Baked potatoes have a rather poor reputation when it comes to diet and weight loss, especially among individuals who are trying to reduce their total carbohydrate intakes. However, you might be surprised to find out just how nutritious a baked potato actually is -- and how well it can fit into your weight loss plan.
Calories, Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium
One large baked potato -- about 2 1/3 by 4 3/4 inches -- contains about 220 calories. This includes the potato skin, but not any added butter or other toppings. A plain baked potato contains virtually no fat, either saturated or unsaturated, nor does it contain any cholesterol. The potato does contain about 15 mg of sodium.
Protein and Carbohydrates
There are about 50 g of carbohydrates in that large baked potato. Much of these carbohydrates are starch, giving potatoes a high glycemic index. This means that, for people who have diabetes or who are trying to control their blood sugar level, potatoes may be a food you should eat only occasionally. However, those carbs also contain about 5 g of dietary fiber, which is about 20 percent of your recommended daily fiber intake. Your body needs fiber for a healthy intestinal tract and regular digestion. The potato contains about 5 g of protein, or roughly 10 percent of your daily recommended intake. Protein is important for building muscle and healing from injuries.
Vitamins and Minerals
That one large potato will provide about 60 percent of the daily value for vitamin D and 45 percent of the daily value for vitamin C. These vitamins help build up the strength of your bones and keep your heart healthy. A potato also contains about 35 percent of the daily value for B-6, and 15 percent for thiamin, niacin, magnesium and iron. Together, these nutrients aid in energy metabolism, support the health of the nervous system, help build strong teeth and bones and are essential for the production of red blood cells.
In the vast majority of cases, the negative dietary elements in a baked potato are primarily not from the potato itself, but rather from the toppings that are put on it. For example, a baked potato with sour cream and chives contains an extra 170 calories for a total of 393, with over 20 g of fat. A potato topped with cheese sauce and bacon contains an extra 230 calories, for a staggering 451 calories in a single potato, with 25 g of fat.