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Health Benefits of Potatoes: Should I Be Eating Them?

Health Benefits of Potatoes: Should I Be Eating Them?

Are potatoes healthy? When someone mentions the word potato, the first image that comes to mind is probably chips or french fries. However, there are definitely health benefits of potatoes, depending on how you cook them. If you are on a diet, you may be trying to cut down on things like carbs and fat. Read on to see if potatoes are the right fit for your current diet.

Varieties of potatoes

health benefits of potatoes

Potatoes are a type of vegetable known as a tuber, which is an enlarged, underground part of a plant stem. Most people are familiar with the yellow or brown-skinned potatoes with white flesh. Sweet potatoes, yams, or kamote are also tubers. These are usually long and have brown or red-skin with white, yellow, orange, or blue flesh. Both types are considered rich in carbohydrates while their other nutritional values may vary.

Health benefits of potatoes

The health benefits of potatoes are somewhat underrated compared to other vegetables. Many people think they need to steer clear of them because of their reputation as junk food. However, underneath the potato’s humble exterior are several health benefits.

Healthy Cooking Methods: 6 Alternatives to Frying

One medium-sized potato is approximately the size of a computer mouse or the palm of your hand. A typical potato of this size, including its peel, provides approximately:

  • 110 calories
  • 3 grams of protein
  • 26 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2 grams of sugar
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 620 mg of potassium
  • 45 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin C

On the other hand, a medium orange or purple sweet potato with its peel has the following values:

  • 100 calories
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 23 grams of carbohydrates
  • 7 grams of sugar
  • 4 grams of fiber
  • 440 mg of potassium
  • 30 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin C
  • 120 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin A

As you can see in this quick comparison, there are subtle differences between the health benefits of the different varieties of potatoes. If a recipe calls for white potatoes, you can usually substitute it for sweet potatoes or vice versa. They have different tastes, so you can experiment from time to time.

Preparing potatoes the right way

are potatoes healthy

How healthy potatoes are (and essentially any food) boils down to how they’re prepared. Even the best health benefits of potatoes can be ruined by being cooked the wrong way. When it comes to vegetables, less prep is better. Boiling, steaming, or eating them raw keeps them crisp, tasty, and packed with more macro and micronutrients.

On the other hand, potatoes are not really palatable in its raw form. However, boiling, baking, and roasting potatoes are great ways to prepare potatoes. Though tempting, deep-frying or cooking potatoes in fat or oil is the least healthy way to cook them. When you really have a craving for crispy chips, try using a modern air-fryer or looking for air-popped chips at your local grocery. These do not require extra oil, allowing you to avoid extra fat. A bit of salt, pepper, and herbs are a great way to add flavor without unwanted calories.

In addition, it is best to leave the skin on your potatoes. Not only does it save on prep time, the skins of vegetables are actually chock-full of vitamins and fiber. Just be sure to thoroughly scrub and wash off the dirt before cooking and eating your potatoes.

Key takeaways

There are many health benefits of potatoes. For starters, they are a healthy source of carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins. If you are watching your carbohydrates, you can still eat potatoes and sweet potatoes, but be sure to measure your portions. Potatoes are best as a side dish or as an additional ingredient in dishes like soup or curry. Avoid eating potatoes with other sources of starchy carbs such as rice, pasta, and bread. If you have additional questions regarding your diet, speak to a doctor or registered nutritionist-dietitian for more advice.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

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Sources

Roots and Tubers: Nature’s Buried Treasures, https://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/roots-and-tubers-natures-buried-treasures, Accessed December 22, 2o2o.

Potatoes: Hearty and Popular, https://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/potatoes-hearty-and-popular, Accessed December 22, 2o2o.

Roots and tubers as functional food, https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-54528-8_37-1, Accessed December 22, 2020.

Pros and cons of root vegetables, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-pros-and-cons-of-root-vegetables, Accessed December 22, 2020.

Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates, https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/healthydiet/starchyfoods.html, Accessed December 22, 2020.

Your guide to potato nutrition, https://www.potatogoodness.com/nutrition/, Accessed December 22, 2020.

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Written by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD Updated Dec 28, 2020
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