One medium-sized plain baked potato (about three inches in diameter) has about 150 calories. That same potato has about five grams of fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive tract, and they're also a healthy source of vitamins and minerals. A small baked potato has about 130 calories. A large baked potato can have about 275 calories. Toppings such as butter, sour cream and cheese will add more (sometimes a lot more) calories.
Potatoes contain more potassium than any other fresh vegetable in the produce department - even more than bananas. One potato has almost 900 milligrams, which is about 20 percent of what you need every day. Potassium is important for body growth and cell maintenance. It's also necessary for nervous system function and for normal muscle contraction - including the heart muscle. Potassium is also an electrolyte that helps balance the fluids in your body, which is important for healthy blood pressure.
Potatoes also contain substantial amounts of vitamins C and B-6, which are vital for blood clotting, wound healing, a strong immune system, normal nervous system function and for converting the food you eat to energy. There's also a substance called kukoamine found in potatoes that may help to lower blood pressure, although more research is necessary to know for sure.
Potatoes are nutritious and can be part of a healthy diet, but you still need to get adequate amounts of fats and proteins while staying within your personal calorie budget. Don't know how many calories you need each day? Use my calorie calculators to find out.
You can find fresh potatoes in the produce section of your grocery store. Fresh potatoes can be boiled, baked, roasted, mashed, broiled, or made into hash browns or home fried potatoes (be sure to use healthy oils like olive oil or canola). Watch what you put on your potatoes -- toppings like sour cream and cheese can add a lot of extra calories (try a vegetarian cheese alternative, instead. Potatoes can also be included in soups, stews and casseroles. Some of these dishes are healthy and others are high in fat, calories and sodium -- read food labels or consult Calorie Count to know for sure. Raw unpeeled potatoes keep well in a dark cool place. Once they are peeled and cooked, any leftovers should be refrigerated and eaten within a few days.
French fries and potato chips are high in fats and sodium. The same is usually true of hash browns, pre-baked potatoes and Tater Tots. If you buy these types of potatoes, be sure to read the food labels to see how much fat and sodium are contained in a serving.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. "Potatoes, raw with skin and salt." Accessed August 29, 2011. http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/.