Renate Engelbrecht
3 minute read
14 Sep 2021
3:34 pm

Here’s why you should eat potatoes

Renate Engelbrecht

Seeing that September is Heart Awareness Month, it’s only natural to look into some heart-healthy habits, starting with the benefit of potatoes.

The benefits of potatoes. Picture: iStock

Heart Awareness Month, which concludes on World Heart Day on 29 September, has South Africans reevaluating their health at a time when Covid-19 has proved to be fuel on the fire when it comes to heart disease.

There are ways, however, to protect yourself from the deadly combination of the coronavirus and heart disease, starting with a healthy, balanced diet.

Leading a balanced lifestyle when it comes to your diet has been a trending topic since Covid-19 hit our shores, and safeguarding your health in every possible way has become a necessity, especially if you struggle with heart disease.

According to a recent Harvard Health article, cardiologist Dr Dara K Lee Lewis said in comparison with the general population, individuals suffering from cardiovascular disease (CVD) “were more than twice as likely to contract severe forms of Covid-19″.

Lifestyle changes like working from home during lockdown have had a negative impact on many South Africans’ health, with many reporting a decline in physical activity and an increase in weight over the past year.

These are factors that pose an increased risk of heart disease and strokes.

Did you know?

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, 225 South Africans die of heart disease daily.

Immaculate Zinde from Potatoes South Africa says there are still many myths and misconceptions when it comes to potatoes, when potatoes are actually packed with fibre and nutrients that could help lower your risk of heart disease.

“Given the effects of the pandemic on our health and wellbeing, it’s particularly important to understand the numerous rewards of potatoes for your body, and how you can cook them correctly for the most benefit,” she says.

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Benefits of ‘amazambane’ (potatoes)

Potassium

Potatoes are said to offer more potassium than any other vegetable, and even more than bananas. Potassium assists in lowering your blood pressure, which is responsible for 13% of all deaths globally, one in every two strokes and two in every five heart attacks in South Africa.

Potassium helps to relax blood vessels, which improves blood circulation and therefore lowers blood pressure and supports muscle health. It also plays a key role in sending electrical impulses to your heart, assisting in maintaining a healthy heart rhythm.

Stuffed potatoes with the skin on
Stuffed potatoes for a healthy meal. Picture: iStock

Fibre and nutrients

Potatoes are naturally cholesterol-free, have no saturated fats and are low in sodium – three factors that are very important for a healthy heart.

These veggies are also high in fibre, which helps lower cholesterol. The fibre binds with cholesterol and safely draws it into your body’s waste cycle instead.

Potatoes are also rich in vitamin C, B6 and various phytonutrients, which have been proven to support heart health and prevent heart disease.

Potato preparation tips

  • Remember that – like with anything in life – moderation is key. Potatoes should be eaten in moderate potions, as part of a balanced diet.
  • Opt for healthy cooking methods. Instead of frying your potatoes, rather boil, bake or air fry it, or brush it lightly with oil and roast it.
  • Consider your toppings. Avoid unhealthy salt, butter or cheese and rather look for alternatives like garlic, fresh herbs, a dollop of pesto or sundried tomatoes.
  • Skin on. A potato’s skin contains a large amount of fibre and potassium, which is why potatoes that have been boiled with their skins on are such a healthy option.