Potatoes are a wildly popular root vegetable, but did you know that eating the potato skin will provide more fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals than eating just the flesh? As long as you don't load up a potato skin appetizer with butter, sour cream, cheese or bacon, potato skins are low in calories and provide health benefits that include helping digestion, managing your blood pressure, keeping your bones strong and warding off disease.
Macro Nutritional Benefits
The skins of potatoes do not contain cholesterol or a significant amount of fat. If you eat only the skin of your baked potato, you benefit from more protein and fiber than eating the whole potato. It will cost you a few more calories per 100 grams, but the overall nutritional profit may be worth the difference.
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According to USDA, the macronutrient content of one baked potato skin is:
- Calories: 115
- Carbohydrates: 27 grams or 9 percent daily value (DV)
- Protein: 2.5 grams or 5 percent DV
- Fiber: 4.6 grams or 18 percent DV
For comparison, if you ate a whole medium baked potato (173 grams) including the flesh and skin, you would consume 161 calories. The carb and protein contents would be 37 grams and 4.3 grams, respectively. Most important, the beneficial dietary fiber would decrease to 3.8 grams.
Skin of Potato Nutrition
By eating the potato skin instead of the whole potato, you benefit from an increased wealth of the minerals and vitamins in potatoes. The nutritional content of each potato skin, according to the USDA, is:
- Vitamin C: 8 grams, or 9 percent DV
- Calcium: 20 milligrams, or 2 percent DV
- Potassium: 332 milligrams, or 7 percent DV
- Magnesium: 25 milligrams, or 6 percent DV
- Phosphorus: 59 milligrams, or 5 percent DV
- Manganese: 0.4 milligrams, or 16 percent DV
- Iron: 4 grams, or 23 percent DV
- Zinc: 0.3 milligrams, or 3 percent DV
- Copper: 0.5 milligrams, or 53 percent DV
Benefits of Vitamin B
The B group of vitamins provides your body with the energy needed for numerous functions involving your nerves, muscles, skin, heart and brain. By eating potato skin, you get many of the important B vitamins, including:
- Thiamine: 6 percent DV
- Riboflavin: 5 percent DV
- Niacin: 11 percent DV
- Vitamin B-5: 10 percent DV
- Vitamin B-6: 21 percent DV
- Folate: 3 percent DV
The vitamin B in potato skins can help reduce stress and improve your mood. In an Australian study, published in the Nutrition Journal in December 2014, researchers gave B vitamins and antioxidants to a group of 200 full-time employees for six months. The result was an improvement in cognitive ability and mood.
These findings suggested that dietary B vitamins may be beneficial in reducing occupational stress, increasing work productivity and decreasing absenteeism.
Benefits to Good Digestion
Fiber is crucially important to the maintenance of a healthy digestive system. Per 100 grams, eating potato skin will reward you with almost four times more fiber than a whole baked potato with skin. That's a difference of 32 percent DV for potato skin compared to 9 percent DV for whole baked potatoes, per 100 grams.
The fiber in potato skin can help keep you regular. Fiber is the cellulose part of food that cannot be digested by your body. It adds bulk and absorbs water to soften your stool so it can pass smoothly through your digestive system and help prevent constipation.
Fiber may also help alleviate diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids and other intestinal conditions. Dietary fiber has also been found to have the potential to reduce the risk of colon cancer, according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published in October 2015.
Benefits to Your Bones
Another potato peel health benefit comes from its content of certain minerals that are important to the maintenance of your bone structure and strength. These nutrients include magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, copper, iron and zinc.
About 50 to 60 percent of the magnesium in your body resides in your bones. Eating potato skin can help maintain your bone density and may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis in women after menopause, say experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dietary potassium has a beneficial effect on your skeletal system by reducing calcium loss from bone, leading to an increase in bone mineral density.
Consumption of phosphorus showed an improvement in bone mineral content and bone density in a study published in Nutrition Journal in March 2015. The findings also reported adequate intakes of phosphorus and calcium resulted in a 45 percent reduction in risk of osteoporosis.
The calcium from potato skin is needed to support the structure and hardness of your teeth and bones. If you are deficient in calcium, you may be at risk for low bone mass and bone fractures. Copper, iron and zinc in potato skins help your body synthesize collagen, which is required to hold your bones together.
Anti-Allergy and Immunity Benefits
Potato skins are a natural source of flavonoids, a type of phytonutrient that exhibits anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that protect your body against disease and infection. One such flavonoid found in potato skin is a compound called quercetin, which is known for its stimulation of the immune system and has been shown to have antiviral properties that may inhibit histamine release.
A 2016 study in Molecules suggested quercetin is effective for the treatment of bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis and peanut-induced anaphylactic reactions. The authors reported that plant-extracted quercetin is the main ingredient in many potential anti-allergy drugs.
Benefits in Managing Blood Pressure
Potato skin health benefits also include helping to keep your heart functioning properly. Eating potato skin may help you manage your blood pressure naturally through its minerals: potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Potassium helps your muscles function, which is necessary to relax the walls of blood vessels. This helps lower blood pressure. Potassium is also used for conducting electrical signals in your heart to control irregular heartbeat.
Magnesium also helps your blood vessels relax and plays a role in the transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes. This process is important in maintaining normal heart rhythm and regulation of your blood pressure.
The impact of calcium was demonstrated in a review that analyzed 3,048 participants from 16 trials and found that increasing calcium intake lowered blood pressure, even in people with normal blood pressure levels. The evidence was published by the Hypertension Group in June 2015.
Benefits From Choline
Potato skins contain a compound called choline, which is the building block of lecithin, a part of cell walls, plasma and lipoproteins. Your brain and nervous system require choline to regulate your mood, memory and muscle control, among other functions.
The American diet does not provide an adequate amount of choline for most people, according to the NIH. One potato skin contains 18 milligrams of choline that contributes to the recommended daily amount of between 425 and 550 milligrams for adults, depending on age and gender.
Buy Organic Potatoes
Be aware that there may be pesticides in potato skins. The USDA found 70 percent of the food tested in 2019 had pesticide residue, which is a possible human carcinogen. Potatoes were discovered to be in the top 12 list, known as "EWG's dirty dozen."
A 2019 study, published in Environmental Research, found that eating organic produce for only six days caused an average of 60 percent reduction in the levels of synthetic pesticides measured in the subjects' urine, compared to eating a conventional diet.
If you can't grow your own, try to buy organic potatoes so you won't lose out on the potato skin health benefits by having to peel your potatoes.
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Comparison of Baked Potatoes (With Skin) and Potatoes Baked Skin Only With Salt"
- Nutrition Journal: "Reducing Occupational Stress With a B-vitamin Focussed Intervention: a Randomized Clinical Trial: Study Protocol"
- Mayo Clinic: "Mayo Clinic Q and A: Diet, Lifestyle Choices Can Lower Risk of Diverticulosis Developing Into Diverticulitis"
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- National Institutes of Health: "Magnesium"
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- Nutrition Journal: "Association Between Phosphorus Intake and Bone Health in the NHANES Population"
- National Institutes of Health: "Calcium"
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- Hypertension Group: "Extra Calcium to Prevent High Blood Pressure"
- University of Rochester Medical Center: "Health Encyclopedia: Choline"
- National Institutes of Health: "Choline"
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- Environmental Working Group: "EWG's 2019 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce"
- Environmental Research: "Organic Diet Intervention Significantly Reduces Urinary Pesticide Levels in U.S. Children and Adults"