If the first thing you do before cooking a potato is peel off the skin, you're not alone. Although many people choose to peel the skin away from the potato before cooking and eating, leaving the skin on could be a healthier choice. The potato skin not only adds fiber and nutrients, but it also helps the flesh of the potato retain its nutrients. If you leave off the butter, cheese, bacon and sour cream when you eat potato skins, they can add nutrients to your diet.
Potato Skin Preparation
An average medium-sized potato with the skin on contains only 110 calories. Potatoes contain no fat, no cholesterol and no sodium, making them a great addition to any heart-healthy diet. Leaving the skin on a potato while baking or boiling keeps the nutrients in the potato meat from leaching out. When you eat a baked potato with the skin on, it's a healthy diet addition. If you deep fry the skins in oil and fill them with cheese and bacon, the addition of saturated and trans fat -- both of which contribute to increased blood cholesterol levels -- turn your healthy potato skin to a calorie-laden, fat-laden choice.
Vegetables, including potatoes, contain fiber, the portion of the plant that the enzymes in the intestines cannot break down. Fiber offers several health advantages. Fiber keeps you feeling full longer, helping you to maintain or reduce weight. It also lowers blood cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of heart disease and promotes a healthy digestive tract. Potatoes contain 2 g fiber, the majority of which can be found in the skin. Adults should try to consume 14 g fiber per 1,000 calories. Eating one medium potato with the skin provides 8 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Potatoes, including the skin, are an excellent source of potassium, one of the essential minerals. The body needs potassium to support the normal function of all cells, muscles and organs. Potassium helps to keep the fluid inside and outside of cells balanced, transmits nerve signals to aid in muscle contractions and helps the heart beat rhythmically. Because potatoes grow underground, the skin absorbs many minerals, such as potassium, from the soil. One potato provides 620 mg potassium, a significant contribution toward the 4,700 mg daily intake recommended.
In addition to minerals, potatoes and potato skins also provide essential vitamins. One potato eaten with the skin provides 45 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. The human body requires vitamin C to support a healthy immune system, for the production of collagen needed to build connective tissues and bones and to protect cells against damage caused by harmful atoms produced as a result of chemical reactions in the body.
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fiber
- Washington State Potato Commission: Washington Potatoes are Nutritious
- National Institutes of Medicine: Food and Nutrition Board: Dietary Reference Intakes (PDF)
- USDA: Dietary Guidelines for Americans (PDF)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
Stephanie Chandler is a freelance writer whose master's degree in biomedical science and over 15 years experience in the scientific and pharmaceutical professions provide her with the knowledge to contribute to health topics. Chandler has been writing for corporations and small businesses since 1991. In addition to writing scientific papers and procedures, her articles are published on Overstock.com and other websites.