Potatoes have a bad reputation for being high in carbohydrates and low in nutrition. While versions fried in trans-fat-laden oil or doused with cheese and butter might not be the healthiest options, a baked potato can be part of a healthy diet. Eating both the flesh and the skin of the potato offers you the most nutrition, but each offers specific benefits.
Calories and Macronutrients
A potato, flesh only, weighing 5.5 ounces contains 145 calories. It has only trace amounts of fat, 34 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of protein. The skin of a potato, weighing 2 ounces, adds 115 calories, 27 grams of carbs and 2.5 grams of protein. The skin offers 4.6 grams of fiber compared with the 2 grams found in the flesh. The flesh is higher in sugar, with 3 grams, compared with the skin, at less than 1 gram.
The flesh of a potato provides 33 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The skin contains only a third of what the flesh provides. The flesh also provides 23 percent of the daily value for vitamin B-6, 11 percent for thiamine and niacin, and small amounts of folate, riboflavin and pantothenic acid. The skin has 18 percent of the daily value for vitamin B-6, with comparably small amounts of thiamine, riboflavin and folate.
The skin of the potato provides 20 milligrams of calcium, while the flesh provides just 8 milligrams – but neither is a very good source of the bone-building mineral. The skin of the potato provides eight times as much iron, with 4 milligrams vs. 0.5 milligrams in the flesh. The flesh, however, is a better source of magnesium – with 10 percent vs. 6 percent in the skin. The two are comparable in terms of phosphorus and zinc content. The flesh provides slightly less copper, with 17 percent of the daily value vs. 24 percent found in the skin, and less manganese, with 13 percent of the daily value vs. 18 percent. The potato flesh offers almost twice the potassium as the skin. The flesh of one potato has 610 milligrams of potassium, which supports fluid and mineral balance in your body – more than a small banana.
Your best bet is to eat the potato, flesh and skin, to benefit from the total nutritional package. The fiber in the skin will help the potato be more satiating and might mitigate drastic swings in your blood sugar. The potato and skin together provide you with nearly one-quarter of your daily potassium needs. Skip adding sour cream, butter and cheddar cheese sauce to your potato. For flavor without extra saturated fat, add cottage cheese, plain yogurt, a small amount of grated Parmesan, black pepper or chives.