The surprising health benefits of potatoes, according to a dietitian

The hearty and reliable potato has been an inexpensive and popular side dish for hundreds of years. Over the centuries, the potato has evolved into many forms, such as fries, chips, bites, and mashes. And although many potato preparations contain excess fat and sodium, the potato on its own is a nutritious and versatile vegetable.

Eating potatoes may improve cardio-metabolic health, aid in weight management, and improve gut health and athletic performance. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid of the glorious potato and ways to add it to your diet.

Baked potatoes with rosemary.  (Single Pictures/Getty Images)

Baked potatoes with rosemary. (Single Pictures/Getty Images)

Potato nutritional value

A small potato contains:

  • 135 calories

  • 3 grams of protein

  • 0 grams of fat

  • 30 grams of carbohydrates

  • 4 grams of fiber (11% Daily Value (DV))

  • 34 milligrams of vitamin C (37% DV)

  • 722 milligrams of potassium (15% DV)

The health benefits of eating potatoes

Potatoes are best known for their carbohydrate content, which is why some low-carb people avoid the root vegetable. But the benefits of eating potatoes should calm your carb fears.

Potatoes are good for the heart

This creamy tuber is a good source of fiber, which has been linked to a healthy heart. In fact, a large observational study in over 2,000 people found that those who ate potatoes when combined with higher levels of physical activity and lower red meat consumption had a risk 24% lower type 2 diabetes and 26% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. to have high triglycerides.

Potatoes can help you manage your weight

Potatoes are also a source of resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that «resists» digestion. Resistant starch controls hunger, which aids in weight management. It’s no surprise, then, that a recent study suggests that eating potatoes suppresses appetite and short-term food intake. Additionally, research confirms that pairing potatoes with a protein, such as eggs, increases satiety and decreases food intake in the short term.

Baked potato on a dark rustic wooden table.  (pjohnson1/Getty Images)

Baked potato on a dark rustic wooden table. (pjohnson1/Getty Images)

Potatoes are great for gut health

Resistant starch also has positive implications for gut health. A small study of 50 participants found that eating a potato side dish daily for 4 weeks slightly altered the composition and diversity of the gut microbiota. Research on rats also shows similar results – rats experienced less inflammation and gut balance when fed potato resistant starch. More research is needed on this topic, but the results are promising.

Potatoes Are Packed With Nutrients

Additionally, potatoes are a good source of potassium, a mineral that has the potential to lower blood pressure. A small randomized controlled trial looked at the effects of eating potatoes in adults with prehypertension or hypertension for 16 days. The study authors concluded that potato consumption was correlated with a reduction in blood pressure. In other words, eating potatoes as part of a healthy diet can prevent high blood pressure.

Are there any downsides to eating potatoes?

Since potatoes are often served as chips or fries, they get a bad rap. But whether or not the shape of the potato plays a role in healthiness is up for debate.

A large observational study has linked potatoes in all their forms to higher quality diets and increased nutrient intake. Another long-term study that followed participants for 8 years concluded that frequent consumption of French fries increased the risk of death. But since fries are usually part of a fast food meal, it’s impossible to know if other unhealthy eating habits factored into these results. Since fries, chips, tater tots, and mashed potatoes contain saturated fat and sodium, it’s best to eat these foods in moderation.

Another concern with potatoes is their carb count. But according to dietary guidelines, carbohydrates should make up 45-65% of calories, and their consumption has not been linked to obesity. The amount of carbs in a potato is similar to two slices of bread and less than two ounces of pasta.

Fun Facts About Potatoes

This interesting information is just a few more reasons to add potatoes to your cart.

They fuel athletic performance

Due to their carbohydrate, potassium, and protein content, potatoes have been linked to improvements in athletic performance. Since carbohydrates are the primary fuel for exercise, potatoes have been widely studied for their potential as a pre-workout fuel. A study in cyclists compared the effectiveness of potatoes and energy gels on performance during a timed event. The results showed no difference between groups, demonstrating that potatoes provide the same amount of energy as sports nutrition products.

Potato protein has also been studied for its potential to induce muscle growth. Although research is limited, one small trial has shown that ingesting 30 grams of potato protein concentrate increases muscle protein synthesis rates in healthy young men. Potato protein powder isn’t widely available, but you might start seeing it appear in the future.

Finally, potassium is an electrolyte lost in sweat. Eating a pre-workout potato could alleviate fluid loss and help you stay hydrated during exercise.

There are over 200 varieties of potatoes

Even if you only see a few potato varieties at the store, there are over 200 grown in the United States. Each variety falls into one of these categories: russet, red, white, yellow, blue/purple, fry, and small. All have a slightly different texture and flavor, but each variety is versatile and flavorful.

Whichever type you choose, store potatoes in a dark, cool place, such as a pantry. Storing potatoes in the refrigerator causes the starch to convert to sugar, which affects taste and texture. Potatoes will stay fresh for several months in a cool pantry. If the potato starts to sprout, remove the sprouts and cook as normal.

Freshly made potato salad.  (Fudio/Getty Images)

Freshly made potato salad. (Fudio/Getty Images)

Healthy Potato Recipes

Besides the good old baked potato, there are many preparations for spud. Whether you like your potatoes mashed, stuffed, fried, with cheese or in a savory salad, we have options for you. Try a few the next time you want to up your potato game:

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