own. Instead, it is necessary to consider the glycemic load or insulin index of the whole meal – and these values tend to look completely different from those of the individual ingredients.
If you still want to pay attention to the GL when choosing food, you should know: Depending on the type of potato, storage and preparation, this varies greatly and can even double.
If you want to keep the GL as low as possible, you should cook the tuber in the skin and let it cool until the next day. This is because hot and/or mashed potatoes contain peak GL values. On the other hand, if the potato cools down, part of its starch converts into the so-called resistant starch, which can no longer be broken down into sugar during digestion, which naturally lowers the GL.
Healthy recipes with potatoes
In our recipe section you will find a large selection of wholesome and healthy potato recipes. Whether pureed, baked in the oven, as a casserole, balls or curries, you will find what you are looking for with us. Of course we also have a selection of recipes for healthy French fries!
Nutritional values, vitamins and minerals of the potato
The nutritional values, vitamins and minerals per 100 grams of boiled potatoes.
The potato is popularly known as the lemon of the north because of its vitamin C content. Compared to other types of fruit and vegetables, their vitamin C content is only around 15 mg per 100 grams, depending on how they are processed. Nevertheless, they are a good source of vitamins as a supplement or alternative. In any case, you eat 200 g of the potato, which already corresponds to 30 mg of vitamin C, than, for example, of the vitamin C-rich lemon.
The high concentration of the mineral potassium compared to sodium ensures gentle detoxification and the elimination of excess fluids via the kidneys. Blood pressure also benefits from high potassium levels. Not least because of this potassium surplus, the potato is also counted among the alkaline foods.
No wonder that the alkaline potato helps with heartburn, belching, a feeling of fullness or irritation of the stomach lining.
The basic potato for heartburn and diarrhea
In the case of stomach problems such as heartburn, it is recommended to take around 200 ml of freshly squeezed potato juice daily over a longer period of time. The alkaline effect of the tuber usually immediately leads to an improvement in symptoms, which was confirmed by a study carried out at the University of Freiburg with 44 irritable bowel patients.
In acute gastrointestinal diseases with diarrhea, mashed potatoes have proven themselves. Due to its starch content, it binds acids and toxins and has a calming effect. It is also easy to digest and does not unnecessarily burden the stomach. Of course, mashed potatoes for this purpose should be prepared without milk, butter or cream.
Potatoes as a natural home remedy
In the past, the potato was also used as a practical and almost always available home remedy for a wide variety of ailments:
Cold compresses made from raw, washed potatoes were particularly popular, as they showed their healing effect on rheumatic flare-ups, sprains and mosquito bites. To do this, the tubers were washed, grated with their skins and, traditionally, mixed with a little milk to form a spreadable paste. As an alternative to milk, we recommend liquid coconut oil.
The plant substance quercetin, which is found in the peel, unfolds its anti-inflammatory effect here. In addition, the cooling effect is perceived as very pleasant.
According to a study at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, the tuber is still frequently used as a medicinal plant in traditional Indian medicine. Potato juice is taken to treat stomach ulcers, relieve pain and counteract hyperacidity. Externally, the potato juice z. B. in rheumatism, swelling, skin rashes and applied. Peeled, uncooked potatoes are pounded in a mortar and then applied as a soothing plaster for burns and scalds. Potato peels are used to treat swollen gums.
By the way, the potato is an insider tip for colds. Because inhalations with potato steam and drunk potato juice have an expectorant, calming and anti-inflammatory effect.
Potato peel and raw potatoes are non-toxic
The question of whether raw potatoes are poisonous is always a topic of discussion. Sometimes it is also said that the shell is poisonous.
Neither is correct. The raw potato is a little harder to digest, but not poisonous. Many raw foodists regularly eat raw potatoes – whether in a salad or dried into chips in a dehydrator – without a known case of death or poisoning.
The skin does not lead to poisoning either, unless you prefer to eat potato skins. Most of the vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and phytochemicals, all of which are very beneficial to health, are found in and directly below it. Nevertheless, there is also a certain danger lurking there due to the poisonous solanine – an alkaloid with dose-dependent toxic effects.
In modern potato varieties, however, the amounts of solanine are now very low (5 to 7 mg per 100 g). You would have to eat 12 pounds of raw, unpeeled potatoes to get a lethal dose of solanine.
However, it becomes problematic when the potato has turned green. Although the green in the potato is not the solanine, but the chlorophyll, we know that under the influence of sunlight not only chlorophyll develops in the potato, but also plenty of solanine.
Green potatoes can reach solanine levels averaging 35mg per 100g. Green tubers or tubers that have already sprouted (the shoots also contain a lot of solanine) should therefore no longer be eaten. Even cutting away green areas does not protect against solanine uptake, since solanine can also form under the influence of light in places in the potato where no chlorophyll is yet visible. The solanine also survives the cooking process to a certain extent, so that cooking is not a solution here either.
Make sure that the potatoes are processed gently (stewing, cooking or steaming). This prevents the “washing out” of water-soluble nutrients and vital substances (e.g. all minerals). In addition, this prevents the formation of the unfavorable acrylamide, which can result from roasting, deep-frying or roasting and is considered carcinogenic.
If you want to cook the potato, you should always do so with the skin so that as many vital substances as possible remain in the tuber and do not end up in the cooking water. This can then be removed before consumption.
The right storage
As with any vegetable and fruit, storage is a key factor in terms of health value. Both short and long storage can have advantages and disadvantages. For example, a Finnish study showed that the blood pressure-lowering properties of potatoes were most pronounced after they had been stored for 5 to 6 months.
When shopping, however, make sure not to catch any green tubers. In the supermarkets, potato nets often lie in bright light for days, so that the first green spots can already develop there.
As soon as you have bought perfect potatoes, correct storage at home is the be-all and end-all. Cool, frost-free, dry, darkened cellars or pantries with a temperature between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius are suitable for this. This is the only way to prevent premature rot, budding and the formation of green spots. Ideally, new potatoes should not be stored at all (for a maximum of two weeks), but should be prepared and eaten as quickly as possible.
All other potatoes can be stored for a longer period of time – several months – provided the conditions are right. However, you should be suspicious if the tubers do not change at all after many months. Then it could be that they are chemically treated.
Conventional potatoes mostly contain pesticides
Ideally, only buy untreated potatoes (preferably organic). This recommendation is also repeatedly passed on by the chemical and veterinary investigation office in Stuttgart. In the period from 2016 to 2020, analyzes of a total of 228 potato samples from conventional cultivation showed that 212 of these samples (93 percent) contained pesticide residues. 177 samples contained multiple residues and the statutory maximum levels were even exceeded in 10 samples. The discovered pesticides were e.g. B. to:
Fosthiazate was approved in the EU in 2004 and is mainly used in potato cultivation to kill nematodes and insects. In 2020, a study showed that the active ingredient is much more polluting than previously thought.
The herbicide glufosinate was classified by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture as reproductively toxic in relation to mammals and humans and is therefore no longer permitted in Germany. However, this does not prevent the German company BASF from continuing to export glufosinate to Brazil. The herbicide is also still used in some EU countries and in Switzerland (as of August 2021).
The herbicide haloxyfop was removed from the list of permitted active substances in the EU in December 2020, but is still permitted in other countries such as Switzerland. Animal studies have u. shown that the active substance impairs the function of the liver and kidneys and reduces the ability to reproduce.
Germ inhibitors are harmful
Conventionally produced potatoes are not only treated with chemicals before but also after harvesting, which are intended to prevent the potatoes from sprouting prematurely. Until 2020, the germ inhibitor chlorpropham was primarily used (more than 50 percent of the tubers contained residues), which was banned due to a possible health risk to humans and animals (e.g. cancer, damage to the liver and kidneys).
The germ inhibitor 1,4-dimethylnaphthalene is now used as an alternative, which is known to be extremely toxic to aquatic organisms – and that’s in the long term.
Organic tubers are better
It is not uncommon to hear or read that it doesn’t matter whether you buy products from conventional or organic cultivation. The chemical and veterinary investigation office in Stuttgart, which carries out analyzes of all kinds of food year after year, vehemently contradicts this.
In the years 2016 to 2020, a total of 44 samples of organic potatoes were examined for pesticide residues. Residues were only identified in 2 samples and in principle no multiple residues at all. Germ inhibitors can also be ruled out with organic tubers. Potatoes usually contain organic where it says organic.