All types of potatoes are high in carbohydrates and contain a moderate amount of calories as well as healthy amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals. The kind of potatoes that may be the healthiest are the potato varieties with darker-colored flesh, such as the Purple Viking, Yukon Gold, and Ruby Crescent. The pigments in these potatoes provide flavonoids and carotenoids that promote good health.
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Nutrients in Potatoes
Potatoes are low in calories, contain no cholesterol or fat, are high in fiber, and contain significant amounts of vitamin C and potassium, as well as vitamin B-6 and iron. A medium potato will provide about 110 calories in the form of carbohydrates, and about 8 percent of your RDA of fiber. A single spud meets about 45 percent RDA of vitamin C and nearly 18 percent RDA of potassium, an essential mineral. Potatoes also contain small amounts of calcium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.
All potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, which contain starches, glycogen and fiber. Carbohydrates are the body’s fuel source and are essential for muscle and brain health. While excess carbohydrates, like any other food, can contribute to weight gain, they are vital to your body. According to Potato Goodness Unearthed, severely limiting your intake of carbohydrates can result in your body scavenging them from its protein stores in a process known as gluconeogenesis. The fiber provided by a potato helps to lower cholesterol and keep your digestive system regular.
Potatoes come in a wide range of colors, including white, yellow, red and blue. They’re also classified according to their starch content. Potatoes with high starch content are generally used for French fries, as well as baked potatoes and mashed potatoes. Potatoes with low starch content are also called waxy potatoes, and they generally make good potato salads because they keep their shape and don’t fall apart. While all potato varieties contain roughly the same nutrients and amounts of carbohydrates, the more colorful varieties also contain pigments called carotenoids and flavonoids that may protect you from cancer. Dark yellow potatoes contain beta-carotene, a nutrient that your body can use to manufacture vitamin A.
Sweet potatoes aren’t technically potatoes since they come from a different family of plants, but they are related. Potatoes of all colors are from the botanical family Solanaceae, while sweet potatoes are from the Convolvulaceae family. Sweet potatoes are available in orange, white, red and golden varieties. The orange variety is also called a yam. Sweet potatoes contain more manganese than regular potatoes and are high in beta-carotene. Unlike regular potatoes, they don’t contain alkaloids that may provoke an allergic response in some people.
Although potatoes don’t contain fat or cholesterol, how they’re cooked can significantly change their nutritional value. Starchy potatoes that are deep fried, as well as potato chips, can absorb a significant amount of cooking oil and add unwanted calories and fat to your diet. Baked potatoes served with butter or sour cream contributes calories, too. Consider eating small organic potatoes served with the skin, which contains most of the valuable fiber.