How can potatoes benefit my health?

Potatoes are edible tubers, available worldwide and all year long. They are relatively cheap to grow, rich in nutrients, and they can make a delicious treat.

The humble potato has fallen in popularity in recent years, due to the interest in low-carb foods.

However, the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals it provides can help ward off disease and benefit human health.

Potatoes were first domesticated in the Andes in South America up to 10,000 years ago. Spanish explorers introduced them to Europe in the early 16th century.

They are now the biggest vegetable crop in the United States (U.S.), where the average person eats 55 pounds, or 35 kilograms (kg) of potatoes every year. They are an important staple food in many countries around the world.

This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods.

Fast facts on potatoes:

Here are some key points about potatoes. More detail is in the main article.

Some evidence suggests that potatoes might help reduce inflammation and constipation

A medium potato contains around 164 calories and 30 percent of the recommended daily B6 intake.

A baked potato on a winter’s day makes an economical, warming, and nutritious treat.

Benefits

Potatoes can be healthful

Potatoes can be healthful if prepared in the right way.

A high intake of fruits and vegetables can benefit health and reduce the risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.

 

Potatoes contain important nutrients, even when cooked, that can benefit human health in various ways.

 

Here we look at 10 ways in which the potato might contribute to a healthful lifestyle, including preventing osteoporosis, maintaining heart health, and reducing the risk of infection.

1) Bone health

The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and zinc in potatoes all help the body to build and maintain bone structure and strength.

 

Iron and zinc play crucial roles in the production and maturation of collagen.

 

Phosphorus and calcium are both important in bone structure, but it is essential to balance the two minerals for proper bone mineralization. Too much phosphorus and too little calcium result in bone loss and contribute to osteoporosis.

2) Blood pressure

A low sodium intake is essential for maintaining a healthy blood pressure, but increasing potassium intake may be just as important. Potassium encourages vasodilation, or the widening of the blood vessels.

 

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), fewer than 2 percent of American adults meet the daily 4,700-milligram recommendation.

 

Potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all present in the potato. These have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally.

 

3) Heart health

The potato’s fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health.

 

Potatoes contain significant amounts of fiber. Fiber helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood, thereby decreasing the risk of heart disease.

 

Research based on the NHANES has linked a higher intake of potassium and a lower intake of sodium to a reduced risk of all-cause mortality and heart disease.

4) Inflammation

Choline is an important and versatile nutrient that is present in potatoes. It helps with muscle movement, mood, learning, and memory.

 

It also assists in:

 

maintaining the structure of cellular membranes

transmitting nerve impulses

the absorption of fat

early brain development

One large potato contains 57 mg of choline. Adult males need 550 mg, and females 425 mg a day.

5) Cancer

Potatoes contain folate. Folate plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, and so it prevents many types of cancer cells from forming due to mutations in the DNA.

 

Fiber intake from fruits and vegetables like potatoes are associated with a lowered risk of colorectal cancer.

Vitamin C and quercetin also function as antioxidants, protecting cells against damage from free radicals.