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.
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.
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."
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.
- University of Illinois at Chicago: Getting Enough Fiber in Your Diet Does not Have to be Like This
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: National Cholesterol Education Program: Your Guide to Lowering Cholesterol With Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Potatoes, Baked, Flesh and Skin, Without Salt
- Jackson Siegelbaum Gasteroenterology: Fiber Content of Foods
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out With the Bad, in With the Good
- Harvard Medical School: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load of 100+ Foods
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease: Low Glycaemic Index Diets and Blood Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Dietary Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Are Associated With High-Density-Lipoprotein Cholesterol at Baseline but not With Increased Risk of Diabetes in the Whitehall II Study
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Sweet Potato, Cooked, Baked in Skin, Without Salt
- Harvard Medical School: Use Glycemic Index to Help Control Blood Sugar
- University of Illinois Extension: Your Guide to Diet and Diabetes