Potatoes are a rich source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. They’re relatively low in calories, too. Keep your taters light and healthy by baking instead of frying them, and top them with protein-rich, low-fat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. Otherwise, your naturally low-cal spud can turn into a fatty side.
The Scoop on Calories
One 3 1/2-ounce baked potato has between 90 and 100 calories. This calorie count includes russet, white, sweet and red-skin potatoes. At roughly 90 percent, carbohydrates make up the biggest percentage of the calories in potatoes. About 8 to 9 percent of calories are from protein, while the final 1 to 2 percent are from a minimal amount of fat.
You’ll get a healthy dose of fiber from potatoes, especially if you eat the skin. Fiber itself doesn’t nourish you, but it does improve bowel health by keeping you regular and aids in cholesterol reduction and blood sugar regulation. For every 1,000 calories you get from foods, you need 14 grams of fiber, which is 28 grams total for a 2,000-calorie daily diet, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. Red potatoes are at the lower end of fiber content, giving you about 1.8 grams per 3.5-ounce baked spud with the skin on. A similarly sized russet potato offers 2.3 grams of fiber. Sweet potatoes top the list, providing over 3 grams of fiber from one 3.5-ounce baked skin-on tater.
All potatoes contain a variety of B vitamins, including thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, folate and B-6. These vitamins help keep you healthy by powering your metabolism and pulling energy out of the foods you eat. You’ll also get roughly 10 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement. Vitamin C boosts your immune system and blocks free radicals that try to damage cells. All potatoes have a small amount of vitamin A, which preserves your eye health and vision. However, sweet potatoes have extraordinarily high levels of vitamin A, giving you over 100 percent of your recommendation from a single 3.5-ounce baked spud.
Potatoes are a natural source of potassium, an electrolyte mineral that balances fluid and conducts electricity, which makes muscles move and keeps your heart beating steadily. Russet, sweet and red-skin potatoes each give you over 10 percent of your potassium recommendation from a 3.5-ounce cooked potato. You’ll even get a little bit of sodium, which works in partnership with potassium. Plus, no matter which type of spud you enjoy, you'll get a trio of bone-building minerals -- calcium, magnesium and phosphorus -- in small amounts.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Harvard Health Publications: Listing of Vitamins
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Potatoes, Russet, Flesh and Skin, Baked
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Potatoes, Baked, Flesh, Without Salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Sweet Potato, Cooked, Baked in Skin, Without Salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Potatoes, Red, Flesh and Skin, Baked
- Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium