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One Secret Effect of Eating Potatoes, Says Science

Potatoes are a lot healthier than you think.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

Who doesn't love potatoes? These starchy veggies can be whipped into velvety smoothness in mashed potatoes, crisped to perfection by roasting, or simply baked for a reliable side dish. (We've got 13 creative ways to use them right here!) Still, despite our national love for all things potatoes, the tubers have gotten a bad reputation as being overly high in carbs. You may have slashed them from your diet for fear that they'll mess with your blood sugar or make you gain weight.

While it's true that, on a low-carb diet, potatoes are an ingredient to limit, they're not as unhealthy as you might think. Potatoes contain significant amounts of several super-important nutrients—especially potassium. Getting enough potassium in your diet could be one key to regulating blood pressure, thereby lowering your risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD).

mini potatoes
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For cardiovascular well-being, the mineral we tend to hear most about is sodium—but the latest research indicates that potassium matters for your heart, too. One large study found that the higher a person's sodium to potassium ratio, the higher their risk for cardiovascular disease. This is because potassium helps mitigate the effects of sodium on blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), upping your intake of potassium can bring down your heart disease risk by lowering your blood pressure.

Unfortunately, Americans are chronically deficient in potassium. As of 2012, less than 2% of U.S. adults consumed the recommended daily amount of 4,700 milligrams. And even though potassium isn't a nutrient you might think much about loading up on (unless you have a muscle twitch), it clearly can make a difference for your health—and not only for your heart. Getting enough potassium also promotes healthy nerve function, helps your muscles contract, and can prevent kidney stones.

So just how much potassium do potatoes pack? It varies slightly by the potato and the soil in which it was grown, but according to the USDA, one medium-baked Russet potato contains 952 milligrams. That's 20% of the Adequate Intake for adults. In fact, potatoes are one of the highest-potassium foods on earth! (Check out our list of other high-potassium foods here.)

So for a tasty starch that could lower your blood pressure, go ahead and say yes to potatoes Just skip the salt, while you're at it.

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Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a registered nutrition and dietetic technician, and a health, nutrition, and food writer. Read more
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