Potato is the most popular vegetable on the planet. It is widely available in almost all parts of the world. The benefits of potatoes for babies include improvement in gastrointestinal health, liver protection, antiviral properties, skin protection and healing of skin burns. The plant itself can grow in most weather conditions and hence, it is one of the primary vegetables in most places.
Potato is believed to have originated in South America. It is believed to have been cultivated between 8000 and 5000 BC. The exact location is speculated but the wild species can be found in almost all of the South American countries. It was the Spaniards who first named this tuber. The name they had given was ‘patata’ or ‘batata’ which later got transformed into potato in English.
In the early 20th century, potato had become one of the very popular vegetables in the western world and by mid 20th century, potato had also entered into most of the third world countries. Today, the largest consumer of potato in the world is China with 74 million tonnes produced in the year 2010. The second highest producer is India with 36 million tonnes produced. United Nations declared 2008 as the ‘International Year of the Potato’ to create an awareness about potato in developing nations as crop with potential commercial aspects.
When should you introduce potato to your baby?
Potato is one of the simple vegetables that can be happily introduced in your baby’s early diet. Potato is easy to digest and it supplies energy for the baby to be active. But due to high calorie content and low content of nutrients, it is better to introduce potatoes to your child between the ages of 7-10 months.
Health benefits of potatoes
Introducing potatoes to your baby has health benefits such as
Supplies vitamins and minerals: Potato supplies judicious amount of vitamins and minerals. Though these are not up to the mark of other vegetables, yet it has vitamins and minerals in it.
Important for gastrointestinal health: Potato is high in alkaline sugars and these sugars can help in bringing down the acid levels in body. It is true for infants and toddlers as acidity can affect them. Moreover, potatoes can help prevent fermentation in intestines and promotes the growth of friendly bacteria. (HK Bakhru, 1997).
Protects liver: Studies now indicate that potato is good for liver. The peel of potato in particular has been noted to be very effective in protecting liver from chemical damage in studies. Eating potatoes with its peel intact can be really helpful for liver. (Singh et al, 2008).
Antiviral properties: Studies have shown that potatoes, particularly, red fleshed potatoes contain biochemicals called anthocyanins. These anthocyanins stopped the growth of influenza viruses. (Zhao, 2009).
Skin protection: Potato can also be used for skin protection. Vitamin C, starch and the enzymes present in potato are helpful in nourishing the skin tissue. Potato juice with its alkalinity has antiseptic action against dead skin that is removed easily, leaving behind healthy and glowing skin. (Umadevi, 2013).
Heals skin burns: Apart from imparting healthy glow to the skin, potato can also be very useful in healing burns of at least 1st degree. A freshly sliced piece of potato can be put directly on the burn for at least 15 minutes and continue the process for about 1 hour. Apart from burns, potato slices can also be used for inflammations caused by insect bites and dermatitis. (Umadevi, 2013).
Measures to be taken while giving potatoes to your baby
Here are some measures that can be taken while preparing potatoes for your baby
Use steamed potatoes: During the initial stages, give only steamed potatoes which are cut into small pieces. You can also try mashing up the potato. By making a paste, it would be very easy for your baby to eat it. Do not boil potatoes or as a matter of fact, any vegetable. By boiling, the essential vitamins and minerals get washed away with the water leaving hardly anything behind. So, the best way to cook vegetables is steaming and not boiling.
Give only small amounts of potato: Potato contains higher amount of starch and relatively low amount of vitamins and minerals. So, you can add only few teaspoons of potato into your baby’s food in the beginning.
HK Bakhru, Foods That Heal, pp 134, Orient Paperbacks, New Delhi, India.
M. Umadevi, P.K. Sampath Kumar, Debjit Bhowmik, S. Duraivel, Health Benefits and Cons of Solanum tuberosum, Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies Vol. 1 No. 1, 2013. http://plantsjournal.com/vol1Issue1/Issue_jan_2013/3.pdf
Pharmacological and nutritional activities of potato anthocyanins Chang Ling Zhao, Hua Chun Guo, Zhi Yuan Dong, Qing Zhao African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology Vol . 2 (10). pp . 463 – 468, January, 2009. http://www.academicjournals.org/ajpp/pdf/%20pdf2009/October/Zhao%20et%20al.pdf