Potatoes are a staple food among many cuisines worldwide.
However, many people are scared off by their carb content or how starchy they are.
This article will cover the health factors associated with eating potatoes, how suitable they are when following a Mediterranean diet and what types to eat.
Potatoes Dietary Information
Potatoes are full of important minerals and vitamins. These include potassium, folate, and vitamins C and B6.
One medium russet potato (~170g/6oz) with the skin includes:
- Calories: 168
- Fiber: 5g
- Vitamin C: 37% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 31% of the RDI
- Potassium: 27% of the RDI
- Manganese: 20% of the RDI
Aside from containing lots of water when in their fresh form, potatoes are predominantly made up of carbs. They also contain some protein and fiber. However, there is almost zero fat in a potato.
Are Potatoes Heart Healthy?
The short answer is yes. Eating various kinds of potato in their natural form has been associated with health improvements.
The main reasons for this are that they contain lots of resistant starch and antioxidants.
Resistance starch has been associated with many health benefits, particularly blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.
One study of 10 people found participants eating 50g raw potato per day over 4 weeks helped reduce blood sugar levels (1).
Finally, potatoes are also low in saturated fat. This makes them a great food to choose if you’re following a Mediterranean diet, which generally encourages foods with less saturated fat.
Combined with their good nutritional profile, potatoes are a healthy food to include within a Mediterranean diet.
Can I Lose Weight Eating Potatoes?
Results from studies are a mixed bag. Some studies find associations with weight gain and others don’t.
One study of over 120,000 participants found eating potatoes was one of the biggest contributors to gaining weight – even in their raw form (5). This was measured over 4 years.
Although the results aren’t conclusive either way, all the studies show that processed forms of potato products (e.g French fries) have larger effects on weight gain.
In everyday life, many people gain weight eating potatoes because of the amount they consume.
Similar to pasta, we often pile these foods on the plate with fatty toppings like sour cream and cheese. Although potatoes themselves do ‘fill you up’ (they have high satiety), you end up eating more calories anyway.
Excess calories, regardless of the source, can lead you to gain weight.
Sensible advice would be to simply eat them in moderation and not in huge quantities if you’re looking to lose weight.
Can I Eat Potatoes on a Mediterranean Diet?
Potatoes can form part of a healthy and in moderation, can help keep you full and lose weight.
People living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea in the 1960s would often eat potatoes because of how cheap they were.
The most important factor to consider is how you prepare them.
If boiled, steamed or baked and left unprocessed, then they are a great choice.
However, frying them with lots of butter or adding lots of toppings like cheese and sour cream can increase their calorie and fat content. This makes them less healthy.
If you do end up eating some of the unhealthier versions, simply keep it as a treat rather than a regular occurrence.
Best Potatoes on the Mediterranean Diet?
All potatoes are healthy if prepared right.
However, if you’re looking for the healthiest potato, a good rule of thumb is to look for dark-colored skin and flesh. The pigments in these potatoes provide flavonoids and carotenoids that promote good health.
Sweet potatoes are also a healthy choice. Sweet potatoes contain more vitamin A, whereas white potatoes contain more potassium.
Sweet potatoes may also be better for diabetics or people who need to control their blood sugar issues. This is because sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index (GI) than regular potatoes (higher GI foods raise blood glucose levels more quickly).
We recommend reading these articles for an in-depth ranking of various potatoes:
- Why Potatoes With More Color Are Healthiest
- What is the Healthiest Potato
- Ranking Types of Potatoes By How Healthy They Are
Mediterranean Diet Potato Recipes
Interested in some Mediterranean-friendly ways you can add potato recipes into your diet? Check these delicious recipes out:
Moroccan Chicken With Sweet Potato Mash & Roasted Veggies
The sweet potato in this recipe has a sweet sauce that combines exceptionally well with the spices of the chicken. It’s the perfect hearty meal that doesn’t skimp on Mediterranean flavours.
Rustic New Potato & Bean Salad
This easy recipe uses Mediterranean seasonings and roasting to bring out those homey flavors. It makes for a perfect backyard gathering.
Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
These baked sweet potatoes are brimming with the tastes of the Mediterranean — stuffed with feta, olives and sundried tomatoes.
Instant Pot Sweet Potato
If you’re looking to make potatoes in minutes, then this instant pot sweet potato recipe can be paired up with all sorts of dishes.
To Sum Up
Potatoes contain lots of vitamins and minerals, plus fiber. They are also low in saturated fats, making them a suitable choice when following a Mediterranean diet.
However, they need to be prepared correctly to remain a healthy choice.
Frying or processing potatoes into foods like French Fries adds more calories and fat. Adding extras like cheese or sour cream will also add extra calories.
If you do opt for fried or processed products, keep them as a treat rather than something you regularly eat.
Portion sizes are also important. Excess calories will cause you to gain weight, no matter how healthy the food is.
However, when enjoyed in moderation, all types of potatoes can be a nutritious part of your diet.