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Potatoes: Facts, Nutrition, Benefits, & More

Whether mashed, fried, roasted, or boiled, potatoes have been a staple in diets around the world for centuries. Beyond its comforting and familiar presence on our plates, the potato boasts an impressive nutritional profile, packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Not only do they provide tons of nutrients but they also offer a ton of health benefits. Potatoes are a delicious addition to meals and play a crucial role in diverse global cuisines. Yet, the potato often lacks the recognition it deserves.

Keep reading to find out all you need to know about potatoes.

Fun Fact:Potatoes are the fourth-largest food crop globally, following rice, wheat, and corn.

History & Facts

The potato is a starchy root vegetable that is consumed as a staple food in many parts of the world. Potatoes are tubers of the plant Solanum tuberosum, belonging to the nightshade family Solanaceae (1).

The potato, a culinary powerhouse in today’s world, has a rich and fascinating history that spans continents and centuries. Originating in the high-altitude regions of South America, the potato has been a dietary staple for Andean civilizations like the Incas for over 7,000 years (2).

It wasn’t until the Spanish conquistadors brought the potato back to Europe in the 16th century that it began to expand globally. The potato was initially skepticized, then gradually gained acceptance across the continent. With famines in the 18th and 19th centuries, potatoes became a reliable and abundant food source (3). Today, the potato is virtually everywhere, featuring prominently in dishes worldwide and used in global cuisines throughout the world.

Did You Know?:Wild potato species can be found from the southern United States down to southern Chile.

Types of Potatoes

There are numerous varieties of potatoes, over 5,000, each with their unique flavor, texture, and uses (4). Here are some of the most popular types:

  • Russet Potatoes: Known for their high starch content and fluffy texture, Russets are perfect for baking, mashing, and frying. They have rough, netted brown skin.
  • Yukon Gold Potatoes: These have buttery yellow flesh and thin, golden skin. They are versatile and great for mashing, baking, and roasting, offering a creamy texture.
  • Red Potatoes: With thin, red skins and waxy flesh, these potatoes hold their shape well after cooking. They are ideal for boiling, roasting, or using in salads.
  • Fingerling Potatoes: These small, elongated potatoes come in various colors and have a firm, creamy texture. They’re often roasted or used in salads.

These varieties represent just a fraction of the potato world, and each brings its distinct qualities to the table, catering to different culinary preferences and applications.

Did You Know?:Potatoes can conduct electricity.

Nutrition Facts

Potatoes are not only delicious and versatile but also offer a range of nutritional benefits. Keep reading to learn about some of the key nutrients found in potatoes.


In one-half cup (around 75 grams) of russet potato, there are the following macronutrients (5):

  • Calories: 59 calories (kcal)
  • Protein: 1.6 grams (g)
  • Total Fat: 0.06 grams (g)
  • Carbohydrate: 13.6 grams (g)
  • Fiber: 0.975 grams (g)

Potatoes are naturally low in fat, making them a healthy option for those watching their fat intake (6). However, the preparation method (such as frying) can add additional fat and calories.
Potatoes contain dietary fiber, especially in the skin (7). Fiber is important for digestive health, as it helps prevent constipation and supports a healthy digestive system (8).

Summary:Potatoes are naturally low in fat and a great fiber-rich option for a healthy diet.

Vitamins & Minerals

In one-half cup (around 75 grams) of russet potato, there are the following vitamins and minerals (9):

  • Calcium: 9.75 milligrams (mg)
  • Iron: 0.6 milligrams (mg)
  • Magnesium: 17.2 milligrams (mg)
  • Phosphorus: 41.2 milligrams (mg)
  • Potassium: 313 milligrams (mg)
  • Vitamin C: 4.28 milligrams (mg)
  • Folate: 10.5 micrograms (mcg)
  • Choline: 9.45 milligrams (mg)
  • Vitamin A: 0.75 international units (IU)
  • Lutein + zeaxanthin: 3.75 micrograms (mcg)
  • Vitamin K: 1.35 micrograms (mcg)

Potatoes are rich in several essential vitamins, including vitamin C, which is crucial for a healthy immune system and collagen production (10). They also contain B vitamins like B6, important for brain development and function. Potatoes provide minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus (11). Potassium is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure and supporting proper muscle and nerve function (12).

Summary:A serving of potato offers a range of essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C for immune health and collagen production, B6 for brain function, and potassium for blood pressure regulation and muscle and nerve function.

Health Benefits

Consuming potatoes in moderation as part of a balanced diet can offer various health benefits.

Promotes Digestive Health

Potatoes offer several digestive health benefits due to their nutrient content, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is essential for digestive health as it adds bulk to stool and helps prevent constipation (13). Adequate fiber intake can promote regular bowel movements and support a healthy gastrointestinal system.

Some potatoes, when cooked and then cooled, develop resistant starch. Resistant starch acts similarly to dietary fiber in the digestive system, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon (14). This can contribute to a healthier gut microbiome. A balanced and diverse gut microbiota is associated with improved digestive function and overall health. Additionally, potatoes have a high water content, contributing to hydration and the softening of stool. Proper hydration is crucial for maintaining regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.

It’s worth noting that the way potatoes are prepared can influence their impact on digestive health.

Summary:Potatoes support digestive health by providing fiber, vitamins, and minerals, preventing constipation, promoting a healthy gut microbiome, and aiding hydration, though the preparation method matters.

Boosts Heart Health

Potatoes can contribute to heart health in several ways, thanks to their nutritional content and various beneficial compounds. Potatoes are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that plays a crucial role in maintaining heart health (15). Adequate potassium intake is associated with lower blood pressure, as it helps balance sodium levels and relaxes blood vessel walls.

When consumed with the skin, potatoes are also an excellent source of dietary fiber. Fiber helps lower cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol molecules and aiding in their elimination from the body (16). This can contribute to a healthier cardiovascular system and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Summary:Potatoes support heart health by providing potassium, essential for maintaining blood pressure, and dietary fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels, contributing to a healthier cardiovascular system and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Support Skin Health

Potatoes can do wonders for the skin, especially when consumed as part of a balanced diet. Potatoes contain compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, including antioxidants like vitamin C and phytochemicals. These can help soothe and reduce inflammation, making them beneficial for conditions such as sunburn or skin irritation (17).

Potatoes have a high water content, which can contribute to skin hydration (18). Proper hydration is essential for maintaining healthy, supple skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
They can also provide benefits when applied topically, like helping with skin brightness, reducing puffiness, and acting as an exfoliator.

Summary:Potatoes, whether eaten or applied to the skin, have anti-inflammatory properties, high water content, and various compounds that promote skin health and hydration.

Ways to Consume

Potatoes are incredibly versatile, and there are countless ways to enjoy them. Here’s a list of different culinary preparations for potatoes:

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Baked potatoes
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Grilled potatoes
  • Make a potato salad
  • Thin into scalloped potatoes
  • Hash browns
  • Cut into potato wedges
  • Puree into a potato soup
  • Potato Gnocchi
  • Potato pancakes
  • Potato dumplings
  • Mix into a burrito

It’s important to note that the nutritional content can vary depending on the type of potato and how it’s prepared. For example, frying potatoes or loading them with high-fat toppings can significantly alter their nutritional profile. To maximize the health benefits, consider preparing potatoes using methods like baking, boiling, or roasting and including the nutrient-rich skin when possible.

Fun Fact:The world’s heaviest potato weighed in at 10.37 kg (22.8 pounds) in 2011.

Potential Risks

While potatoes offer numerous nutritional benefits, there are some potential risks associated with their consumption. These risks are often related to how potatoes are prepared and consumed.

  • Potato Allergy: While rare, some individuals may be allergic to potatoes (19). Allergic reactions can vary from mild skin irritations to more severe symptoms like difficulty breathing. If you suspect an allergy, seek medical attention.
  • Glycoalkaloid Toxicity: Potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, which are natural compounds that can be toxic in high amounts (20). The highest concentrations are found in the skin and sprouts. Green potatoes, which have been exposed to light, can contain elevated levels of glycoalkaloids. Consuming large quantities of these compounds can lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and, in extreme cases, more serious health issues.
  • High Glycemic Index: Potatoes have a high glycemic index, meaning they can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels (21). This may not be suitable for individuals with diabetes or those trying to manage blood sugar levels. Choosing varieties with lower glycemic indexes or consuming potatoes in moderation alongside other foods can help mitigate this effect.

Summary:While potatoes offer nutritional benefits, there are potential risks like rare allergies, toxicity in the skin and sprouts, and a high glycemic index, especially concerning individuals with diabetes, emphasizing the importance of moderate consumption and careful preparation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I store potatoes?

Proper storage is essential to keep potatoes fresh and prevent them from sprouting, becoming mushy, or developing a bitter taste. Store potatoes in a cool, dark, and ventilated place, away from direct sunlight. Keep potatoes separate from onions. When stored together, both vegetables can produce gases that accelerate spoilage. Furthermore, do not store them in the refrigerator.

Is it safe to eat the skin of a potato?

Yes, it is generally safe to eat the skin of a potato, and doing so can provide additional nutritional benefits. Potato skin is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, it is important to wash potatoes thoroughly to remove any dirt, pesticides, or contaminants. Scrubbing the skin with a brush under running water is a good practice. Avoiding green or sprouted areas of the potato can also be useful.

Can I freeze potatoes?

While raw potatoes can be frozen, the process can affect their texture and flavor. Freezing can cause the water inside the potato cells to expand, leading to changes in the cell structure. This often results in a softer texture and a somewhat grainy consistency when the potatoes are thawed and cooked. If you choose to freeze potatoes, it’s recommended to blanch them first. It’s essential to use frozen potatoes within 10-12 months for the best quality.

Fun Fact:In 1853, chef George Crum created potato chips on accident in response to a customer who complained that his fried potatoes were too thick.


Potatoes are a culinary delight and are used as a versatile companion in kitchens worldwide. Beyond their delicious appeal, potatoes offer a treasure trove of nutritional benefits – a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

Not only that, but potatoes offer impressive health benefits like promoting digestive, heart, and skin health. Let’s celebrate the mighty potato, a staple that continues to nourish and delight in every culinary adventure.