Potatoes are part of the carbohydrate family which is an essential nutrient for us all, particularly for energy. TV dietician Aoife Hearne says “it’s the only energy source readily available for the brain to use. They are a valued part of a balanced and varied diet. And just like other macronutrients - protein and fat - it is the quality and quantity of all these nutrients that is important.”
The potato is also high in potassium, a nutrient which has several important functions, including:
When they are baked, they are also a source of thiamin (vitamin B1).
National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data shows that on average potatoes currently make significant contributions to the nation’s daily intake of many vital nutrients, namely:
There are further great benefits of potatoes hidden under the skin:
There are two types of fibre – the soluble and insoluble kind. Potatoes contain both of these which is a good thing! Both contribute to a regular and healthy bowel function, they keep you fuller for longer periods of time and are beneficial for your overall health. If you want to get the most fibre out of the humble spud then you should keep the potato skins on when it comes to serving and be sure to keep hydrated in the process – this allows fibre to do its work.
To give you an idea of how much fibre the humble spud contains, 2 medium-sized potatoes with skins on will provide a third of your recommended fibre intake for the day.
Children get more Vitamin C, B1, B6, folate, iron, magnesium and potassium from the contribution potatoes make to their diet than from so called superfoods like beetroot, bananas, nuts, broccoli and avocado. This is why they are widely recommended as an ingredient to use when introducing your children to solids at the age of 6 months. Potatoes are ideal as they can be cooked in ways that makes them soft in texture, on top of that they’re also salt-free and fat-free.
Potatoes also contribute to gut health. A healthy gut is determined by the amount of good bacteria present. The ‘good’ bacteria has a particularly important role to play in supporting immunity and can be found in fibrous and diet-rich foods including potatoes alongside other fruits and vegetables. Research points towards a connection between gut health and a range of illnesses.
There is a common misconception that potatoes take a long time to prepare and cook, resulting in people switching to other starchy carbohydrates such as pasta or rice. This is especially true amongst the younger generation so they, and their children, are missing out on many of the vital nutrients contained in potatoes.
For example a medium jacket potato provides one third of the NRV of Vitamin C compared with 180g of easy cook white rice, boiled, or a 220g portion of white spaghetti, which don't contain any.
Having a wide variety of foods in the diet is important, as no single food can provide us with all the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Good nutrition is essential for normal growth and development, maintaining health and reducing the risk of developing certain diseases, now and in the future.
Potatoes can be part of your healthful diet plan, especially when eaten with the skin on. They’re a source of fibre and potassium, and are naturally fat free. Indulge guilt-free with these delicious, simple and modern potato recipes featuring important nutrients for a healthy lifestyle.
It means eating some food more often than others, such as fruit and vegetables on a daily basis, but having other things as a weekly treat. Find out more in our 'Eat Well' section.