Red potatoes are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, have nominal amounts of fat and sodium and are completely cholesterol free. They stand alone as a side dish or snack, or you can use them to replace some of the meat in stews or curries to reduce the overall fat and cholesterol content.
One large baked red potato weighing approximately 300 grams and eaten with the skin on contains 226 calories, 19 percent of the daily value of carbohydrates and 14 percent of the DV of protein. Because of the protein-to-carbohydrate ratio, your initial instinct may be to avoid red potatoes if you're following a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet. But as long as you watch your carbohydrate consumption for the rest of they day, you can enjoy them in moderation.
A large red potato offers 5.4 grams of fiber. There is some debate about how much fiber adults need to consume. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends as much as 50 grams of fiber per day for adults, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends adults aim for between 20 and 25 grams. Soluble fiber combines with water in your stomach to slow digestion. This, combined with the fact that fiber is a bulk food that makes you feel fuller, can contribute to weight loss. Soluble fiber also lowers cholesterol levels and may lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation, all of which help prevent heart disease. Insoluble fiber helps reduce the chances of constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis, a disease in which small abscesses form in your intestines and may become infected. Both types of fiber seem to have an effect on regulating blood sugar levels, which can prevent or ameliorate type 2 diabetes. Research continues into whether fiber may play a preventative role in colon diseases such as colon cancer.
Vitamins and Minerals
A large red potato provides 49 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin B-6. This vitamin plays important roles in the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and lipids and aids in red blood cell formation and the regulation of blood glucose levels. The same serving also supplies 30 percent of the RDA of niacin, which is essential for energy production from food and helps digestion and the maintenance of a healthy appetite. Niacin is also vital for healthy skin and nerve endings. A large red potato offers 35 percent of the daily recommendation for potassium, an essential mineral. Potassium helps the body maintain appropriate water levels by interacting with sodium. Increased potassium intake allows the body to excrete more sodium through urination, which may help lower blood pressure. Potassium is also important for healthy nerve function and muscle control.
Much of the nutritional value of a potato is found in its skin, and boiling potatoes can make them lose some of their vitamin content. If you can, eat red potatoes baked in their skin, and then make sure you eat the skin. Also pay attention to what you put on your potatoes. It doesn't matter if they're practically fat-free and don't have any cholesterol if you slather them in sour cream, cheddar cheese or butter. Try high-flavored, lower-fat cheeses like Parmesan or Romano, so you can get the taste without paying the price. You can also spread salsa over the top to increase the vitamin, mineral and fiber content of the meal without adding any fat or cholesterol. Boiled red potatoes can make a delicious summer salad; just remember to use olive oil, low-fat yogurt or mustard as your base instead of mayonnaise.
- USDA National Agricultural Library: Full Report Nutrient Data for 11358, Potatoes, Red, Flesh and Skin, Baked
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber: Essential For a Healthy diet Dietary fiber Offers Many Health Benefits. Here's How to Include More in Your Diet.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Fiber - All Information
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B6
Christine Gray began writing professionally in 1997, when a trade publishing company hired her as an assistant editor. She wrote her first screenplay in 1998 and has been covering health and nutrition since 2009. Gray graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Michigan.