Dietary fiber refers to the parts of grains, vegetables and fruits that your body can’t digest. The soluble and insoluble fibers in these food sources are made up of complex carbohydrates that contribute to your overall health. Potatoes, particularly the crispy skin on baked potatoes, are a high-fiber food.
Most Americans get only about 15g of fiber a day from the foods they eat, including potatoes and other vegetables. However, the Institute of Medicine says men should eat 38g a day until age 50, when the requirement drops to 30g because of lower food consumption. Women should take in 30g of fiber daily until age 50, when the recommendation is 21g per day.
Potato skins contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber combines with the bile acids produced in your liver to produce a gel within your intestines. This gel helps soften your stools and move them through your intestines at the right speed. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, provides the roughage that increases the weight and size of your stools. Together, these two types of dietary fiber promote normal bowel function and help prevent chronic disorders such hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. Your intestines need both fiber and fluid to create normal stools, so make sure you add plenty of water and other liquids to your daily diet.
One baked potato skin contains approximately 4.6g of dietary fiber, which represents a significant contribution toward your daily fiber goal. A ½ cup serving of boiled potatoes with skins intact contains 1.6g of dietary fiber, while the same serving without skins has 1.4g of fiber. Continuum Health Partners identifies a baked potato with crispy skin as one of the top 20 high-fiber foods in the American diet and notes that mashed or boiled potatoes are also good sources of fiber. French fries, however, are much higher in fat and lower in dietary fiber.
A diet high in fiber from potatoes and other plant sources can lower the level of cholesterol in your blood, reducing your risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Dietary fiber also helps keep your blood glucose levels under good control, manage your weight effectively and lower your chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, says MayoClinic.com.
While potato skins are loaded with vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, use common sense when adding condiments. Piling on butter, cheese, sour cream or other garnishes high in cholesterol and saturated fats can cancel the heart-healthy benefits of the fiber. Instead, top your potato skins with salsa, fresh mushrooms or tomatoes.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fiber: Start Roughing It!
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids
- Colorado State University Extension: Fiber
- USDA: National Nutrient Database
- Continuum Health Partners: Bowel Function & Dietary Fiber
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Heart-Healthy Diet