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One Major Side Effect of Eating Potatoes, Say Dietitians

The surprising thing that happens when you eat America's favorite vegetable.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino
roasted potatoes

When you think of potatoes, you might not think of them as a superfood. But that's if you're thinking of chips (one of the foods most closely linked to weight gain), fries, or loaded mashed potatoes. But in their purest form, they are an excellent source of nutrients.

"Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is linked to immunity, synthesis of collagen for skin and tissue strength and elasticity, protection from cell-damaging free radicals and iron absorption," says Beth Stark, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition and culinary communications consultant based in Pennsylvania.

But that's not all. Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, which makes them a standout food when it comes to keeping your blood pressure under control.

"In fact, one potato contains over 800 milligrams of potassium where a single banana only contains about 500 milligrams," says Amber Pankonin, MS, RD, registered dietitian, and owner of food blog the Stirlist. "In addition, a single medium potato contains about 160 calories coming mostly from carbohydrates and contains about 3-4 grams of fiber. Potatoes are low in fat and protein but high in heart-healthy nutrients."

Potassium plays a role in muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system function. But one of the biggest side effects of eating potatoes thanks to their potassium content is that they help maintain blood pressure.

"The NIH agrees that Americans do not consume the recommended amount of potassium," says Pankonin.

The adequate intake (AI) for potassium is about 3,400 milligrams for men ages 19-50 and 2,600 milligrams for women ages 19-50, while the daily value is 4,700 milligrams per day for adults and children ages 4 years and older. But according to Harvard Medical School, most Americans get barely half of the recommended amount of potassium in their diets

"With average low intakes among Americans, a lack of potassium could impact blood pressure and kidney health which is why it was identified as a nutrient of public health concern," says Pankonin.

And research suggests diets high in potassium and low in sodium may reduce risk of hypertension and stroke. (Related: Eating Habits to Avoid if You Don't Want High Blood Pressure, Say Experts.)

"While you may not be able to physically feel this positive side effect of potatoes on their blood pressure, over time it may normalize," says Stark. "Eat potatoes with the skin-on for more potassium and fiber per serving."

At the end of the day, it's about how you prepare them and what you serve with them that can make a difference.

"I always try to bake or boil them and top them with a protein or fat source like shredded chicken or sour cream with chives," says Pankonin. "This brings some protein and fat balance to the meal, and overall makes me feel a lot more nourished and satisfied."

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