There are few veggies more versatile than potatoes: You can bake them, mash them, fry them (or even better, air-fry them), boil them, roast them, scallop them, gnocchi (?) them, whip them into stew, or flatten them into pancakes. And pretty much anything you do with them tastes *delicious*.
That said, compared with its extended vegetable family (spinach, broccoli, carrots, the ever-popular cauliflower)—and even its pseudo sister, the sweet potato—the white potato gets a bad rap. But here’s the thing: Potatoes aren’t bad for you—in fact, when prepared and consumed the right way, potatoes are healthy—and they can actually fast-track your weight-loss goals.
“Potatoes are a very healthy naturally occurring food, so I’m a fan,” says nutritionist and registered dietitian Amanda Conway, RD, founder of Eat Fit Live. “You just have to look at your diet as a whole and pay attention to how you eat them, as you should with any food.” So drop the guilt, and the misconceptions—here are four healthy reasons to stop being a tater hater.
You might hear “potato” (or “pa-TAHT-oh”) and think empty carbs. But it’s time to let that ish go. Potatoes actually top the satiety index (a measure of how full people feel after eating specific foods) as the number-one filling food. In fact, per the index, it would take seven croissants to fill up your tummy as much as a single potato.
That might explain why, in one Journal of the American College of Nutrition study, researchers found that when people followed healthy potato recipes, they lost weight eating five to seven servings of spuds per week. Do the math: That’s a serving of spuds almost every day!
So, what makes them filling? As Purdue University researchers point out, white potatoes contain 4.7 grams of fiber, about the same as an apple. Plus, potatoes are loaded with resistant starch, which take up space in your GI tract and slow down digestion. That keeps you feeling fuller longer, says registered dietitian Alex Caspero, RD.
A medium white potato contains just 163 calories. (Of course, prep it with sour cream, cheese, and bacon, and that number goes way up.) But since potatoes’ resistant starch isn’t easily digestible (hence the word resistant), we don’t actually absorb every calorie, Caspero says.
Plus, a 2018 study found that when overweight or obese women ate less-energy-dense foods—including potatoes—early in the day, they dropped weight and kept it off. The likely reason, per the researchers? They stayed full throughout the day without relying on high-calorie alternatives.
To keep your healthy potatoes ranking low on the calorie front, try serving them boiled or roasted in a salad or mixed-veggie dish, or baked with nutrient-packed toppings like spices, Greek yogurt, salsa, or beans.
Any endurance athlete knows that carbs power extended workouts, which explains why the veg has been a go-to for carbo-loading runners for years.
Quick explainer: Your body relies heavily on muscle glycogen (stored carbs) for energy during high-intensity or long-duration exercise. By stocking up on carbs, your body can push harder and go farther, and ultimately perform better, according to research published in Sports Medicine. Better performance means more calories burned and muscle built, inherently changing your body too.
And even though most pre-race potato-lovers don’t realize it, potatoes actually contain more potassium than bananas. Getting enough of that electrolyte is crucial for proper muscle function.
One reason healthy potatoes get scolded is that they’re a “starchy” vegetable. But real talk: Starch isn’t bad. It’s actually a complex carbohydrate, and research has consistently linked the ol’ CCs to weight loss. That’s because they contain resistant starch, which has been shown to improve blood sugar control, in turn facilitating weight loss and preventing insulin resistance, says Caspero.
While potatoes do rank pretty high on the glycemic index (meaning they can, conversely, cause your blood sugar to spike), you can negate the impact by pairing them with protein and healthy fat, like eggs and avocado, Conway says.
So there you have it, folks: Order the hash browns instead of the side salad at brunch. Just maybe save the milky, buttery mashed potatoes for special occasions…you know, like the one when you can really express your gratitude for this unfairly shamed veg.
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