Botanically speaking, potatoes are a vegetable, but nutritionally they’re mostly carbohydrates, which is probably why you won’t find them at the top of your “healthy foods” list. One medium sweet potato with skin contains 164 calories and 37 grams of carbohydrates, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). But sprouts aren’t all bad—they provide protein and fiber (5 and 4 g, respectively, in the same serving), are naturally free of unhealthy fats, and are a good source of B vitamins and potassium.
While all white potato varieties tend to be nutritionally comparable, they do differ slightly in tastes and textures to suit different dishes. For example, russet potatoes have a light, fluffy texture that makes them a perfect match for baked potatoes. Yukon Gold potatoes have a naturally rich, buttery texture that’s perfect for creamy mashed potatoes. If size is most important to your dish, baby or baby potatoes may be the perfect fit. No matter what kind of potato you serve, in their natural form, they are a great addition to a healthy diet.
Related: 10 sweet potato recipes for fall and beyond
The real problem with potatoes tends to be how they are presented. In the United States at least, most of these tubers are consumed in a processed form: as potato chips, French fries, or other packaged products. Between 2020 and 2021, nearly 69 percent of all potatoes sold were used in processed foods, according to the USDA report. Often, these preparations add fat and salt while eliminating nutrients such as fiber. French fries were among the foods researchers identified as strongly associated with higher risks of anxiety and depression, according to research published in April 2023 in the journal Nutrition. PNASAnd Possibly due to a chemical by-product of frying.
One large-scale Danish study that looked at the association between diet and type 2 diabetes even made a distinction between french fries (French fries and potato chips) and other preparations. Results published in Diabetic care In February 2023, it was found that the association was weaker with boiled potatoes.
So research has proven that how you serve potatoes can make a big difference to how healthy they are. And loading your potatoes with butter, sour cream, bacon, and cheese—some restaurants even add chili—can definitely outweigh their benefits. Fortunately, there are definitely better ways to prepare them, and plenty of reasons why you should. In one study published in January 2020 in British Journal of Nutrition, 50 healthy adults who ate non-fried potatoes daily for a month had better overall diet quality, and showed no negative effect on cardiovascular health, compared to when they ate an equal amount of refined grains instead of potatoes. Another study published in June 2021 in Nutrientsindicated that increasing dietary potassium from baked or boiled potatoes helped lower blood pressure in 30 at-risk adults.
Potatoes tend to last longer than many other vegetables, and are a neutral base for many other flavors. They’re also inexpensive, filling, and versatile enough to eat every day. Just remember to treat them more like pasta than lettuce when it comes to portions. These seven recipes will help you discover how to enjoy the healthy side of potatoes.