Potatoes are often ignored as full, natural foods — and with so much focus on ultra-processed varieties like potato chips and french fries, it’s easy to understand why. “Carbohydrates, including those found in white potatoes, have been misunderstood and demonized,” explains Jordan Hill, RD, of Top Nutrition Coaching. As a result, potatoes are frequently seen as intrinsically harmful, which is just not the case.
Even though the nutritional differences between white and sweet potatoes are minimal (white potatoes actually win out when it comes to potassium and protein), basic white or russet potatoes are not regarded in the same respect as their orange counterparts. White potatoes are a high-quality source of vital nutrients and antioxidants when not deep-fried in fatty oils or drowned in rich dairy spreads. Despite their limited presence on fast food menus, there are several ways to enjoy these fluffy, starchy tubers without losing nutrients.
Another advantage? White potatoes are an economical, accessible, and nourishing side dish for the whole family in an era of escalating supermarket prices. Potatoes remained less than $1 a pound in April 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you still need convincing to buy a five-pound bag of white potatoes, consider the following seven health advantages.
1. They’re a Good Fiber Source
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one medium white potato, including its skin, has more than 5 grams (g) of fiber. It may not seem like much, but it represents between 13 and 20% of the daily recommended consumption (25 g for women and 38 g for men), “which can add up quickly when eaten in larger portions,” according to Brookell White, RD, a nutrition data curator at MyFitnessPal. According to Hill, fiber helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract, regular bowel motions, balanced blood sugar levels, and enhanced satiety. Just keep in mind that if you use a vegetable peeler to prepare them, you won’t receive all of the advantages – according to study, nearly half of the fiber in a potato is in the skin.
2. They are gut-friendly resistant starch.
Potatoes contain amylose, a resistant starch that, as the name implies, resists digestion and thus acts as an insoluble fiber and prebiotic that feeds good bacteria in the gut and helps move waste through the digestive tract, according to Amy Lee, MD, Nucific’s head of nutrition. In a June 2019 Nutrition & Diabetes study, resistant starches were also demonstrated to reduce blood sugar response and enhance insulin resistance and sensitivity, particularly in diabetics. By proxy, these benefits may help prevent colon cancer and gallstone development, decrease cholesterol, and aid in weight maintenance.
3. They are high in antioxidant vitamin C.
According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin C is a disease-fighting antioxidant that boosts the immune system, shields cells from harm, increases collagen formation and decreases inflammation. And a white potato is an excellent source of it, providing around 20% of the daily required amount.
4. They are high in potassium.
Potassium is the most prevalent mineral in potatoes, and it has several health advantages. Potassium is a crucial electrolyte in the neurological system for regulating cellular fluid levels; it also helps manage blood pressure and may reduce the risk of stroke, according to a study. According to the National Institutes of Health, one medium potato has 867 milligrams (mg) of potassium, or about 25 to 30 percent of the daily recommended dose for adults, which varies from 2,600 to 3,400 milligrams (mg). Hill goes on to say that the potassium in potatoes helps sustain heart and muscle function as well as optimum hydration.
5. They Can Aid in Weight Loss
Although fried potatoes are related to weight gain, properly cooked spuds might have the opposite impact. One short research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in December 2022 discovered that subjects with uncontrolled glucose levels showed reduced insulin resistance and weight reduction after eight weeks on a potato-heavy diet.
A previous study has also shown that potatoes are high in satiety, or the sense of fullness after consuming a food. Subjects who ate equal portions of a whole cooked potato, white rice, or white penne pasta on three consecutive days in random order reported feeling fuller, more content, and more desire to eat less after eating the potato vs the rice or pasta. Because potatoes help you feel fuller for the same number of calories, they may help lower overall caloric intake, assisting with weight reduction.
6. Contrary to popular belief, they do not endanger heart health.
An analysis of 121 research published between 1946 and July 2020 in Systematic Reviews refuted the link between potatoes and cardiovascular illness, including diabetes, stroke, and hypertension. According to the analysis, “there is no convincing evidence to suggest an association between potato consumption and risk of these diseases.” Dr. Lee goes on to say that the vitamin B3 and potassium present in potato peel, on the other hand, “are great for heart health.”
7. They may reduce the risk of chronic disease.
More research is needed to investigate potatoes’ ability to reduce disease risk, but one study published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2019 found they are, at the very least, neutrally associated with chronic illnesses like hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, and colorectal cancer — when they are mashed, boiled, or baked rather than fried.