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Bulletin #4179, Vegetables and Fruits for Health: Potatoes

Vegetables and Fruits for Health


Revised and updated by Extension Professional Lisa M. Fishman
Originally developed by Extension Nutrition Specialist Nellie Hedstrom

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Nearly everyone likes potatoes. They are economical, low in calories, and nutritious. They can be prepared in a variety of ways. The four basic types of potatoes are round whites, long whites, russets, and round reds. There are also many specialty potatoes, including blue-fleshed, red-fleshed, yellow-fleshed, and fingerling. Maine- grown potatoes are available late July through the following May.

Nutrition Information

Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Unfortunately, they have been accused for many years of being a high-calorie food. This is unfair: one medium baked potato contains only about 110 calories. But beware! If you add one tablespoon each of sour cream and butter or margarine, the calories jump to 240!


Look for plump, firm, unbruised potatoes. Avoid those that are green or have started to shrivel or sprout.


Store potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place that is well ventilated. A temperature of 45 degrees F is best for storage. Potatoes stored above 45 degrees F will sprout and shrivel. Those stored below 45 degrees F will develop a sweet taste, as some of the potato starch turns to sugar. This increase in sugar will cause the potato to darken when cooked. Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator.


Scrub potatoes well if they are not peeled. Be aware that peeled potatoes will turn dark if they are not cooked soon. Do not soak them in cold water to keep them white. This will cause the potatoes to lose vitamins.

Boiling: Best for thin-skinned potatoes. Cover potatoes with water in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and cook covered. Medium potatoes will take about 30 to 40 minutes to cook.

Baking: Best for thick-skinned potatoes. Bake potatoes 45 minutes at 400 degrees F, or bake them along with whatever you have in the oven and adjust the time according to the temperature. It can range from 325 to 450 degrees F. At higher temperatures, the skin will be crisper. Pierce skin with a fork so steam will escape. This keeps the potato from bursting.

Microwaving: Pierce skin with a fork in a few places. Arrange potatoes on a paper towel, one inch apart. Microwave on high power for four to six minutes per potato. Turn potatoes over after half the cooking time. When they are done, take them out and let them stand for five minutes. This allows the potatoes to finish cooking with their own trapped steam.

Steaming: Best for thin-skinned, small potatoes. Cut a small strip from the potato. This will keep the skin from breaking. To steam, bring one inch of water to boil in the bottom of a pan. Place a colander or a collapsible steaming basket in the pan. Then put the vegetables in the colander or steamer and cover it tightly. Reduce heat to medium-low, but make sure it is high enough to keep the water bubbling. Steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

Potato Soup

Serves 6

4 cups potatoes, boiled with skin
1 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, grated
1 tablespoon margarine
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
3 cups water
1 cup nonfat or skim evaporated milk
1/4 cup all purpose wheat flour, self-rising, enriched, mixed well with 1/4 cup water

Place first 8 ingredients in a saucepan and cook until potatoes and onions are soft. Add milk, then the flour/water mixture. Continue to cook, stirring constantly. After soup starts to thicken, it is ready to serve.

Late July Salad

Serves 6

2 pounds potatoes, boiled with skin
2 cups leaf spinach
1 carrot
2 radishes
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 scallion, green or spring onion
1 cup raspberries
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

Scrub potatoes (don’t peel them) and place in a saucepan with water to cover. Boil for 20–25 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and cool. Slice 1/4 inch thick. Place potatoes in bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients (olive oil, honey, mustard, vinegar, oregano, basil, and celery seed) in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake all together. Pour the dressing on the potatoes. Mix gently with a rubber spatula until all are coated. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. When ready to prepare salad, wash spinach leaves and pat almost dry. Peel and grate carrot; finely chop radishes, scallion, and parsley. Add these to potatoes and dressing in a bowl. Mix gently. Add fresh raspberries at the last minute and again mix gently.

Some content adapted with permission from University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2008

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Image Description: several varieties of potatoes for sale at a farmers market; photo by Edwin Remsberg, USDA

Image Description: Potato Soup Nutrition Facts Food Label

Image Description: Late July Salad Nutrition Facts Label

Contact Information

Cooperative Extension Publications
University of Maine, 5741 Libby Hall, Room 114
Orono, ME 04469-5741
Phone: 207.581.3792 | Fax: 207.581.1387
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System