Do you pitch the peels of potatoes into the garbage disposal? You could be discarding a wealth of good-for-you ingredients. The skins are loaded with disease-fighting nutrients and weight-friendly fiber. By incorporating potato skins into your diet, you’ll get more healthy meals from each potato.
Half the spud’s fiber is in the skin. Fiber helps prevent constipation and may reduce the risk of colon cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Fiber also helps you maintain a healthy weight, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. One reason: Eating foods with fiber helps prevent blood sugar slumps that can cause hunger and lead to mindless snacking, explains Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. The nutrition academy notes that most people don’t get enough fiber. Up to age 50, women need 25 grams daily, while men should get 38 grams. After age 50, both genders need slightly less fiber. Potato skins are rich in fiber with 2 grams per ounce.
Potatoes are brimming with potassium, an essential mineral. Studies have linked potassium with a lower risk of dying from a heart attack, possibly because it lowers blood pressure. Getting enough potassium also reduces your risk of having a stroke, but only if your potassium comes from food, not supplements, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. Potassium may also play a role in preventing osteoporosis, but as of 2012 more research was needed to confirm this connection. Another potassium plus: Eating healthy foods high in potassium may help prevent water retention that can make you weigh more, Diekman notes.
One of the benefits of eating potato skins is increased potassium intake. Potassium helps your body carry out chemical reactions, including reactions used to fuel your metabolism and help your cells generate useable energy from the food you eat. Potassium also plays a role in the electrical impulses transmitted by your nervous system and helps your muscles contract to facilitate movement. A serving of four potato skins contains 628 milligrams of potassium, or 13 percent of your daily recommended intake, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
You may think of citrus fruits as the vitamin C powerhouses, but potatoes, including the skins, are good sources of this immunity-boosting vitamin. Potato skins also contain B vitamins, calcium and other nutrients. Potato skins are also rich in phytochemicals. These nutrients are being studied for their potential to protect the body from cancer, heart disease and other illnesses, the nutrition academy reports. And because potato skins contain no fat, no cholesterol and no sodium, they can be part of a healthy weight loss diet, Diekman says. Prepared in a healthy manner, two potato skin halves contain just 114 calories.
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that adults consume between 2 and 3 cups of vegetables daily. This total intake should include a variety of vegetables, ranging from fibrous leafy greens to starchier vegetables like potatoes. Potato skins contribute to your vegetable intake for the day and offer a number of health benefits, especially when prepared using healthy cooking methods.
Potato skins also provide a source of iron, another essential mineral. Iron’s primary function involves supporting red blood cell function. These cells contain large amounts of hemoglobin, a protein that binds to oxygen from the air you breathe, then carries that oxygen throughout your body. Iron makes up the central component of each hemoglobin molecule, and the presence of iron proves essential for oxygen binding and transport. Consuming four potato skins boosts your iron intake by 4.9 milligrams, approximately 61 percent of the recommended intake for women over age 51 or for men of any age, or 27 percent for women aged 50 years or younger, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
Eating potato skins benefits your health by providing a source of niacin, also called vitamin B-3. Like potassium, niacin helps your cells break down nutrients into useable fuel. It also plays a role in cell communication and new cell development and helps your cells recover from physiological stress. Men should consume 16 milligrams of niacin daily, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, while women require 14 milligrams. Eating four potato skins boosts your niacin intake by approximately 1.6 milligrams.
Despite the nutrient content of potato skins, many restaurant versions of potato skin dishes can wreak havoc on your diet and your health. Avoid potato skins loaded with high-fat and high-sodium ingredients, like cheese and bacon. Instead, prepare healthy potato skins at home by filling the skins with chopped steamed broccoli and unflavored greek yogurt. Alternatively, stuff your potato skins with sauteed peppers and onions, and top your meal with salsa. Avoid cooking methods that require the addition of oils, such as frying. Instead, simply bake your potato skins in the oven without the use of oil.
Some methods of preparing potato skins, such as deep frying or filling with bacon, add unhealthy fats and calories. To reap the health benefits, try this idea from MayoClinic.com: Bake two russet potatoes for one hour at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Then scoop out the pulp to save for another use, leaving an eighth-inch of cooked potato attached to the skin. Spray the insides with butter-flavored cooking spray and press in minced fresh rosemary and ground pepper or other favorite herbs and spices. Bake an additional five to 10 minutes. Having a cookout? Diekman says potato skins are also healthy and delicious when brushed with a tiny bit of canola oil, sprinkled with salt, pepper and cayenne, and popped on the grill for 10 minutes. Enjoy!