Are baked potatoes healthy?

Also known as jacket potatoes, baked potatoes are affordable, easy & quick to prepare,  and taste delicious. Despite this, many people tend to avoid eating them (and potatoes in general) because they are considered to be unhealthy. But how true is this?

Nutritional information

The table below provides nutritional information for one medium sized (173 g) baked potato, with skin on:

Calories 161
Fat 0
Cholesterol 0
Sodium 17 mg (1%)
Carbohydrates 37 g (12%)
Fiber 4 g (15%)
Sugar 2 g
Protein 4 g
Vitamin C 16.6 mg (28%)
Niacin 2.4 mg (12%)
Vitamin B6 0.5 mg (27%)
Folate 48.4 mcg (12%)
Iron 1.9 mg (10%)
Magnesium 48.4 mg (12%)
Phosphorus 121 mg (12%)
Potassium 926 mg (26%)
Copper 0.2 mg (10%)
Manganese 0.4 mg (19%)

The first thing you will notice is that a baked potato is packed full of various nutrients. Would you have ever guessed that eating one would provide you with a quarter of your daily requirement of vitamin C?

Here are the health benefits of some of the major nutrients that a baked potato contains:

  • Vitamin C – probably the best known vitamin, it is responsible for the repair and regeneration of tissue, assists with iron absorption, protects against heart disease and prevents scurvy. Potatoes are definitely not the best source, but they do help you to increase your overall intake by a significant amount.
  • Potassium – bananas are well known for being an excellent source of potassium, but when compared weight for weight, potatoes have more potassium than bananas do! Potassium is required for lots of bodily functions; it regulates fluids, improves blood pressure, promotes brain function and keeps bones healthy.
  • Dietary fiber – potatoes are amongst the best vegetable sources of fiber. Fiber promotes heart health, decreases the risk of stroke and makes sure your digestive system is running smoothly. A large amount of fiber is found in the skin of baked potatoes, so it’s a good idea not to throw it away.
  • Iron – there are two types of iron, haem and non-haem, with the latter being found in plant foods. Even though this type of iron is not as well absorbed by the body, eating potatoes will help to prevent deficiency, which can lead to fatigue. Iron is required for the formation of hemoglobin, a key component of your blood.
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) – a member of the B vitamin family, vitamin B6 is necessary for metabolic processes, the production of neurotransmitters and is used to treat a variety of ailments.
  • Manganese – this trace mineral helps balance hormones, is involved in the formation of bone mass, is  needed for the production of digestive enzymes and plays a part in supporting your immune system.

Thanks to their versatility, there are a variety of different ways in which potatoes can be cooked, including boiling, steaming and baking.

However, most people enjoy eating deep fried potatoes, and this is where health problems arise from. Because of the oils that they are cooked in, deep fried potatoes tend to contain large amounts of unhealthy fat. And this is one of the reasons why potatoes are associated with bad health.

But that’s not entirely true because baked potatoes are healthy and can be eaten with lots of nutrient rich toppings, including salads, vegetables, salsa, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, eggs and chili. It is important to choose toppings wisely to ensure that the meal remains healthy.

What about when you are watching your weight?

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, potatoes appear to be a culprit for diabetes and weight gain. This is because they have a high glycemic index (GI) and high glycemic load (GL), thanks to the large amount of carbohydrate that they contain.

According to the research, potatoes can be as bad as a can of Coca Cola, causing a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels, which could result in overeating. However, the way in which potatoes are prepared and what they are eaten with can have a large effect on their GI and GL.

On the other hand, baked potatoes with the skin left on are a good source of fiber and anybody who has eaten one will know just how filling they can be.

Also, a medium sized baked potato has 161 calories, which wouldn’t be considered an extremely large amount.

When you want to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than what your body burns. This forces it to use its fat stores as a source of energy.

It is recommended that you should not consume fewer than 1,200 calories per day without supervision from a medical professional. Even if you limited yourself to this, a medium sized baked potato would equate to 13% of total daily calories; this isn’t a large amount, considering how filling potatoes can be.

It is true that reducing the intake of carbs has been show to assist with weight loss, but for most people, baked potatoes should be fine when trying to lose weight; this is so long as too many aren’t eaten and they are part of an otherwise balanced diet that contains enough high quality protein and fat, lots of vegetables and plenty of water. If a calorie deficit is maintained, there shouldn’t be a problem. As with all other things in nutrition, moderation is key.

However, individuals with diabetes or those who are extremely obese will need to be more cautious and should speak to a qualified medical professional before eating baked potatoes.

Conclusion

Baked potatoes are rich in vitamins & minerals and if you enjoy eating them, you should carry on doing so. There are lots of different coloured potatoes, each with their own unique flavour, that you can try baking. Be sure to eat them together with lots of other vegetables and foods that are high in protein, for maximum health benefits.

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