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4 surprising benefits of potatoes (that make them just as healthy as sweet potatoes)

The much-loved root vegetable is great for weight management and gut health. Add them to a healthy diet with these 13 easy recipes.

Think potatoes are off limits if you're trying to lose weight? Good news: Eating potatoes can improve cardio-metabolic health, help with weight management and boost gut health and sports performance.

The hearty potato has been an inexpensive and beloved side dish for hundreds of years. Through the centuries, the potato has been taken many forms, from fries and chips to tots and mashes. And although many preparations of the spud include excess fat and sodium, the potato on its own is a nutritious and versatile vegetable.

Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t shy away from the glorious potato and ways to add it to your diet. 

Potato Nutrition Facts

One small potato has: 

  • 135 calories
  • 3 grams protein
  • 0 grams fat
  • 30 grams carbohydrates
  • 4 grams fiber (11% daily value (DV))
  • 34 milligrams Vitamin C (37% DV)
  • 722 milligrams potassium (15% DV)

The health benefits of eating potatoes

When most people think potatoes, they think carbohydrates, which is why some low-carb dieters avoid the root vegetable. But the benefits of eating potatoes should lay your carb fears to rest.

Potatoes are heart healthy

Potatoes are a good source of fiber, which has been linked to heart health. As a matter of fact, a large observational study of over 2,000 people found that those who added potatoes to their diet, when combined with higher levels of physical activity and lower red meat intake, had a 24 % lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and a 26% lower risk of having elevated triglycerides.

Potatoes can help you manage your weight

The tuber is also a source of resistant starch — a type of carbohydrate that “resists” digestion. Resistant starch controls hunger, which aids in weight management. So it's no surprise that a recent study suggests eating potatoes suppressed appetite and short-term food intake. In addition, research confirms that pairing potatoes with a protein, like eggs, increases satiety and decreases short-term food intake. 

Potatoes are great for gut health

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

Potatoes are full of nutrients

In addition, potatoes are a good source of potassium, a mineral that has the potential to lower blood pressure. A small randomized controlled trial observed the effects of feeding potatoes to adults with prehypertension or hypertension for 16 days. The study authors concluded that eating potatoes was correlated with reductions in blood pressure. In other words, eating potatoes as part of a healthy eating plan may prevent high blood pressure. 

More Nutritional Information on Everyday Foods

Are there drawbacks to eating potatoes?

Since potatoes are often served in chip or fry form, they get a bad rap. But whether or not the form of potato plays a role in the healthfulness is up for debate. 

large observational study found a link between potatoes in any form and higher diet quality and increased nutrient intake. Another long-term study that followed participants for 8 years concluded that frequent consumption of fried potatoes increased the risk of mortality. But since french fries are usually part of a fast food meal, it’s impossible to know if other unhealthy eating patterns factored into these results. Since fries, chips, tater tots, and mashed potatoes have added saturated fat and sodium, it’s best to eat these foods in moderation. 

Another concern about potatoes is their carb count. But according to the Dietary Guidelines, carbs should account for 45-65% of calories, and and eating them has not been linked to obesity. The amount of carbs in one potato is similar to two slices of bread and less than two ounces of pasta. 

Fun facts about potatoes

These interesting tidbits are a few more reasons to add potatoes to your shopping cart. 

They are a good pre-workout snack

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

The protein from potatoes has also been studied for its potential to induce muscle growth. Although the research is limited, one small trial demonstrated that ​​ingestion of 30 grams of potato protein concentrate increases muscle protein synthesis rates in healthy young males. Potato protein powder is not widely available, but you may start to see it pop up in the future. 

Lastly, potassium is an electrolyte lost in sweat. Eating a pre-workout potato could mitigate fluid losses and help keep you hydrated during exercise.  

There are more than 200 varieties of potatoes

Even though you may only see a few potato varieties at the store, there are over 200 grown in the United States. Each variety fits into one of these categories: russet, red, white, yellow, blue/purple, fingerling and petite. All have a slightly different texture and flavor, but every single variety is versatile and tasty. xs

Whatever type you choose, store the potatoes in a dark cool place, like a pantry. Storing potatoes in the fridge causes the starch to convert to sugar, which alters the taste and texture. Potatoes will stay fresh for several months in a cool pantry. If the potato begins to sprout, remove the sprouts and cook as normal.  

Healthy potato recipes

Besides the good old baked potato, there are plenty of preparations for the spud. Whether you like your potatoes mashed, stuffed, fried, with cheese or in a tasty salad, we’ve got options for you. Try some of these the next time you want to up your potato game: 

Cacio e Pepe Roasted Potatoes
Mama Chapman's Potato Salad
Broccoli and Cheese Twice-Baked Potatoes
Crispy Potatoes and Artichokes with Parsley Aioli
Southern-Style Potato Salad
Loaded Baked Potato Croquettes
Tex-Mex Hotdish
Cheesy Potato Gratin
Mexican Hasselback Potatoes
Creamy Mashed Potatoes