In addition to building muscle tissue, protein gives structural support to cells, veins, arteries and other tissues. Your body can even turn protein into energy if glucose from carbohydrates is running low and if fat isn't available. While potatoes do offer some protein, the content is relatively low. If you want to get more protein out of your spud, you'll have to add other protein-rich ingredients to your plate.
Protein and Calories
A 3-ounce potato with the skin -- or a medium-size potato cut in half -- has roughly 75 to 80 calories. Approximately 90 percent of those calories come from carbohydrates and a trace amount comes from fat, while the remaining calories are from protein. That 3-ounce potato, whether you prefer Russet, red bliss or a sweet potato, has about 1.75 to 2.25 grams of protein. Because protein contains 4 calories per gram, this amounts to 7 to 9 calories from protein for a 3-ounce tater.
Meeting Your Protein Needs
Because potatoes aren't particularly rich in protein, they won't do much to help you meet your protein recommendation. You need at least 56 grams of protein daily, if you're male, the Food and Nutrition Board notes. As a woman, you should aim for 46 grams a day -- 71 grams if you're pregnant or nursing. A 3-ounce potato gives you less than 5 percent of your daily protein needs, depending on which demographic you fall into.
Getting More Protein
Adding certain toppings to your steamy hot spud can certainly up the protein content. Top it off with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt. Just 1 ounce has nearly 3 grams of protein. Or spoon on some fat-free cottage cheese. You'll get almost 2 grams of protein from an ounce of it. Another way to get an extra 2 grams of protein is by sprinkling on one-quarter cup of diced soy-based bacon. Get over 5 grams of protein by enjoying a cup of steamed spinach or cooked corn on the side.
The Incomplete Protein Consideration
Each protein compound is made up of several small branches, known as amino acids. Your body already makes some of these amino acids on its own, but others -- called essential amino acids -- have to come from your diet. Eggs, dairy, meat, seafood, fish and poultry are complete proteins, meaning they have all the essential amino acids you need. Potatoes, like most plant foods, are a source of incomplete protein -- they are lacking or have low levels of some of the essential amino acids. If you follow a vegetarian diet, consume many types of incomplete proteins. For example, have wild rice as an alternative protein-rich starch side or enjoy beans for a different meal. Your system can pick and pull amino acids from incomplete sources to get exactly what you need, so you don't have to pair incomplete proteins at each meal.
- Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients
- United States Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Lists
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Carbohydrates
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Potatoes, Russet, Flesh and Skin, Baked
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Potatoes, Red, Flesh and Skin, Baked
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Sweet Potato, Cooked, Baked in Skin, Without Salt
- Chobani: Non-Fat Plain