Why are potatoes good for me?

Pick up a potato and you are holding an amazingly nutrient dense food that is bursting with vitamins and minerals. Potatoes are a special vegetable, packed full of valuable nutrition. They are a great source of carbohydrate which means they are a source of energy as well as providing fibre, vitamins and minerals. Starchy foods like potatoes are the perfect base for a healthy balanced diet.

Potatoes are low in sugar, virtually fat and saturated fat free and very low in sodium.

Potatoes are a source of fibre, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B1( thiamine). This means that an average portion 175g will give you over 15% of your RDA.  New potatoes have all of this benefit but are also a source of potassium. Vitamin C is highest in freshly harvested new potatoes. Because we eat quite high amounts of potato compared with portions of other vegetables, potatoes contribute a good amount of Vitamin C into the diet even in the winter time.

An average sized jacket potato is a real power house, providing fibre, Vitamin C, folate and really significant amounts – over 30% of your RDA – of potassium, thiamine and Vitamin B6. 

Are potatoes fattening?

Potatoes have a low energy density (the amount of energy / calories they provide per gram) compared to other starchy foods which makes them ideal for helping with weight management when cooked with little or no fat and served in appropriate amounts. They are lower in calories than either rice or pasta and have higher amounts of important micronutrients; vitamins and minerals. 

Cooked portion                       weight             calories kcals

Boiled potatoes                       175g                130

Boiled white rice                     175g                240

Boiled white pasta                  175g                182

( average portion of pasta is actually around 220g = 230kcals)

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid and is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables including potatoes. Good sources also include peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, oranges and kiwi fruit.

Vitamin C has a number of important functions –  it helps protect cells and keeps them healthy and helps the body absorb iron from food. Specifically Vitamin C promotes the growth and maintenance of bones, skin and red blood cells, helps repair tissues and helps the body resist stress and infection. Because of its fundamental cellular functions, deficiencies are implicated in many major diseases, including cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin, which means it is not stored and is required to be taken in daily. The Recommended Daily Amount or RDA for adults is 80mg. A medium portion of new potatoes (175gms) will deliver 20% of the RDA, and a medium jacket potato, 30% of the RDA, compared with rice and pasta which contain no vitamin C.  In all, potatoes provide 15% of Britain’s Vitamin C intake. Portion for portion, new potatoes contain more Vitamin C than many of your 5 A Day including green beans, peas, sweet corn, apples, bananas, or tinned pineapple

Folic acid

Potatoes are rich in folic acid, known as folate in its natural form. Folate is one of the B group of vitamins found in small quantities in many foods. Apart from potatoes, sources are broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, asparagus, beans, peas and lentils, brown rice and  fortified breakfast cereals

Folic Acid has a number of important functions including working with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells, and the healthy formation of nerve pathways. Deficiency results in neural tube and developmental defects. Recent research also strongly suggests that folates can also help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Folate is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it is not stored and is required daily. Adults need 0.2mg a day. Potatoes have a distinct advantage over rice and pasta here. Boiled new potatoes in their skins (175g portion) provide 16% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of folate. 

Boiled potatoes have one of the highest concentrations of folate and an average jacket potato (180g) baked in its skin contains nearly 40% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of folate.

Dietary Fibre

Fibre is an important component of a healthy diet and we get it from plant based foods such as potatoes, breads, cereals and pulses.

  • It helps the digestive system to process food and absorb nutrients.
  • It helps lower blood cholesterol.
  • It helps control blood sugar levels, which in turn controls appetite
  • Protects against bowel and rectal cancers.

A fibre deficiency can result in disorders of the gut and constipation. Current advice is that adults should aim for 30g of fibre a day. An average jacket potato (180g) baked in its skin contains 4.9g of fibre almost double that found in a portion of pasta (220g) and more than 20 times that found in boiled white rice (180g).

Click here for more information about potatoes as part of your 5ADAY.