Potatoes are a starchy vegetable classified as a tuber or root vegetable because they grow underground. As an excellent source of carbohydrates, potatoes serve as a good source of energy while providing only 110 calories in one 5-ounce serving. Potatoes also contain essential vitamins and minerals the body needs for proper functioning.
Potatoes are an excellent source of potassium, an essential mineral. One potato contains 620 milligrams of potassium, providing 18 percent of the recommended daily intake or RDI. The National Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board or FNB recommends that adults consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day. Potassium functions as an electrolyte, which means it helps conduct electrical impulses between the nerves, muscles and brain. Potassium is also vital to heart function and helps regulate blood pressure.
Your body needs vitamin C for the production of collagen -- a group of proteins that provide structure to blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and bones. Vitamin C also supports the production of norepinephrine -- a neurotransmitter necessary for brain function. In addition, vitamin C protects cells from damage and supports a healthy immune system. One potato provides 45 percent of the RDI of vitamin C, specified by the FNB as 75 to 90 milligrams per day.
The B vitamins help the body efficiently get and use energy from foods. The complete B vitamin complex includes thiamin, biotin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, B-6, B-12 and folic acid. Potatoes contain five of the eight B vitamins, with the highest concentration being of B-6. They provide 10 percent of the RDI of vitamin B-6, which helps protect the body from heart disease, cancer and age-related decline in brain function according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Potatoes also contain 8 percent of the RDI of both thiamin and niacin. Folate, the natural form of folic acid, is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells. Potatoes provide 6 percent of the RDI of folate and 2 percent of riboflavin.
Potatoes contain a variety of other essential minerals -- the inorganic elements. One potato provides 6 percent of the RDI of iron. Iron is necessary for the production of proteins and enzymes in the body, such as hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen. Potatoes also provide 6 percent of the RDI of phosphorus and magnesium. Phosphorus helps build strong bones and teeth, and magnesium supports hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. Other minerals found in potatoes include calcium, zinc and copper.
- Washington State Potato Commission: Washington Potatoes are Nutritious
- National Institutes of Medicine: Food and Nutrition Board: Dietary Reference Intakes
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- MedLinePlus: B Vitamins
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B-6