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Are potatoes good for you? We asked a nutritionist to explain

What we have to tell you about the nutritional value of potatoes might surprise you.

Few things will make you mistrust someone more than hearing that they don’t like potatoes. They say bland, we say blank slate—ready to be tossed in herbs and olive oil before getting roasted, baked, grilled, or fried to perfection. They’re so easy to eat that we occasionally find ourselves polishing off a few extra servings of the starchy vegetable.

Which made us wonder: extra ingredients (cheese, butter, or heavy cream) and cooking method set aside…are potatoes good for you? To answer this question, we checked in with Peggy Kotsopolous, RHN, a Certified Health Educator that serves as the nutritionist for The Little Potato Company. If you’re a potato lover, we have some good news for you. Here are some surprising health benefits of potatoes and how you can prepare them in a healthy way.

Top Health Benefits

Potatoes can improve energy levels

One of the most important things to remember is that potatoes are nutritious vegetables packed with essential vitamins and minerals that help support a body, boost the immune system, and improve energy levels.[1] The Vitamin C and fiber content in potatoes help lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Also, the fiber in potatoes helps satiate hunger and supports gut health. Potatoes also contain Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and iron. They are gluten and cholesterol-free, and are low in sodium and fat.

Potassium can lower heart disease risk

Potatoes are loaded with potassium. Potassium’s role when it comes to heart health is huge: It helps trigger the bear-hug squeeze of the heart that results in a heartbeat.[2] Getting enough potassium through your diet and reducing sodium intake helps to lower systolic blood pressure, which reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition to heart health, potassium aids in muscle function and fluid balance, which helps to sustain a workout and daily activities.[3]

Antioxidants can slow down the aging process

The color of the potato can impact the number of antioxidants present. Studies suggest that you should choose colored potatoes over white if you’d like to fully reap the antioxidant benefits of potatoes.[4] Dark blue and red varietals contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that slow down the aging process—not only physically but mentally by keeping the brain sharp and preventing neurological decline. Plus, the antioxidants found in most potatoes boast anti-cancer properties.[5]

The highest antioxidant content is found in the potato’s skin and flesh.

Resistant starch can improve gut health

Resistant starch is a type of starch that isn’t digested in the small intestine. Instead, these starches act more like a prebiotic fiber that feeds good bacteria in the large intestine, which can improve gut health. Potatoes are a good source of resistant starch, and it’s particularly increased when potatoes are cooled after they have been cooked (think potato salad).[6]

 

 These starches have also been shown to help control blood sugar levels and reduce the likelihood of insulin resistance.[7]

How to Prepare Healthy Potatoes

Clearly, potatoes are packed with health benefits. It’s important to be mindful, however, of the way you’re preparing them and how much you’re consuming. Studies have found a positive association between eating certain types of potatoes and an increase in waist circumference and weight gain.
So instead of eating fried potatoes or potato chips, opt for healthier ways to cook potatoes to retain their nutritional profile, like roasted, boiled, grilled, or steamed in the microwave. If you love fried potatoes, try crisping them up in an air fryer. You can also add cooked then chilled potatoes into a green salad or slice some up for a roasted veggie sandwich.
If you want an extra healthy potato option, stock up on creamer potatoes. They’re the smallest breed of potato, which are bite-sized and meant to be eaten with their naturally nutritious skins on—no cleaning or peeling required. One serving of creamer potatoes (about 5 to 6 potatoes) contains 20% of the Daily Recommended Intake for potassium (around 650 to 680 mg). Creamer potatoes also have a natural buttery taste and creamy texture to them, so they don’t need to be loaded with sour cream, cheese, or bacon in order to taste delicious.

References

  1. Hellmann H, Goyer A, Navarre DA. Antioxidants in potatoes: A functional view on one of the major food crops worldwideMolecules. 2021;26(9):2446. doi:10.3390/molecules26092446

  2. American Heart Association. How potassium can help control high blood pressure.

  3. National Institutes of Health. Potassium factsheet for health professionals.

  4. Lee SH, Oh SH, Hwang IG, et al. Antioxidant contents and antioxidant activities of white and colored potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.)Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2016;21(2):110-116. doi:10.3746/pnf.2016.21.2.110

  5. Rasheed H, Ahmad D, Bao J. Genetic diversity and health properties of polyphenols in potatoAntioxidants (Basel). 2022;11(4):603. doi:10.3390/antiox11040603

  6. Raatz SK, Idso L, Johnson LK, Jackson MI, Combs GF Jr. Resistant starch analysis of commonly consumed potatoes: content varies by cooking method and service temperature but not by variety. Food Chem. 2016;208:297-300. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.03.120

  7. Wang Y, Chen J, Song YH, et al. Effects of the resistant starch on glucose, insulin, insulin resistance, and lipid parameters in overweight or obese adults: a systematic review and meta-analysisNutr Diabetes. 2019;9(1):19. doi:10.1038/s41387-019-0086-9