Potatoes Are Much More Nutritious Than You Think—and Not Just the Peel

Bottom line, according to a registered dietitian? Skin on is better, skin off is almost as good.

If you feel a pang of guilt every time you pick up a potato peeler or have ever found yourself dutifully, begrudgingly gnawing on a dry baked potato skin after eating the interior, we have good news.

It's a very common misconception that all the nutrients are found in the potato skin. "Nothing could be further from the truth," says Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN. "More than half of the nutrients are found within the potato itself."

According to Brown-Riggs, the only nutrient significantly impacted when the skin is removed is fiber, and it's only by 1 gram. "A medium (5.3 ounce) russet potato contains 2 grams of fiber with the skin, and 1 gram of fiber without the skin," she says. "Potassium and vitamin C are also impacted, but insignificantly. A medium potato with the skin contains 620 milligrams of potassium and 27 milligrams of vitamin C, and removing the skin reduces that by approximately 150 milligrams of potassium and 4.5 milligrams of vitamin C."

Potato benefits do differ marginally by variety, of course. But this is one vegetable that deserves far more credit—nutritionally speaking—than it gets. "What most people don't think about is that potatoes are a high-quality carbohydrate and nutrient-dense vegetable," Brown-Riggs says. However, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, potatoes provide more nutrients per penny compared to most vegetables. Potatoes have the highest score per dollar (along with sweet potatoes and carrots) on eight essential nutrients, including potassium, fiber, protein, vitamins C and E, calcium, iron, and magnesium."Potatoes give you more 'bang for your buck' with a more favorable overall nutrient-to-price ratio than many vegetables, she adds. "Fresh potatoes are good for you and good for your wallet." And because potassium is one of the nutrients designated by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee as a nutrient of public health concern (meaning low levels are associated with illness) the Dietary Guidelines for Americans specifically recommend consuming foods with the highest level of potassium, such as white potatoes.

Bottom line? Skin on is better, skin off is almost as good. The most important piece of potato nutrition advice we can recommend is to be mindful of how you're cooking them. This will change the health benefits you'll reap from any dish drastically, and far more than whether or not you keep the skin on. Brown-Riggs recommends baking, roasting, or boiling. If you haven't tried grilled potatoes or steaming them in the microwave, get to it. If you love crispy potatoes like fries or chips, try frying them up in an air fryer. You can also add cooked-and-chilled potatoes into a green salad, sliced up on a roasted veggie sandwich, or a better-for-you potato salad for added health benefits.

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  1. Drewnowski A. New metrics of affordable nutrition: which vegetables provide most nutrients for least cost? J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 Sep;113(9):1182-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.03.015.

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