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Are Potatoes Healthy? Benefits and Downsides – EatingWell

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Are potatoes healthy? Potatoes are anything but a “bad” carb. For one, spuds are sustainable, with a low carbon and water footprint, and less land is required for their production compared to other crops, according to a 2021 study in—get this—the journal Potato Research.

Despite their often-unhealthy reputation, potatoes claimed the top spot as the most commonly consumed vegetable in the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture. (Tomatoes are trailing behind!)

But what happens if you eat potatoes? Will your health suffer? Let’s take a deep dive to discover potatoes’ nutritional value, potential health benefits and drawbacks of eating this tuber every day.

Health Benefits of Potatoes

Antonis Achilleos

Pictured Recipe: Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

You May Be More Regular

One potato without skin offers a couple of grams of fiber, but eating the skin with the potato will add another gram of fiber, per the USDA. This can help you reach your recommended amount of fiber (25 to 38 grams per day), which can help you stay regular. In short, you may be less likely to be constipated when you eat potatoes with the skin and other fiber-containing foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains.

You May Feel Full Longer

The form of potatoes you eat could impact your satiety—this could be related to how potato starch changes structure after cooking, points out a 2020 study in Nutrients.

Specifically, boiling potatoes creates slowly digestible and resistant starches, per research in LWT in 2020. This ultimately delays digestion and carbohydrate absorption. Consequently, when your meals include potatoes, you may feel full and satisfied longer, according to 2018 research in Nutrients. Ultimately, you may be less likely to overeat or have the urge to snack shortly after your meal.

You May Improve Your Gut Health

Whole potatoes contain resistant starch, which gets fermented by bacteria in your colon. That means that spuds are considered a prebiotic, so they feed the “good” bacteria in your gut, according to 2019 research in the American Journal of Potato Research. Eating whole potatoes and other food sources of prebiotics, such as garlic, helps maintain a healthy microbiome, improving digestion and supporting immune health.

You May Have Better Blood Pressure

Potatoes are abundant in potassium, says the National Institutes of Health, a mineral that supports your nerves, muscles, kidneys and heart. Potassium also plays a key role in regulating blood pressure. One potato provides a good source of potassium.

Potato Nutrition Facts

One cooked potato (about 5 ounces) with skin contains the following, per the USDA:

  • Calories: 118
  • Total Carbohydrates: 27 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 2 g
  • Total Sugars: 1 g (naturally occurring)
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Sodium: 5 mg
  • Potassium: 515 mg
  • Vitamin C: 18 mg

Potential Downsides

Potatoes May Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike

Cooked potatoes have a relatively high glycemic index, which means the food raises blood sugar more quickly than others. Depending on the potato variety and cooking method, potatoes’ glycemic index can range from 50 to 111, according to 2022 research in Foods. (Russets are the highest.) Generally speaking, thanks to the added fiber, whole potatoes with the skin and sliced potatoes with the skin have a lower GI than plain mashed or diced potatoes.

Earlier research published in 2010 in The FASEB Journal also found that precooked, cooled and reheated potatoes could have a lower glycemic load than freshly cooked potatoes—it’s one strategy you may be able to use if you’re working on managing your blood sugar.

How much your blood sugar increases after eating potatoes also depends on your portion size and other foods in the meal. Combining potatoes with other high-fiber plant-based foods may help with better blood sugar control.

If you are concerned about how potatoes can spike your blood sugar, choose a potato variety with a lower GI, such as red potatoes and Nicola potatoes, enjoy smaller portions with your meals and include nonstarchy vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or leafy greens in your meal.

Certain Cooking Methods May Increase Dangerous Compounds in Potatoes

Acrylamide is a compound formed when natural sugars in potatoes and other plant-based foods interact with the amino acid asparagine under high heat. When you bake, roast and fry potatoes, there may be a higher chance of acrylamide forming, according to the Food and Drug Administration. (Frying causes the highest acrylamide formation.)

Animal studies have suggested that acrylamide may be linked to cancer, but the FDA says that it’s unknown if acrylamide poses any health risk to people.

Boiling and steaming potatoes, on the other hand, are less likely to lead to acrylamide formation. (You can decrease the formation of this compound by soaking raw potato slices in water for 15 to 30 minutes before high-heat cooking, says the FDA.) Eating foods with potentially higher levels of acrylamide, such as french fries and potato chips, in moderation is recommended.

Unripe Potatoes Could Be Toxic

Exposing potatoes directly to sunlight can lead to their white flesh turning green and sprouts forming. This indicates the formation of solanine, a bitter chemical that can be toxic if consumed in large quantities, says the USDA. When you see green appearing in a potato, it is best to throw it away.

To prevent solanine from forming, store potatoes in a cool, dry and dark environment, such as a basement, cellar, garage, kitchen drawer or cabinet or a paper bag. When stored between 45°F and 50°F, they can last up to two to three months.

Best Ways to Cook and Enjoy Potatoes

As a starchy vegetable, potatoes combine well with protein and a nonstarchy vegetable—together, they make a well-balanced meal. Leaving on the potato skin also adds extra fiber to your diet. You can enjoy potatoes by cooking them in several ways.

Boiling and Simmering

Enjoy a nutritious meal with our Salmon with Potatoes & Horseradish Sauce, where you bring the potatoes to a boil and then simmer until tender.

Need more veggies in your day? Add extra to your meal with our Southern Green Beans & Potatoes recipe.

If you crave cooled potatoes, our Curried Potato Salad also won’t disappoint.

Steaming

Simply steaming whole potatoes until tender (about 15 minutes) creates a delicious side. Add herbs and spices for additional flavors.

Roasting

Using the oven to roast potatoes either alone or with Brussels sprouts makes them an ideal side to go with your entree. Our German-Style Purple Potato Salad also uses roasted potatoes to offer an additional layer of flavor compared to the traditional German potato salad, which calls for boiled potatoes instead.

Air-Frying

Air fryers are not only for making fries but also for making delicious baked potatoes.

Potatoes also pair well with soups, curries and salads. If you monitor your blood sugar levels, cook them tender but firm when piercing them with a fork.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it healthy to eat potatoes every day?

It is perfectly alright to eat potatoes every day, but how you prepare them and how much you eat also matters. Eating potatoes with skin on is recommended.

Are potatoes considered a bad carb?

Whole potatoes aren’t a bad carb. They provide many essential nutrients, like potassium, vitamin C and fiber. Potatoes also have resistant starches, which may contribute to supporting a healthy gut.

Are potatoes more nutritious than rice?

While both potatoes and rice are starchy, they differ in their nutritional offerings. If you love both starches, why not enjoy both? Just be mindful of your preparation and cooking methods and their portion size.

Who should avoid potatoes?

People who have decreased kidney function or kidney disease may need to keep an eye on the potato portions they consume, due to potatoes’ high potassium content. Speak with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to determine the appropriate amount based on your health.

The Bottom Line

It is totally fine to eat potatoes every day. While how you prepare and cook potatoes and how much you eat could possibly impact your health, whole potatoes with skin are a nutritious vegetable with health benefits. There are many ways to enjoy this versatile tuber—check out our Healthy Potato Recipes to get meal ideas and inspiration today!

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