Humans have been eating potatoes since at least 500 B.C., according to What's Cooking America. In recent years, potatoes have been deemed a "fattening" food because of their color, grouped with foods like white bread and white pasta. This may be because most Americans eat their potatoes in its french-fried form. But a potato in its natural state is highly nutritious and a healthy addition to your diet.
Source of Energy
The potato is an important source of energy. Most of the calories in the potato come from its carbohydrate content, nearly 90 percent. While you may be avoiding carbs because you associate them with weight gain, they are your body's preferred source of energy. In fact, healthy diet guidelines recommend 45 to 65 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates to support your daily energy needs.
Source of Fiber
Including potatoes in your diet can also help you meet your fiber needs. While most of the fiber in the potato is found in the flesh, eating the skin can help increase your overall intake. A 1-cup serving of a baked potato with the skin contains 2.6 g of fiber, and without the skin, contains 1.8 g. The fiber in the potato helps control hunger, improves bowel function and promotes heart health. Women need 21 to 25 g of fiber a day, and men, 30 to 38 g a day.
Good Source of Potassium
Potatoes are a good source of potassium. A 1-cup serving of baked potato with the flesh contains 652 mg of potassium, meeting 18 percent of your daily value. Potassium is a mineral that aids in fluid and electrolyte balance. It may also help improve blood pressure. The American Heart Association says including more potassium-rich foods in your diet counteracts the effects of sodium, helping to lower blood pressure, and recommends healthy people aim for 4,700 mg of potassium a day. It is important to note that high potassium foods are not recommended if you have a history of kidney disease or high blood levels of potassium. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about potassium in your diet.
High in Vitamin C
Potatoes are high in vitamin C. A 1-cup serving of a baked potato with the skin contains 11.8 mg of vitamin C, meeting 20 percent of your daily value. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient you need for good health. It is required for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that is necessary for wound healing. Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant, protecting your cells from oxidation and reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer. Adequate intakes of vitamin C also support growth and development and immune health.
- What's Cooking America; History of Potatoes; Linda Stradley 2004
- USDA: Nutrient Database
- McKinley Health Center; Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat; March 2008
- Mayo Clinic; Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet; November 2009
- American Heart Association: Potassium and High Blood Pressure
- Office of Dietary Supplements; Vitamin C; November 2009