Potato Nutrition Facts

Calories in Potatoes and Their Health Benefits

Potatoes are good for you as long as you prepare them properly.
Chris Ted/Photodisc/Getty Images

Potatoes are high in starch so they've developed a bit of a bad reputation due to the popularity of low-carb diets and fad Paleolithic diets. But, carbohydrates aren't bad for your health as long as you watch your portions and potatoes can easily be part of a healthy diet. 

Potato Nutrition Facts

Baked Potato Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 Medium Baked Potato with Peel
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 159 
Calories from Fat 2 
Total Fat 0.22g0%
Saturated Fat 0.1g0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1g 
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 17mg1%
Potassium 919mg20%
Carbohydrates 36g28%
Dietary Fiber 4g15%
Sugars 2g 
Protein 4g 
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 22%
Calcium 3% · Iron 10%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

One plain potato is a good source of vitamin C and potassium, and it has about 159 calories. You'll also get some extra fiber if you eat the peel. Potatoes are high in carbohydrates but they're low in sugar, fat and sodium, and they'll stay that way if you use healthful cooking methods and recipes.

Health Benefits of Potatoes

Potatoes are high in potassium, which works in opposition to sodium to help regulate blood pressure and fluid balance. It's also essential for normal muscle and nerve function. Vitamin C is needed for normal immune system function, blood clotting and strong connective tissue and blood vessel walls.

​​Common Questions About Potatoes

Isn't the starch in potatoes bad for me?

It's true that potatoes are high in starch, which is where most of the calories come from. The thing with starch is that it's a storage form of sugar and your body's good at digesting it and absorbing it.

If you only eat a plate full of potatoes with nothing else, you might see a substantial impact on your blood sugar levels. But, I mean, eating nothing but a big plate of potatoes for dinner seems weird. Just like it would be weird only to eat a loaf of bread for a meal. 

You can combat that blood sugar rush by serving your potatoes as part of a balanced meal.

Like maybe a piece of salmon with whipped potatoes and a side of green beans. The addition of protein from the salmon and fiber from the green beans slows down the digestion and absorption of the starch.

Aren't potatoes high in calories?

No, not really. One medium plain potato has about 150 to 160 calories. The excess calories come from the beastly ways consumers torture the poor things, either by deep frying them (you know: French fries or potato chips) or burying them under globs of cheese or gravy.

If you're watching your weight, you need to be careful about what you put on your potatoes. Better toppings include salsa, green veggies, or reduced fat sour cream. 

Don't potatoes contain acrylamide and isn't that dangerous?

Acrylamide is a toxic substance that forms in starchy foods when they are processed or cooked at high temperatures. It affects potatoes and other starchy foods as well. Acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals, but we don't know what levels of acrylamide exposures are dangerous for humans. The amount of acrylamide you'd get from potatoes is much lower than the quantities studied in lab animals.

Frying and baking potatoes at high temperatures for a long time could result in the most acrylamide, but those levels may be reduced when potatoes are boiled first or treated with antioxidant solutions.

And what about the solanine, is that bad?

Potatoes are part of the Nightshade family of vegetables, along with tomatoes, eggplants, and a few other plants. Nightshades contain small amounts of a substance called solanine. Some people claim they have increased arthritis type pain when they eat potatoes and other Nightshade plants. But, research hasn't found any substantial connection between rheumatoid arthritis pain and solanine.

In large amounts, solanine is toxic, but the amount of solanine you'd get from potatoes isn't enough to make you sick unless you eat green potatoes or sprouts that can grow from potatoes that have been sitting around for too long.

Don't eat green potatoes—throw them out. They taste bitter and bad anyway.

Picking and Storing Potatoes

You'll find fresh potatoes in the produce section of the grocery store. The most common types are white, yellow and red potatoes and you might find blue ones too. They're all similar nutritionally, but they have slightly different textures so it's important to choose potatoes based on how you're preparing them. 

Choose potatoes that have a firm texture, with no cuts or discolorations. Store them in a cool, dry and dark place. You can refrigerate them but it changes the flavor a bit. Potatoes can be stored for a few weeks, but they may sprout. If that happens, just cut the sprouts out before cooking.

Most grocery stores carry premade mashed potatoes, hash browns, frozen potatoes and French fries that you heat in your oven. Look at food labels to check out the calorie counts when you shop for these items.

Cooking Methods Count

The main problem with potatoes is how unhealthy they can become when they're fried, turned into chips, or slathered in heavy sauces, butter, or cheese. Compare the calorie counts for one serving of potatoes when they're prepared in less healthy ways:

  • 1 cup potato salad has 358 calories
  • 1 medium order of French fries has over 300 calories
  • 1 cup hash browns has 470 calories
  • 10 Tater Tots have about 180 calories
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes has about 240 calories (that's without gravy which can add 100 to 200 more calories)
  • 1 ounce of potato chips has 155 calories (but a whole bag can have well over 1,000 calories)

Healthy Ways to Prepare Potatoes

The closer a potato stays to being an actual potato, the better it is for you. Baked, roasted and boiled potatoes are best. Here are some ideas:

  • Serve baked potatoes with salsa or broccoli and sprinkle about one ounce of shredded cheese on top.
  • Make oven-baked 'fries' that are low in fat and calories.
  • Make mashed potatoes with low-fat sour cream, nonfat milk and chives.
  • Potatoes cooked in the microwave do not contain acrylamides. Serve them just as you'd serve oven-baked potatoes.
  • Try roasted potatoes with oregano or Rosemary.
  • Add potato slices (with skins) to soups and stews.

Potato Recipes

These recipes are all tasty, easy to make, and retain the healthy goodness of potatoes:​

Sources:

National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. Acrylamide in Food and Cancer.  

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. USDA Food Composition Databases.

Continue Reading