I Ate Potatoes Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened
There are times of year you actually might find yourself eating potatoes every day for week! After empirically researching the health effects of potatoes, a doctor serves up a spoonful of realness: "It's time to rethink the often misunderstood potato."
It’s the ultimate comfort food: Whether you keep the flavorful skin, go straight for the steamy insides, or crunch into a fry, potatoes are a global favorite—even in some countries, like Italy, that we usually consider classic representatives of the superlatively healthy Mediterranean diet.
Even many paleo diet loyalists agree: Potatoes are healthy. That’s good news for Americans, who on average consume 112 pounds of potatoes per person per year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Coming up on the time of year when potatoes will grace millions of holiday spreads and make repeat appearances as leftovers, with my background in family medicine and nutrition certification, I decided to do a dig on the effects of eating potatoes every day. Here’s how the experience transformed my view of spuds and unearthed some flavorful facts.
The health benefits of potatoes
Potatoes are often underrated in health discussions, but they’re rich with nutritious benefits. Potatoes happen to be packed with vitamins C and B6, as well as potassium, fiber, and antioxidants.
This doctor is here to say the health benefits of potatoes are impressive: They include immunity enhancement, metabolism support, brain health, blood pressure regulation, and digestive health. Additionally, potatoes contain resistant starch, which is known for its positive effects on insulin sensitivity and gut health.
All that sounds appetizing—but if potatoes are often thought of as a guilty pleasure, what’s the healthiest way to eat them? Research published in 2020 in the British Journal of Nutrition noted that if it’s steamed or baked without too much salt or saturated fat, a daily medium-sized potato can be part of a healthy diet without elevating the risk of cardiometabolic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, or stroke.
A 2022 study by Australian researchers echoed that the health benefits of potatoes are significantly influenced by how they’re prepared. Boiling potatoes, rather than frying them or adding unhealthy ingredients, is shown not to increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. This research advocates for including potatoes in a balanced diet, especially as a more nutritious carbohydrate alternative to refined grains such as white bread, white rice, and pasta.
The best way to eat potatoes for optimal health
The healthiest potato preparations include boiling, baking, and steaming, especially with the skin on. Eating the skin will maximize the fiber and nutrients you’re getting from your potato—for instance, a medium potato with skin is a good source of fiber, supplying about 8% of the daily requirement. These healthier cooking methods ensure your potato remains a food that’s low in calories but high in nutrients.
Obviously, toppings matter too—instead of high-calorie cheese or sour cream, opt for Greek yogurt, herbs, or a dash of olive oil to enhance flavor without indulging too much.
Which is healthier: Regular potatoes, or sweet potatoes?
When you’re considering the health benefits of potatoes, it’s worth comparing them to their close relative, sweet potatoes. Beth Czerwony, RD, LD, a registered dietician at the Cleveland Clinic, points out that both are commendable picks.
But as it turns out, sweet potatoes have a slight advantage due to their high beta carotene and vitamin A content. Beta carotene, which gives sweet potatoes their orange hue, is an antioxidant that helps protect against cell damage and diseases like cancer and is converted by the body into significant levels of vitamin A. This makes sweet potatoes a marginally better choice in terms of nutritional value.
Czerwony acknowledges that choosing between potatoes and sweet potatoes often depends on personal preference. She suggests integrating both into your diet, which not only adds variety but also ensures a balanced intake of nutrients. Just be mindful: Butter and brown sugar are going to make that sweet potato more of a dessert than a healthy side. Consider a teaspoon of coconut oil and a dash of cinnamon as a potential way to prep the sweet kind.
Eating potatoes every day
I loved that like eggs, potatoes are such an adaptable food to work into meals.
For breakfast, I boiled potatoes and mixed them into a colorful veggie scramble, offering a balanced start to the day.
Lunches were an opportunity to enjoy a simple yet satisfying baked potato, complemented with some mixed greens. I also ventured into making homemade sweet potato fries, baked and served on a salad—a healthier twist on a regional favorite from my native Western Pennsylvania—often called “the Pittsburgh salad.”
For dinner, I alternated between mashed potatoes made with olive oil and garlic, and a hearty potato soup with diced vegetables and herbs.
As the week neared its end, during a lengthy road trip with my fiancé, we switched up the healthy potato quest for a fast-food treat of Chick-fil-A fries. (Yes, even a doctor likes those waffle fries every now and then!)
When I ate potatoes every day, I experienced sustained energy levels
One of the most remarkable effects of my week was the sustained energy levels I experienced. The complex carbohydrates in potatoes offer a more gradual and consistent energy release compared to the rapid spikes from simple sugars in processed foods. This was particularly noticeable during times I’d typically feel an energy dip. Instead of needing a mid-morning snack or an afternoon caffeine fix, I maintained steady alertness throughout the day—a testament to the energy-stabilizing power of potatoes.
When I ate potatoes every day, I felt fuller for longer
In addition to the energy benefits, potatoes’ fiber content significantly contributed to a longitudinally satisfied appetite. Fiber slows the digestion process, allowing for a more consistent absorption of nutrients. As Czerwony recommends, eating the skin of the potato is essential for reaping the full fiber benefits it offers. Just thoroughly clean it first to remove any dirt!
This not only helped me maintain steady energy levels but also improved my digestive health. More importantly, it led to a heightened sense of fullness, reducing the frequency and intensity of hunger pangs.
When I ate potatoes every day, I experienced reduced cravings
It’s a testimony to the ways extreme diets, like cutting carbs completely, have made us think of the potato—a gift from nature—as a “bad” food. The truth is, even for weight loss, a serving of Grape Nuts, a cup of oatmeal, and yes, a potato, are starches that deliver health benefits your body needs and can take a major edge off the urge to binge out on a bag of potato chips or a sugary sweet.
So along with the energy and fullness benefits I felt from potatoes, I also noticed a significant reduction in my cravings—especially for unhealthy snacks and sweets. Science shows that the complex carbohydrates in potatoes ensure a gradual rise in blood sugar levels, which helps prevent the abrupt cravings that often follow a drop in blood sugar. This steady blood sugar maintenance helped me stay on track with healthier eating habits throughout the week…OK, minus the Chick-fil-A!
When I ate potatoes every day, I yearned for variety
As the week drew to a close, it was only natural that I started to crave other healthy carbohydrate sources. For dinner, I found myself thinking about alternatives like quinoa, a complete “perfect protein” source packed with all nine essential amino acids and rich in iron and magnesium.
Other options that came to mind were brown rice, known for its healthy fiber content and selenium, and whole-grain couscous, offering a unique texture and an abundance of B vitamins.
So while potatoes get a healthy green light, dietary diversity is another strategy that can help you stay on track with healthy eating.
The big takeaway
It’s time to rethink the often misunderstood potato. The secret to tapping into their health benefits is all in the preparation. I found that baking and boiling the potatoes significantly enhanced their positive impact, as opposed to indulging in their fast-food fried counterparts, which often leaves me feeling bloated.
While it’s not necessary to go as far as eating them every single day, incorporating potatoes into a well-balanced diet can be a smart choice. Don’t forget to also diversify your plate with other nutritious carbs—it’s all about finding that perfect blend for your meals.