Next time you're asked whether you want a baked potato or rice with your meal, opt for the baked potato if you're looking for the healthier choice. While both baked potatoes and rice are healthy additions to your diet, a baked potato makes a more nutritious side than white rice as long as you don't load it down with fat- and calorie-laden toppings like butter and sour cream.
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Each medium baked potato with the skin provides you with 161 calories, 4.3 grams of protein, 0.2 gram of fat and 36.6 grams of carbohydrates, including 3.8 grams of fiber, or 15 percent of the daily value for fiber set by the FDA. A cup of cooked white rice contains 205 calories, 4.3 grams of protein, 0.4 gram of fat and 44.5 grams of carbohydrates, including only 0.6 gram of fiber. Potatoes are the healthier option in terms of macronutrients since they are lower in calories and fat and higher in fiber, while containing about the same amount of protein as white rice.
Both baked potatoes and rice provide significant amounts of B vitamins, but only potatoes provide vitamin C. For each medium baked potato with skin you eat, you'll get 28 percent of the DV for vitamin C, 12 percent of the DV for niacin, 27 percent of the DV for vitamin B-6 and 12 percent of the DV for folate. Since white rice is usually enriched with extra B vitamins, each 1-cup serving provides 17 percent of the DV for thiamine, 12 percent of the DV for niacin and 38 percent of the DV for folate. The B vitamins are important for turning the food your eat into energy, as well as proper brain and nervous system function, while the antioxidant vitamin C is necessary for creating the collagen you need for forming bones, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons.
Baked potatoes contain more minerals than rice. Each potato with skin contains more than 10 percent of the DV for iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. A cup of white rice provides you with about the same amount of iron as a medium baked potato, but only small amounts of the other minerals. You need iron for forming red blood cells and transporting oxygen. Magnesium is essential for nerve, muscle and heart function, while phosphorus is important for forming DNA, and potassium can help counteract the negative effects of sodium on blood pressure levels.
Sweet potatoes are an even healthier choice than regular white potatoes, since they're also high in vitamin A. Brown rice is a healthier choice than white since it's higher in fiber, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus and magnesium, but it still isn't quite as nutritious as a baked potato. Black rice, if you can find it, is even higher in iron and fiber. Watch what you put on your baked potatoes or rice, as this can greatly increase the calories. Topping your potato with 2 tablespoons of butter will add 201 calories, while the same amount of sour cream adds 62 calories.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Potato, Baked, Flesh and Skin, Without Salt
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Rice, White, Long-grain, Regular, Cooked, Enriched
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Rice, Brown, Long-grain, Cooked
- Food and Agriculture Organization: Rice and Human Nutrition
- North Dakota State University Extension: Potatoes From Garden to Table
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Sweet Potato, Cooked, Baked in Skin, Without Salt