Ah the lowly potato. Often demised as a carbohydrate-heavy contributor to excess weight, it has remained a beloved part of the standard American diet. But did you know, in addition to the incredible variety of ways you can eat this tuber, potatoes offer a plethora of nutrition and health benefits?
Because they are high in carbohydrates, potatoes deliver lots of tryptophan, which help boost levels of serotonin, the happiness hormone. As a result, they reduce PMS symptoms and depression, and support a good night’s sleep. Their high fiber content, located mainly in the skin, supports proper digestion and elimination, as well as faster satiation (so you get fuller faster!) In addition to lots of fiber, potatoes contain substantial potassium, which helps lower blood pressure. The potassium and magnesium together help strengthen bones. And the magnesium and fiber help prevent kidney stones. All of these nutrients, along with Vitamins C and B6, help support heart health. Additionally, Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which helps prevent cellular damage that can lead to Alzheimers and memory loss; plus, the alpha lipoic acid in potatoes is conducive to a better functioning brain. Contrary to popular belief, the glycoalkoloids found in the skin of these nightshade vegetables actually produce a bitter flavor that tends to reduce, rather than increase, inflammation (for most people).
And it turns out that potatoes are not just good for the inside of the body; they can be great for the skin and hair as well. Regular use of potato juice on the skin can help reduce wrinkles and dry skin, build collagen, treat sunburn and reduce dark spots, including dark circles under the eyes. Hair tonics can help prevent hair loss and the dreaded gray.
THE AYURVEDIC WAY TO EAT POTATOES
Of course, Ayurveda has always embraced potatoes for certain body types at certain times of life based on the qualities and taste of this most popular vegetable. And there is a right and wrong way to eat them.
Ayurvedically-speaking, potatoes are considered soothing, yet astringent or drying in taste, with a cool and sweet post-digestive effect. While generally good for all doshas, as a nightshade they can aggravate certain Vata and Pitta types who may be challenged by arthritis or liver toxicity. Note: cooking nightshades reduces problems, particularly when the peels are removed.
Potatoes are one of the most strengthening of vegetables, helping to reduce diarrhea and improve absorption of nutrients in the digestive tract. They are heavy and dry so they can be difficult to digest without supportive spices and proper cooking. For this reason, Vata types should take them with ghee, butter or oil after steaming or mashing. Kapha types do better with baked potatoes with curry spices sans the butter and sour cream. Potatoes have a diuretic quality that help reduce Kapha edema and a sedative or grounding quality that help balance Vata types. They increase breast milk production in nursing women.
Kaphas should avoid sweet potatoes and yams, which are more moistening and tonifying. Pittas do well with small amounts of all types of potatoes, and Vatas tend to benefit from all varieties. Potatoes should always be eaten with other vegetables or proteins, the same as you would do with any other higher carbohydrate food.
In general, you should NEVER eat potatoes raw or once they have turned green or begun sprouting. They can contain poisonous chemicals that will upset your digestive system. Wash the skins just prior to cooking. Leave the skin on if at all possible, unless you have a challenge with nightshades. NEVER deep fry potatoes; that means French fries are out. Deep frying destroys all of the vitamins and makes potatoes harder to digest. It is far better to eat potatoes boiled, mashed or baked. This still leaves you with an incredible number of ways to enjoy this diverse vegetable. Try them in this potato salad recipe from Joyful Belly, or check out several more recipes and a comprehensive list of potato facts in this article from Stylecraze.
Want more fun facts on potatoes, including the many uses of potatoes by the Incas? Check out this article from Potatoes USA.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.