This section is from the book "The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source", by Eugene H. Grubb, W. S. Guilford. Also available from Amazon: The Potato: A Compilation Of Information From Every Available Source.
The potato is of immense service as a food remedy in the treatment of a large number of diseases. It is especially valuable in cases of chronic intestinal auto-intoxication or 'biliousness'. It affords bulk for the intestine to act upon, and so antagonizes constipation. The large proportion of starch and other carbohydrates encourages the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestine, thus preventing putrefaction. For the same reason the free use of potatoes combats rheumatism and gout, which are results of chronic intestinal poisoning.
The potato is valuable in the treatment of anemia, because it combats the growth in the intestine of the germs which produce blood-destroying poisons. The death rate from diabetes, according to the mortality statistics of the United States Census Bureau, has increased nearly 50 per cent. in ten years. The freer use of potatoes as an article of diet and the lessened consumption of meat would perhaps do more than any other one thing to suppress the alarming increase of this fatal malady.
Arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, a disease which causes apoplexy and is associated with Bright's disease and various forms of heart disease besides being the cause of premature old age, is most often directly the result of chronic poisoning, the source of which is the putrefaction of undigested remnants of animal substances which have been eaten, which undergo decay with the absorption of poisonous products. The free use of the potato as an article of diet in place of the excessive consumption of meat and fish, a practice widely prevalent, would unquestionably check the alarmingly rapid development of this disease, which, according to the United States mortality reports, has increased 400 per cent, in the last ten years.
The potato, buttermilk, and oatmeal diet of the Irish has developed one of the most sturdy and enduring races of men to be found anywhere. * The proportion of centenarians in Ireland is more than ten times as great as in England. There can be no doubt that the free use of potatoes by the Irish is in large measure responsible for the remarkable longevity of this nation.
The idea that the potato is difficult of digestion and thus gives rise to fermentation in the stomach is entirely erroneous. The fault is not with the potato but with the manner of eating. When acted upon by the saliva, the starch of the potato is converted into maltose and dextrin, which Pawlow of St. Petersburg has shown to be powerful stimulants of the glands of the stomach. Properly cooked and well chewed, the potato is thus not only a good food but an aid to the digestion of other foods. In persons whose stomachs have a tendency to produce excessive acid the stimulating effect of the potato may be so great as to produce the symptoms characteristic of hyperacidity, heartburn, tenderness of the stomach, regurgitation of gas with acid liquid, and other well-known symptoms. This difficulty is not at all due to fermentation but to an excessive amount of acid and the resulting spasmodic contraction of the pylorus, so the stomach is stimulated to violent contraction, The gas contained in the stomach cannot be forced downward in the proper direction, and so escapes upward. This difficulty is not likely to occur, however, except when chewing is neglected. The gastric juice has little action upon the potato. Coarse particles of potato may remain in the stomach many hours, causing excessive acid fermentation, irritation and eructations. In eating potato every morsel must be chewed until reduced to a smooth paste in which no coarse particles can be detected by the tongue.
The remedy is simple. Pawlow has shown that fats lessen the activity of the stomach in the secretion of gastric juice. Hence, it is only necessary to increase the amount of fat eaten with the potato. In extreme cases the potato should be eaten in the form of a puree with the addition of butter or rich cream. This difficulty is especially noticeable in persons who have habitually eaten large quantities of meat when they undertake to change their eating habits, taking less meat and more cereals and potatoes. With a change in eating habits, the unpleasant symptoms usually disappear in a short time.
Some persons find it necessary to avoid the use of tomatoes and acid fruits with potatoes. The apparent disagreement of the potato with acid fruits is chiefly due to neglect to thoroughly masticate the food. If the potato is eaten in the form of a puree or well mashed, and if the fruit is also in the form of a puree, or if pains is taken to masticate it very thoroughly, inconvenience from the combination will be rarely, if ever, experienced."
In Chapter XXIII (Cooking The Potato) the potato as food is discussed further by Mrs. E. H. Grubb and many valuable recipes for preparing the potato for the table are given.