Taking to heart some potato truths

8 Jun 2021

We HEART potatoes. We really do. You may think we’re biased, so we’ve stacked up the science to show you that the humble spud really is a heart-healthy, tummy-satisfying, taste-tantalising addition to your diet.  Nutrient-dense for a nice priceNot only are potatoes loaded with nutrients (vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, folate, iron and fibre), […]

We HEART potatoes. We really do. You may think we’re biased, so we’ve stacked up the science to show you that the humble spud really is a heart-healthy, tummy-satisfying, taste-tantalising addition to your diet. 

Nutrient-dense for a nice price
Not only are potatoes loaded with nutrients (vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, folate, iron and fibre), they are also versatile, cost-effective and an easy-to-cook vegetable that is wholesome and nutritious when prepared correctly. You can blame the ‘misses’ (misinformation and misinterpretation, that is) for any unfavourable reputation potatoes may have gained in the past.

For your heart, the caring is in the preparing
A review of the science shows that the enemy of the plate is not the potato, but rather any unhealthy cooking preparation methods that may be used. Research reliably shows us that when potatoes are boiled, steamed or baked with their skin intact, they provide loads of heart health benefits. Potatoes in their natural form and with their skins on are cholesterol and fat-free, a source of fibre and are a superior source of certain key vitamins, such as potassium.

South African heart health under the scope
A 13-yearlong study of 69,000 people showed that potato intake is not associated with a higher risk of heart attacks, stroke, or heart failure. For South Africans, particularly, heart-related diseases are health risks that are growing rapidly caused by a combination of poor eating habits, lack of physical activity and excessive alcohol intake. In fact, an article published this year in the Global Heart Journal shows cardiovascular diseases to be the most frequent cause of non-communicable disease-related deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Potatoes to ease heart disease
Following a healthy diet is one of the most important preventive behaviours to reduce heart disease. Particularly, a diet that is high in fibre, low in added salt, high in monounsaturated fats (the good fats like olive oil, nuts and avocado) and high in heart-protective phytonutrients (that you get from eating lots of colourful vegetables). Potatoes have the potential to contribute all these elements when eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet. The potato’s skin and flesh offers fibre; when cooked with herbs and rubbed with a little olive or canola oil potatoes are low in salt and a source of monounsaturated fats and the potato skin also contains plant compounds that actively improve heart health.

So, try out simple, home-cooked dishes that hero the humble spud in heart-healthy ways and you will see that potatoes can be easy, economical and improve your health…one delicious bite at a time!

Simplifying the scientific jargon

Monounsaturated fats: these are the heart healthy type of fats that are found in olive oil, avocados, canola oil and certain nuts.

Vitamin C: is an essential vitamin found in foods such as strawberries, guavas, paw paw, bell peppers and kiwi fruit. Vitamin C is involved is used in the body for tissue repair and a lack of vitamin C can lead to a medical condition called scurvy.

Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is actually a group of chemical compounds that are closely related and that are essential for the body. These compounds are found in a variety of foods including chicken and fish as well as oats, bananas and peanuts. Vitamin B6 compounds help to make sure certain chemical reactions happen correctly in areas of the body such as the nervous system, skin, and blood.

Potassium: is an important mineral in the body that helps to manage fluid balance across the different cells and it is also needed for optimal muscle contractions and nerve signals.

Magnesium: is also a mineral that the body needs to function correctly. It also plays a role in muscle contraction and nerve function but is also used in the making of proteins, bone and DNA.

Folate: is classified as a type of B-vitamin and it is a nutrient that is also naturally found in many foods, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and beans. Your body needs folate to make DNA and other genetic material.

Iron: Iron is a mineral, and its main function is to carry oxygen in the red blood cells in the body so that the cells of the body can function correctly with a regular supply of oxygen from the blood.

Fibre: is found in most plant foods and is the part of the vegetables and fruit that can’t be broken down and absorbed. Fibre is the roughage that adds bulk to the contents in the gut and is essential for digestion.

Cholesterol: is a type of lipid or fat that is an essential building block for the membranes of the cells of the body. A build of too much cholesterol in the blood can be a risk factor for heart disease.

Cardiovascular diseases: is the collective name for any conditions that relate to disorders of the heart and the blood vessels of the heart. Cardiovascular diseases can include conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension), heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.

Phytonutrients: are chemical compounds found only in plant foods – the name comes from the Greek word “phyto” which means plant. These specific plant chemicals, when eaten in food, can help to protect the cells of the body from stress and damage and have been shown to reduce risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

References

  1. Darooghegi Mofrad, M., Milajerdi, A., Sheikhi, A., & Azadbakht, L. (2020). Potato consumption and risk of all cause, cancer and cardiovascular mortality: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 60(7), 1063–1076. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2018.1557102
  2. Moholdt, T., Devlin, B. L., & Nilsen, T. (2019). Intake of boiled potato in relation to cardiovascular disease risk factors in a large Norwegian cohort: The HUNT Study. Nutrients, 12(1), 73. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010073
  3. Robertson, T. M., Alzaabi, A. Z., Robertson, M. D., & Fielding, B. A. (2018). Starchy carbohydrates in a healthy diet: The role of the humble potato. Nutrients, 10(11), 1764. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111764
  4. Schwingshackl, L., Schwedhelm, C., Hoffmann, G., & Boeing, H. (2019). Potatoes and risk of chronic disease: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. European journal of nutrition, 58(6), 2243–2251. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-018-1774-2
  5. Yuyun, M. F., Sliwa, K., Kengne, A. P., Mocumbi, A. O., & Bukhman, G. (2020). Cardiovascular diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to high-income countries: An Epidemiological Perspective. Global Heart15(1). https://globalheartjournal.com/articles/10.5334/gh.403/

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