There are a lot of different potato options out there, but when it comes to red potatoes versus white potatoes, the nutrition is nearly identical. If you're trying to make a potato choice based on which potato is healthier, it won't make a significant difference either way.
But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't choose either of them. Although they're high in carbohydrates, the specific type of carbohydrate can actually keep your gut healthy. Consuming red and white potatoes can also help you meet your potassium and vitamin C needs.
Red potato nutrition is almost identical to white potato nutrition. They're both high in carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin C and contain approximately 150 calories per medium potato. The way you prepare your potatoes makes a difference in how good they are for you, though. Choose baked, mashed or boiled over fried.
White and Red Potato Nutrition
When comparing white and red potato nutrition, they're almost identical. Red potatoes contain 151 calories per medium potato, while a white potato of the same size clocks in at 159 calories. Both red and white potatoes are high in potassium, containing 943 milligrams and 941 milligrams, respectively. They're also both high in vitamin C, with both coming in at 21.8 grams.
The nutrition fact that probably gets the most attention, though, is the carbs in red potatoes. A medium red potato has 33.9 grams of carbohydrates (3.1 grams of which come from fiber), while a white potato comes in slightly higher at 36.5 grams (3.6 grams of which come from fiber).
Potatoes are often shunned because they're high in carbohydrates. While diabetics and pre-diabetics may do better avoiding, or at least limiting them, they can be part of a healthy diet for many people because of a specific type of carbohydrate they contain.
High in Resistant Starch
One of the major benefits of red potatoes and white potatoes is that they're one of a handful of foods that contain resistant starch, which, similar to fiber, is a carbohydrate that your body can't digest. Resistant starch passes through your stomach and small intestine, finally reaching your large intestine where it starts to ferment.
As the resistant starch ferments, it feeds the good bacteria in your gut, which classifies potatoes as a prebiotic food. This process helps the good bacteria multiply so they outnumber the bad bacteria and keep your gut healthy.
Because the resistant starch isn't digested like other carbohydrates, potatoes also don't raise your blood sugar as much as other foods that have similar amounts of carbohydrates but no starch. In addition to helping control blood sugar, the resistant starch in potatoes can also:
- Help you feel full
- Prevent constipation
- Decrease bad cholesterol
- Lower the risk of colon cancer
The Potassium in Potatoes
In addition to resistant starch, both red and white potatoes are high in potassium, which is a nutrient that many Americans don't eat in sufficient amounts. Potassium keeps your bones and heart healthy, reducing your risk of stroke and heart disease. Yet, according to a May 2013 report in Advances in Nutrition, the average intake is just over half of the recommended amount.
According to another report in Annals of Medicine published in November 2013, potatoes may improve your heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing levels of bad cholesterol and decreasing inflammation.
The current recommendation for potassium is 2,600 milligrams per day for adult women and 3,400 milligrams daily for adult men. That means that one medium red or white potato provides 36 percent of a woman's needs for an entire day and 28 percent of the daily needs for a man. If you need to up your intake of potassium, eating potatoes with other healthy, potassium-rich foods like acorn squash, kidney beans, spinach, chicken breast and Atlantic salmon can help you meet your needs.
The Antioxidants in Potatoes
Another noteworthy nutrient in both red and white potatoes is vitamin C, which is responsible for around 13 percent of the total antioxidant capacity of the vegetable. In addition to acting as an antioxidant, vitamin C keeps your skin healthy, helps you metabolize protein and plays an important role in your immune system.
Vitamin C can help combat oxidative stress, reducing your risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease. Adequate intake of the vitamin is also linked to eye health, reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (or AMD) and cataracts, the two leading causes of blindness in older adults. Vitamin C needs range from 65 to 90 milligrams, so a single medium red or white potato provides anywhere from 24 to 34 percent of your daily needs, depending on your individual circumstances.
In addition to vitamin C, all potatoes contain several carotenoids, which include lutein, zeaxanthin and violaxanthin, and flavonoids that act as antioxidants. These antioxidants keep your heart healthy, improve cognitive function, promote eye health and may be able to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, according to an August 2018 report in the journal Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics.
Red potatoes have a slight edge over white potatoes here, since they contain almost twice as much of these antioxidant compounds, depending on how pigmented their flesh is.
Best Ways to Eat Potatoes
Another reason potatoes get a bad rap is because of the way people choose to eat them. Many people opt for french fries, which aren't just easy to overeat, they're also usually deep-fried in undesirable oils and covered in table salt.
According to a July 2016 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating potatoes as french fries has a stronger link to weight gain and increased BMI than preparing them boiled, mashed or baked. The report also noted that regular consumption of french fries was associated with Type 2 diabetes, while other potato preparations were not. If you incorporate potatoes into your diet, watch your portions and bake, mash or boil them, instead of frying them or eating them as chips.
You can increase the resistant starch in your potatoes by cooking them the night before you want to eat them and then storing them in the refrigerator to allow them to cool. Reheat them the next day when you're ready.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Potatoes and Risk of Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease in Apparently Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review of Clinical Intervention and Observational Studies"
- Johns Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes: "What Is Resistant Starch?"
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: "Potatoes, Red, Flesh and Skin, Baked"
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: "Potatoes, White, Flesh and Skin, Baked"
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Potassium"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Potassium and Health"
- Annals of Medicine: "The Role of Potatoes and Potato Components in Cardiometabolic Health: A Review"
- Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics: "Carotenoids in Human Nutrition and Health"
- American Journal of Potato Research: "Antioxidants in Potato"
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin C"