Fiber in Potatoes

Dietary fiber plays an important role in ensuring the overall health of your body. By including the skin, the amount of fiber in potatoes increases. This may provide a host of benefits, including weight loss, improved digestion and better cardiovascular health.

Fiber requirements vary from one individual to another. (Image: AnnaPustynnikova/iStock/GettyImages)

How Much Fiber?

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines classify white potatoes in the vegetable group — specifically in the subgroup of starchy vegetables. Other vegetables in this group include corn, green beans, green lima beans, plantains and cassava. The recommendation for daily consumption of starchy vegetables is five cups per week.

Fiber requirements vary from one individual to another. How much of it you should include in your diet depends on your age and gender. Here are some common recommendations:

  • Teens aged 14 to 18 years — females: 25.2 grams; males: 30.8 grams
  • Adults aged 19 to 30 years — females: 28 grams; males: 33.6 grams
  • Adults aged 31 to 50 years — females: 25.2 grams; males: 30.8 grams
  • Adults 51 years and older — females: 22.4 grams; males: 28 grams

When striving to meet the daily value for fiber, remember that fiber works best when it absorbs water, so drink plenty of fluids to reap its benefits.

How Much Fiber in Potatoes?

The amount of fiber in potatoes depends largely on how you prepare them. Because the potato skin contains the majority of fiber, consuming a baked potato in its skin is the healthiest way to enjoy it. The fiber content in a medium-sized potato, measuring 2 1/3 inches by 4 3/4 inches and weighing 156 grams is:

  • Baked with skin — 3.4 grams or 14 percent of the DV(daily value)
  • Baked without skin — 2.3 grams or 9 percent of the DV

Compared to the fiber in banana, which is 3.1 grams, a medium-size serving of French fries containing 4.4 grams of fiber may be a good choice to include in your options of high fiber snacks, according to the USDA. French fries are by no means healthier than bananas, but you can enjoy them in moderation as part of a balanced diet. An occasional serving is unlikely to cause any harm.

Although all plant foods contain fiber, potatoes are comparable to other high-fiber vegetables in the starch group. Here are some examples:

  • Green beans (cooked) — 1.3 grams per half-cup serving
  • Corn (cooked sweet yellow) — 3.4 grams per half-cup serving
  • Green peas (cooked) — 4.1 grams per half-cup serving

Improve Your Digestive Health

Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate and can be soluble or insoluble. Potatoes contain both types of fiber, according to a report in the May 2013 edition of the journal Advances in Nutrition. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and becomes gel-like. It is associated to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, notes the Mayo Clinic.

Insoluble fiber is particularly beneficial for digestion. It reaches the large intestine virtually unchanged and, during its passage, it adds bulk to digested food and produces a slower rate of stomach emptying.

The insoluble fiber in potatoes keeps your bowel movements regular, which may help prevent or alleviate constipation and hemorrhoids. In addition, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) reports that a moderate increase in dietary fiber intake may benefit most people with GI disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome.

According to the Mayo Clinic, eating a high-fiber diet may play a role in preventing diverticulitis in people with diverticulosis. More common as you get older, diverticulitis affects the gastrointestinal tract and can cause abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea.

Although cooking generally has a negligible effect on the amount of fiber in vegetables, baking your potato may actually increase its fiber content by removing water and concentrating the fiber, points out the Advances in Nutrition report.

Manage Your Weight More Easily

High-fiber foods, such as potatoeswith skin, take longer to chew. This may give your brain a chance to register fullness, according to the IFFGD. Fiber also slows digestion, which may further reduce hunger. As a result, you might be less likely to snack between meals. Reducing your total daily caloric intake can make it easier to lose those extra pounds.

While the most effective way to lose weight is by making some lifestyle changes, eating more fiber may help you reach your goals, as reported in a 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers used 240 participants with metabolic syndrome to evaluate the effects of a high-fiber diet compared to the multicomponent American Heart Association (AHA) dietary guidelines.

After 12 months, the study concluded that simply eating more fiber without any other diet changes had comparable weight loss benefits compared to the more complex AHA diet.

Potatoes and Heart Health

Some components of dietary fiber may be valuable in reducing elevated blood cholesterol levels, which are a risk factor for heart disease. Eating a potato can contribute to the fiber your body needs to reduce cholesterol absorption into the bloodstream, says the Mayo Clinic. The consumption of 5 to 10 grams or more of fiber each day may lower your LDL (the "bad") cholesterol.

Potatoes are high in potassium, with a single baked potato with skin delivering 834.6 milligrams or 18 percent of the DV. This mineral helps maintain proper heart function, and a deficiency may cause increased blood pressure.

An April 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal assessed the effects of potassium intake on blood pressure, renal function, cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart disease. From the review of randomized controlled trials including 1,606 participants, evidence showed that the higher the intake of potassium, the greater the reduction in blood pressure in people with hypertension and the lower the risk of stroke.

However, another study in the British Medical Journal, which was published in May 2016, has found that eating too many potatoes in any form may raise the risk of developing high blood pressure. The review of three large cohort studies included 187,453 participants with more than 20 years of follow-up.

Researchers noted that an intake of four or more servings per week of baked, boiled or mashed potatoes was associated with an increased risk of hypertension, especially in women, compared to one serving per month. A higher consumption of French fries was linked to hypertension, whereas there was a lack of association with the intake of potato chips.

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