Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to? Let’s set that silly question aside and talk about something more important: Are white potatoes healthy or not?
Despite their bad rap (thanks, sour cream and onion chips!), classic spuds have some surprisingly stellar health credentials. Here’s the truth about these tasty tubers-and why you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating them.
White potato nutrition: How many calories are in a potato?
Potatoes might be a white food, but unlike refined bread or pasta, they boast some pretty sweet nutritional stats. From one medium potato, you’ll get:
- 130 calories
- 4 g protein
- 0 g total fat
- 37 g carbs
- 4 g fiber
- 2 g sugar
- 2 g iron
- 48 mg magnesium
- 926 mg potassium
- 121 mg phosphorus
- 48 mcg folate
What are the health benefits of potatoes?
Turns out, they’ve got perks a-plenty. Here are some of the standout health benefits of white potatoes:
✔️ They’re a potassium powerhouse
Surprise: A medium spud serves up around a quarter of your daily potassium-more than twice as much as a medium banana. That’s good news, since getting enough of the mineral can help keep your blood pressure in check. It’s also tied to healthier blood sugar levels, better bone mineral density, and even a lower risk for kidney stones, according to the National Institutes of Health.
✔️ They deliver long-lasting fuel
Yes, potatoes are chock-full of carbs. But they’re also loaded with fiber and that makes all the difference. Fiber slows the absorption of potatoes’ natural sugars, so your blood sugar levels stay stable instead of quickly spiking and dropping. That translates to steady, long-lasting energy. Just be sure to eat the whole potato, not just the flesh. “About half of the fiber is in the skin,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition and wellness expert and author of Eating in Color.
✔️ They’re seriously satiating
Want to stave off the urge to snack-and maybe even lose some weight? Swap that bread or pasta for a spud. Research shows that boiled potatoes are one of the most satiating foods out there-and having them instead of pasta or rice can actually help you consume fewer calories at mealtime. That might be because potatoes are loaded with resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that acts like fiber and helps keep you feeling fuller longer, Largeman-Roth says.
✔️ They’re heart and gut healthy
Potatoes aren’t just good for your waistline. All that fiber does the rest of your body good too. Getting enough roughage can help lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation-all of which can reduce the risk for heart disease. Fiber also benefits your belly. It feeds the good bacteria in your gut and promotes a healthier microbiome, recent research shows.
White potato vs. sweet potato: Which is healthier?
Sweet potatoes are often touted as an all-around superfood, so they must win out, right? Turns out, it’s more of an even split. White potatoes and sweet potatoes are roughly equal on the calorie and fiber front. And while sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A, white potatoes are higher in other nutrients like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate. So switch it up-it’s good to have both!
What about purple potatoes?
Again, variety is the spice of life, people! Violet-hued foods like purple sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins, which you won’t find in white potatoes. But that doesn’t mean you have to go purple all the time. “All potatoes can fit into a healthy diet, and eating a variety is key to receive the benefits of each,” says Rebecca Ditkoff, MPH, RD, founder of Nutrition by RD.
How to cook white potatoes
Traditional french fries or potatoes au gratin are never going to pass as healthy, since they’re usually prepared in a way that racks up extra calories and fat. To reap the wholesome benefits of potatoes, stick with healthier prep ideas, like these:
Breakfast: Why just stick to sweet potato toast? Give thin slices of white potato the same treatment, then top with mashed avocado and a poached egg, Ditkoff says.
Lunch: Turn a simple baked potato into a satisfying meal by topping it with turkey or black bean chili and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.
Dinner: Try treating potatoes like croutons. Roast cubed potatoes with olive oil, salt, and your favorite herbs (like rosemary or thyme) until crispy. Then use them as a hearty topper for salads or soups.