Potatoes: Good, Bad or Fattening?

Potatoes — one of the most commonly eaten vegetables on the planet — has both fans and enemies.

Learn about the potato’s many health benefits, health concerns and its controversial effect on weight management.

With mixed emotions, I read that potatoes were on a list of most fattening foods.
I personally donít like potatoes a lot, but thought it was because of being force-fed boiled potatoes every day as a child. Now I’m rethinking the potato.

Potato Health Benefits

1. Protection from Heart Disease and Cancer
Potatoes contain flavonoids. With protective antioxidant activity, flavanoids protect against cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and certain cancers.

2. Rival Greens for Phenol Activity
They contain equal or higher amounts of certain phenols than broccoli, spinach or brussel sprouts.

3. High in B Vitamins for your Brain & Athletic Performance
One cup of baked potato contains 21 percent of the daily requirement for B6. B vitamins are essential for growth, your nervous system and cardiovascular health.

Potatoes also contain significant amounts of folic acid, which is essential for pregnant women.

4.†Contain Resistant Starch
Many vegetables contain small amounts of resistant starch but potatoes that have been cooked and then cooled down have high amounts. Resistant starch’s benefits are similar to that of fiber, meaning you’ll stay fuller longer and with less calorie consumption.

Since resistant starch acts like fiber, it is either poorly digested or not digested at all. This lowers the glycemic index of potatoes, which is normally higher than white sugar, (averaging 70 Ė 110) down to reasonable levels of 25-72!† Bring on the potato salad!

5.†High in Vitamin C
Who would have thought! Vitamin C is the key to healthy skin.

Cool History:
“A man with half an acre of potatoes can grow enough food to keep his family alive for a year.”† Michael Pollan

  • Potatoes were developed in Central and South America 4000-7000 years ago by selective cultivation of an naturally poisonous tuber.
  • The powerful†Inca civilization was based on the potato. When the Spanish destroyed the Inca civilization they brought the potato to Europe.
  • Potatoes changed the course of history in Europe by allowing northern countries with poor soils to produce enough food to feed larger populations.
    The industrial revolution depended on the potato.
  • The most common potato today is the Russet potato originally developed by Luther Burbank. Burbank was an amazing person who nearly had the ‘ability to talk to plants and went on to develop over 800 new varieties and species of plants.
  • Monsantoís GMOs were stopped in the potato industry.†When the public discovered they were eating genetically modified potatoes at McDonald’s, public opinion called on McDonald’s to stop. This was one of the first major setback to GMOs in America.

Next Page:†Potato Health and Weight Management Concerns

potato with sprouts

Potato Health Concerns

1.† Potatoes are part of the nightshade family
Nightshades have varying amounts of alkaloids, compounds produced by plants to prevent themselves from insects and disease.

Potatoes donít have high amounts of alkaloids like the 3 powerful nightshades (mandrake, tobacco, belladonna).† IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE to alkaloids, even potatoes could cause a reaction. The level of alkaloids varies greatly depending on the variety of potato and how it is produce and handled

Hey maybe thatís why I donít like potatoes.†I also donít like tomatoes and eggplant, two other nightshades.

Note: Green potatoes (caused by exposure to the sun) have large amounts of alkaloids as do the sprouts. Therefore avoid green potatoes and cut out the sprout and its eye before use.

2.†Fried potatoes contain acrylamide, a neurotoxin and possible carcinogen.
Fried, potato chips and French fries are a greater risk of acrylamide exposure than any other food. †One single ounce snack-sized bag of potato chips contains 20% of the maximum safe intake of dietary acrylamide as established by the EPA. Most people consume a lot more than one ounce.
Suggestion: Baked potato chips are safer with less oil.

3. Commercial potatoes contain high amounts of pesticides.

Potatoes are one of the “Dirty Dozen” group of twelve foods that contain the highest level of pesticides. You can avoid this in your own cooking by just buying or growing organic. As for potato products, assume that all potatoes not in your control (like those in French fries and chips) fall in the “dirty” category.

4. Most potatoes are monocultured
Although there are thousands of varieties of potatoes, most of the potatoes we eat are monocultured.
Monocultures destroy the genetic diversity of the planet and are susceptible to possible disease. The potato blight of the Irish was caused because they all ate a single species of potato which happened to be susceptible to a certain disease.

Suggestion: Look for colored potatoes; the insides have more nutrition.

Potatoes & Weight Gain

Many people are scared of potatoes because they are OBVIOUSLY a carbohydrate and as a culture we are now scared of carbohydrates because we all want to lose weight!

The truth is that a potato is MOSTLY water so if you donít eat too many you will not take in too many carbohydrates or calories.

The second consideration is their high glycemic index, which is higher than white sugar, ranging from 80 Ė 110.††Again, potatoes are not that dense so the glycemic load from an average serving of potatoes is actually not more than any other carbohydrate.

The study that got me thinking about potatoes was a large population study of 120,887 people whose eating habits and weight gain was analyzed over four years.

The average of all types of potatoes for weight gain was more than any other food group studied, which included meat, processed meat, sugary beverages, sweets and desserts and dairy products.

This average was only high though because it contained the category of potato chips and French fries. The weight gain from boiled, baked, or mashed potatoes at (0.57 lb) was only a fraction compared to potato chips (1.69 lbs) and French fries (a whopping 3.35 lbs).

You didnít need a study to tell you that potato chips and French fries are fattening. Many potato products are NOT a weight loss food like fruits & leafy vegetables but that just means you donít overeat.

Potato Latkey Recipe

Tasty Potato Recipes

Creamy Potato Salad:†Nothing but goodness, tastiness and lots of those resistant carbs.

Tangy Baby Potatoes: Direct from my friend in India.

Dianaís Potato Latkes: Made without eggs.

Written by Randy Fritz co-founder of Real Food For Life with Diana Herrington

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Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili
What’s Really in Potato Chips?


Christine Jones
Christine J2 years ago

I just love them. So versatile, cheap and tasty. What's not to love?

Jane C.
Jane C3 years ago

I want homemade mashed potatoes as part of my last meal.

Val M.
Val M4 years ago


Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago

I looooooove potatoes in every possible way!

Michael H.
Mike H4 years ago


Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago

Who cares? Not me! I love'em! :0)

Leanne B.
Leanne B4 years ago

I love potatoes and thanks for this post Diana.

GGma Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D4 years ago

Absolutely love potatoes in any form, though haven't had potato chips, pan fried, or french fried for years. Now that Fall is here, I can indulge in my favorite homemade potato soup, with just a bit of grated cheese on top.

Karen H.
Karen H4 years ago

good analyses - thanks.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Diana, for Sharing this!