Potatoes offer comfort in times of stress

By Vivian Kwok | Reporter

I often write about the importance of physical health and nutrition. However, mental health is another vital and legitimate facet of well-being that people often neglect.

Experiencing happiness, times of low-stress, the absence of anxiety and peace are all precious states of mind for which many people – especially college students – would be grateful.

However, periods of emotional blues are inevitable. Some people enjoy the silent comfort in the arms of loved ones while others prefer uncontrollable laughter with friends. A kiss from a furry friend or a call home to mom can soothe a turbulent or cloudy day.

I will be the first to admit that I tend to eat my emotions, whether it be for celebration or comfort. I am one of the most open-minded people when it comes to cuisine, however it is the taste of the potato that will perk up any of my down days. Potatoes are the best comfort food.

First, potato dishes are highly variable and can satisfy many preferences and palates. Feeling hangry on top of being in a chaotic environment? A plate full of my aunt’s smooth Thanksgiving mashed potatoes with cream cheese and chives can immediately appease my hanger and frustration at the dinner table. When my days start to become dull, and I get lost in the motion of the day, my brother’s special Hasselback potatoes add life to any meal arrangement. As the stress of the semester slowly stacks up, my father often welcomes me home during breaks with a dish of cheesy scalloped potatoes or a build-your-own baked potato dinner. Just as chicken noodle soup may help you feel better during a cold, a bowl (or pot) of creamy potato soup could offer some comfort to me. Feeling the sadness of nostalgia? Throw it back with the smiley face potatoes from the elementary school cafeteria.

Moreover, potato dishes or sides are often inexpensive and quickly accessible, which satisfy food cravings during financial difficulties or unexpected mental breakdowns. Tater tots, hash browns, French fries and other forms of lightly salted and fried potatoes appear on most drive-thru menus for a couple bucks. Most convenience stores and gas stations carry a variety of potato chips for a small price. Some grocery stores offer five-pound bags of raw russet potatoes for less than $2, and anyone in the Baylor community is welcome to pick-up a free bag at the Mobile Food Pantry once a month.

Finally, with some conscientious eating, potatoes actually offer health benefits, so no need to feel guilty about breaking your clean eating habit while trying to seek comfort. Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, of which a severe deficiency known as scurvy may cause fatigue or depressive symptoms among others. Potatoes also carry more potassium than bananas. Potassium helps maintain proper muscle function. They are also naturally fat, sodium and cholesterol-free. When eaten in moderation and with few additional ingredients, they are only about 100 calories per serving. Even people with dietary restrictions can eat potatoes. Potato bread is an alternative for my gluten-free friends. My roommate is on a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, spices-free and night-shades free diet for health circumstances. She often frequents the Chick-fil-A drive-thru for a medium order of waffle fries after a long day in lab.

A plate, box or spoonful of potatoes most likely will not solve all your problems, but it can help begin to relieve your stress. Food is fleeting but so are momentary feelings of unhappiness and stress. The upshoot from a bad day may start with the first bite of a potato.