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Potato – the quintessential American vegetable. Prepared in a multitude of ways and adored by all – in fact they are the top consumed vegetable in the United States, with Americans devouring upwards of 50 pounds per year (when accounting for all sources including fresh, frozen & potato chips). While potatoes haven’t always had the best reputation as far as healthy foods go, this is in large part based on how they are consumed – ‘French fries, I’m looking at you!’ In actuality, these root veggies are definitely worthy of our attention. Best consumed as leftovers, potatoes are more nutrient-dense than many people realize. In fact, they are kind of “spud-tacular”!
The potato (Solanum tuberosum) is a starchy tuber member of the Solanaceae family which are collectively known as ‘nightshades.’ There are more than 2,000 species in this family, the vast majority of which are inedible and many of which are highly poisonous (like deadly nightshade, aka belladonna, and jimsom weed). Other edible members include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tobacco. Members of this family don’t always get the best reputation because of their association with inflammatory compounds, but for those who can tolerate them, they are a worthy addition to our diet!
Wild potatoes originated in southern Peru, where they were first domesticated roughly 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. Potatoes were introduced to Europe from the Americas in the second half of the 16th century by the Spanish. While they were slow to be adopted, eventually this veggie went on to play a major role in the European 19th century population boom, with disastrous consequences during the Great Irish Famine from 1845 to 1852. In North America, most potatoes grown arrived with European settlers and not from their South American birthplace. Today, potatoes have enormous global popularity. They are a staple in many parts of the world and an integral part of the world’s food supply. In fact, they’re the most important non-cereal crop on the planet. World-wide, there are over 5,000 different varieties of potatoes spanning all sizes and colors with the main categories being white potatoes, brown potatoes (aka Russet), red potatoes, yellow potatoes (aka Yukon), purple potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and petite potatoes.
Nutrivore Score for Potato – 272
Potatoes have a Nutrivore Score of 272, making them a medium nutrient-dense food! Plus, they are a low-carb food; potatoes have 2.5 grams net carbohydrates per 1-cup serving.
Per serving, potatoes are a best source (>50% daily value) of dietary fiber; an excellent source (20-50% daily value) of polyphenols, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and vitamin C; and a good source (10-20% daily value) of copper, manganese, potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamin), and vitamin B3 (niacin).
Potato Nutrition Facts
One serving of potatoes is standardized to 1 cup, diced or about 150 grams (5.3 ounces). A typical small potato (1 3/4″ to 2 1/2″ diameter) weighs 170 grams, which means: one serving of potatoes is roughly equivalent to 1 small potato. By comparison, a typical medium potato (2 1/4″ to 3 1/4 ” diameter) weighs 213 grams (~ 1.5 servings), while a large potato (3″ to 4 1/4″ diameter) weighs 369 grams (~2.5 servings). When you cook potatoes, their volume remains relatively consistent: 1 raw potato is roughly equivalent to 1 baked potato.
|Potatoes, flesh and skin, raw||Nutrivore Score: 272||Nutrient Density: Medium|
|Serving Size: 1 cup, diced (150 grams)||Protein: 3.1 grams||Net Carbohydrates: 2.5 grams|
|Calories: 116||Total Fat: 0.1 grams||1Dietary Fiber: 23.7 grams|
|Vitamin A||0.0 μg RAE||0% DV|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||121.5 μg||10% DV|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||48.0 μg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||1.6 mg||10% DV|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.4 mg||9% DV|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||447.0 μg||26% DV|
|Vitamin B7 (Biotin)||2.7 μg||9% DV|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||22.5 μg||6% DV|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin C||29.6 mg||33% DV|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin E||0.0 mg||0% DV|
|Vitamin K||3.0 μg||3% DV|
|Choline||18.2 mg||3% DV|
|Calcium||18.0 mg||1% DV|
|Copper||165.0 μg||18% DV|
|Iron||1.2 mg||7% DV|
|Magnesium||34.5 mg||8% DV|
|Manganese||229.5 μg||10% DV|
|Phosphorus||85.5 mg||7% DV|
|Potassium||637.5 mg||14% DV|
|Selenium||0.6 μg||1% DV|
|Sodium||9.0 mg||0% DV|
|Zinc||0.5 mg||4% DV|
|AMINO ACIDS & PEPTIDES|
Potato Nutrition Varies With Cooking and Processing
The Nutrivore Score of potatoes varies depending on processing, method of preparation, and portion of the potato being consumed. For instance, the nutrition in potato skins is different than that found in the flesh of the veggie. Potato skins are high in fiber, but it’s also important to note that glycoalkaloids develop right under the skin, and in some cases, the peel contains upwards of 98% of the total glycoalkaloid content of this veggie. In addition to fresh potatoes, frozen and canned potatoes are conveniently available at the grocery store.
|Potatoes, baked, flesh, without salt||142|
|Potatoes, baked, flesh and skin, without salt||255|
|Potatoes, baked, skin, without salt||178|
|Potatoes, boiled, cooked in skin, flesh, without salt||148|
|Potatoes, boiled, cooked in skin, skin, without salt||3571|
|Potatoes, boiled, cooked without skin, flesh, without salt||133|
|Potatoes, canned, drained solids, no salt added||143|
|Potatoes, canned, solids and liquids||1631|
|Potatoes, flesh and skin, raw||272|
|Potatoes, frozen, whole, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt||1451|
|Potatoes, microwaved, cooked in skin, flesh and skin, without salt||276|
|Potatoes, microwaved, cooked in skin, skin, without salt||2491|
|Potatoes, raw, skin||3061|
Potato Nutrition Varies With Variety
World-wide, there are over 5,000 distinct varieties of potatoes, ranging in size, color, starch content, flavor and nutrient profile, which means their Nutrivore Scores also vary. This veggie is one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen and can be prepared in a multitude of ways. Try incorporating different types into your diet, cooked in various ways, to maximize all the benefits potatoes have to offer!
|Potatoes, flesh and skin, raw||272|
|Potatoes, red, flesh and skin, raw||278|
|Potatoes, russet, flesh and skin, raw||248|
|Potatoes, white, flesh and skin, raw||273|
Health Benefits of Potato Nutrients
Let’s take a closer look at all of the best and excellent source of nutrients found in a 1-cup serving of potato and see how they benefit our health.
Potatoes Provide 23.7 g of Fiber
Potatoes are a best source of dietary fiber, providing 23.7 g of fiber per 1-cup serving!
Fiber serves as substrate for the trillions of microbes that inhabit our digestive tracts, collectively referred to as the gut microbiome. Through their metabolism of fiber, these resident microbes benefit us in a whole host of ways, including aiding digestion, vitamin production, detoxification, regulation of cholesterol metabolism, providing resistance to pathogens, immune regulation, neurotransmitter regulation, regulation of gene expression, and more! In fact, every human cell is impacted by the activities of our gut microbes. A healthy gut microbial community is essential for our health. And, the converse is also true: An aberrant gut microbiome has been linked to conditions as wide-ranging as cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, neurodegenerative diseases, autism, autoimmune disease, ulcers, IBD, liver disease, gout, PCOS, osteoporosis, systemic infections, allergies, asthma, and more!
Fiber has other benefits, like regulating peristalsis of the intestines (the rhythmic motion of muscles around the intestines that pushes food through the digestive tract), stimulating the release of the suppression of the hunger hormone ghrelin (so we feel more full), and slowing the absorption of simple sugars into the bloodstream to regulate blood sugar levels and avoid the excess production of insulin. Fiber also binds to various substances in the digestive tract (like hormones, bile salts, cholesterol, and toxins) and, depending on the type of fiber, can facilitate either elimination or reabsorption (for the purpose of recycling, which is an important normal function for many substances like bile salts and cholesterol), both of which can be extremely beneficial—if not essential—for human health.
The recommended dietary intake for fiber is 14 grams per 1000 kcal, which translates to 28 grams of fiber, if you eat a 2,000 calorie per day diet. However, there are many studies showing greater benefits from even higher levels of intake. Lear more about fiber here.
Potatoes Provide 33% DV Vitamin C
Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, providing 33% of the daily value per 1-cup serving!
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that has powerful antioxidant properties (meaning it can help combat oxidative damage from free radicals and reactive oxygen species) and that serves as an enzyme cofactor (meaning it’s needed for enzymes to do their job, for example vitamin C is necessary for collagen synthesis, which is essential for bones, joints, teeth, blood vessels, skin and eyes) and playing important roles in immune system and skin health. Higher intakes of vitamin C are linked to reduced risk of heart disease, some forms of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and gout. Vitamin C can also help regulate the stress response and reduce anxiety, and there’s preliminary evidence that it may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more about vitamin C here.
Potatoes Provide 244.5 mg of Polyphenols
Potatoes are also an excellent source of polyphenols, providing 244.5 mg of polyphenols per 1-cup serving!
Polyphenols play a huge role in protecting against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative diseases, and other conditions associated with oxidative stress. In fact, a major reason foods like red wine and olive oil (as well as diets rich in both, such as the Mediterranean diet) show up as so beneficial may be due to their high polyphenol content! Along with chronic diseases, supplementing with polyphenols has been shown to protect against infections and reduce the signs of aging. Polyphenols exert their most potent effects by acting as antioxidants—preventing cellular damage by neutralizing hazardous oxygen radicals and improving cellular health as a result (which, in turn, benefits virtually every system in the body). As a result of their antioxidant properties, polyphenols also boost the immune system and protect against both chronic and acute diseases. In addition, polyphenols can help regulate enzyme function, stimulate cell receptors, modulate the functions of inflammatory cells (including T and B lymphocytes, macrophages, platelets, and natural killer cells), alter adhesion molecule expression, affect nerve cells and cardiac muscle cells, and exert antiviral effects. Learn more about polyphenols here.
Potatoes Provide 26% DV Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Potatoes are a great source of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), providing 26% of the daily value per 1-cup serving!
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is a group of six water-soluble compounds with a similar chemical structure, all of which can be converted into their active form of pyridoxal 5’-phospate (PLP). Over 100 different enzymes require vitamin B6 in order to carry out their various functions in protein metabolism, fatty acid metabolism, neurotransmitter production, gluconeogenesis, hemoglobin synthesis, the release of glucose from glycogen, and energy metabolism (particularly the production of ATP in the Krebs cycle). Research suggests vitamin B6 may help protect against cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, could reduce the risk of depression among the elderly, and even reduce symptoms of morning sickness and PMS. Learn more about vitamin B6 here.
How Much Potato Should We Eat Per Day?
When it comes to nutrient-dense carbs, root veggies are hard to beat!
Every serving of fresh, whole vegetables or fruit we eat daily reduces the risk of all-cause mortality by 5% to 8%, with the greatest risk reduction seen when we consume eight or more servings per day. In fact, consuming 800 grams of vegetables and fruits daily reduces all-cause mortality by 31% compared to eating less than 40 grams daily. A 2017 meta-analysis showed that 2.24 million deaths from cardiovascular disease, 660,000 deaths from cancer, and 7.8 million deaths from all causes could be avoided globally each year if everyone consumed 800 grams of veggies and fruits every day.
Eating vegetables and fruit in abundance lowers risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, osteoporosis and bone fragility fractures (including hip fracture), cognitive impairment and dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), neurodegenerative diseases, asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, depression, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory polyarthritis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, acne, seborrheic dermatitis, and lowers markers of inflammation. Learn more in Importance of Vegetables and Fruit.
Covering half of your plate with a variety of vegetables (and three quarters of your plate if your starchy food is a root vegetable or winter squash) at each meal is a simple way to easily achieve the goal of 800 grams daily (about 5 to 8 servings depending on the vegetable).
Studies show that, for every 100 grams per day increase in root vegetable intake, there was a 24% reduced risk of all-cause mortality! And, although potatoes are sometimes not painted in a good light, this is often due to the way they’re consumed (fried in vegetable oils, eaten as french fries with fast food meals, or munched on as potato chips). After adjusting for confounders, one study found that potatoes are associated with a 25% reduced risk of total mortality.
It’s always best to mix up the veggies you eat day to day (aiming for a wide variety of different vegetables and fruits throughout the week), and potatoes definitely have a place at the table.
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