In the past, potato skins were peeled prior to cooking with the idea that the potato would be cleaner, and therefore healthier; however, it has been discovered that leaving the potato skins intact can add nutrients to a meal. The potato, as well as the skin, are great sources of vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, zinc, and protein, but neither naturally contain any fat, cholesterol, or sodium. Leaving the skin intact can also help preserve the nutrients in the flesh of the potato, which have a tendency to escape during cooking. Below are some of the daily value (DV) percentages that a medium-sized potato may contain, based on a daily caloric intake of 2,000 calories; the nutritional information for total fat, cholesterol, and sodium are not included as their values are all zero:
- Vitamin C: 45% of DV
- Potassium: 18% of DV
- Vitamin B6: 10% of DV
- Total Carbohydrates: 9% of DV
- Iron: 6% of DV
- Folate: 6% of DV
- Magnesium: 6% of DV
- Zinc: 2% of DV
- Protein: 2% of DV
Again based on a 2,000 calorie diet, a medium-sized potato, including the skin, has approximately 110 calories. Potatoes are classified as a tuber, meaning bulb or root, and contain a protein called patatin that is specific to these types of vegetables. Patatin works as an effective antioxidant and helps to lower blood pressure, and potato skins may even help to provide protection against heart disease and cancer. Potato skins also provide a variety of phytonutrients, which are a natural source of antioxidants that help to prevent cellular deterioration of the body; the phytonutrients found in potatoes include carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid.
The nutrient content of potato skins are similar to the flesh. Both contain carbohydrates, protein and a variety of vitamins. However, potato skins are superior in regards to at least two things--fiber and iron. Leaving out the skins of a potato will devoid the tuber of most of its fiber and iron. Those deficient in minerals and vitamins like riboflavin, calcium and vitamin C ought to also leave the skins on while consuming potatoes.
While potatoes do not naturally include sodium, cholesterol, or fat, these things can be added to a potato depending on the way it's cooked and the ingredients that are added. French fries, baked potatoes topped with butter and sour cream, and potato skins piled high with cheese and bacon are some common examples of a healthy potato turned unhealthy. The condiments often added to potatoes are usually high in saturated fats, which are known to contribute to heart disease. Healthier alternatives to the fatty additions include hummus, onions, and butter alternatives, among others; healthier cooking methods include baking or boiling the potato, as opposed to frying the vegetable. Many people suggest consuming a variety of squash, and preparing them similarly to potatoes, for a healthier alternative.
It should be noted that in many areas, potato crops are sprayed with chemicals to protect them from pests and disease — these pesticides can become concentrated in the potato skins. Any consumers who are concerned about the possibility of ingesting pesticides may want to purchase organically grown potatoes.