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Do Potatoes Improve Cholesterol Levels?

author image Sandi Busch
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.
Do Potatoes Improve Cholesterol Levels?
potatoes for sale at a market. Photo Credit: ttatty/iStock/Getty Images

Two important dietary changes can help lower your cholesterol. You can boost the amount of soluble fiber in your diet and restrict the amount of saturated and trans fats you consume. Potatoes can help you meet both goals. They're good sources of fiber, including the soluble type, and they're a fat-free food. As long as you watch portions to limit calories and carbs, potatoes can be one part of a balanced, cholesterol-lowering diet.

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Source of Fiber

Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol by binding with dietary fats and inhibiting their absorption into the bloodstream. If you add 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber to your daily diet, you may lower your cholesterol by 3 percent to 5 percent, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. A large baked potato with the skin contains 6.6 grams of total fiber, which is a good contribution toward the recommended daily intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. More importantly for lowering cholesterol, about 41 percent of the total fiber consists of soluble fiber.

Fat-Free Food

When you plan a diet to lower cholesterol, it’s important to limit the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol in the foods you eat. All three nutrients can raise cholesterol, but trans fats are worse than saturated fats and, for most people, dietary cholesterol only has a small impact on blood levels of cholesterol, reports the Harvard School of Public Health. As long as they’re not fried, potatoes don’t contain trans fats or cholesterol. They’re so low in total fat that they’re included as part of the cholesterol-lowering diet described by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

High Glycemic Concerns

Potatoes have a high glycemic index rating, which means the carbohydrates they contain cause a significant boost in blood sugar shortly after they’re consumed. If you're healthy and don't have diabetes, your body can handle an occasional high-glycemic food. But a diet filled with foods that spike blood sugar may lower levels of good cholesterol, reported the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in October 2007. On the flip side, diets consisting of low-glycemic foods, which do not affect blood sugar, may reduce levels of cholesterol, according to a review in the January 2013 issue of “Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease.”

Healthy Choices

One large baked potato has 278 calories and 63 grams of total carbohydrates, or nearly half the recommended daily intake for carbs of 130 grams. A sweet potato that weighs the same as a large baked potato has about the same number of calories and carbs and also has a high glycemic index score. You can minimize the glycemic effect by reducing the amount you eat because portions influence the impact on blood sugar.

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