A member of the nightshade family -- the same group that includes eggplant and bell peppers -- potatoes became common in European diets in the 1800s, and are a staple in the American diet today. Like other potato varieties, red potatoes come packed with starch -- a concentrated source of energy -- and contribute a significant amount to your daily carbohydrate intake. Red potatoes also contain vitamins and minerals, which make them a beneficial addition to your diet.
Iron and Vitamin C
Reach for red potatoes as a good source of essential iron and vitamin C. Getting enough iron in your diet supports red blood cell function, so that these cells can supply fresh oxygen to your tissues. Iron also helps your cells make energy, so it fuels your active lifestyle. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, and it also keeps your tissues strong by increasing collagen production. Each large red potato contains 2.7 milligrams of iron -- 15 and 34 percent of the recommended daily intakes for men and women, respectively. It also provides you with 31.7 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 35 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 42 percent for women.
Zinc and Copper
Red potatoes also contain other essential minerals, including significant amounts of copper and zinc. You need just trace amounts of zinc each day to survive, but it plays an essential role in immune system function, and also supports reproductive health, nerve function and proper wound healing. A large red potato contains 1.22 milligrams of zinc, which contributes 11 percent toward the recommended daily intake for men and 15 percent for women. Like zinc, the copper in red potatoes keeps your nervous system healthy and boosts immunity. It also helps your body absorb iron. Each large red potato provides 494 micrograms of copper, which is 55 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Potassium and Fiber
The potassium and fiber in red potatoes benefit your cardiovascular health. Potassium helps regulate your blood pressure levels, and a diet low in potassium puts you at risk of high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. It also supports muscle function, including the muscle tissue found in your heart and blood vessels. A large red potato boosts your potassium intake by 1,679 milligrams of potassium, or 36 percent of the recommended daily intake. It also contains 6.3 grams of dietary fiber -- 17 and 24 percent of the daily recommended intakes for men and women, respectively. Fiber lowers your blood cholesterol levels and reduces your risk of coronary artery disease.
Serving Tips and Suggestions
Boil, bake or steam red potatoes for optimal health benefits. Other cooking methods, such as frying, require the use of added oil. Steam chopped red potato until very tender and then use them to make skin-on mashed potatoes -- the red skin adds visual interest to your dish. Alternatively, lightly steam chopped red potatoes, until just tender, and then use them to make potato salad. For a heartier side dish, suitable for cooler weather, lightly coat chopped red potato with a mixture of olive oil and rosemary, and then roast until golden brown.
- Purdue University: Potatoes -- Notes
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Potatoes, Red, Flesh and Skin, Raw
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Iron
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Zinc
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Copper
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- Linus Pauling Institute: Fiber