Are Potato Skins Good For You?

Potatoes are the undisputed king of the vegetable world. They're almost universally loved and are featured in cuisines everywhere. Americans alone eat, on average, a staggering 126 pounds of potatoes per year, per person (via Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health). Potatoes show up on our plates in a variety of forms — hash browns, french fries, mashed, or au gratin — and usually appear pale or golden because they've been peeled. Have you ever wondered why it's so common to peel our potatoes? What about those skins?

Besides being tasty, potato skins are very nutritious — even more so than the rest of the potato. Potato skins are an excellent source of fiber, which is crucial for a healthy digestive system, and are known to help prevent colon cancer. They also contain healthy doses of vitamin C and vitamin B6, with one average-sized baked potato (skin included) providing almost 30% of the daily recommended intake of those vitamins (via Healthline).

Potato skins are also loaded with minerals, including magnesium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron and zinc. These minerals are vital for bone structure and strength and important for managing blood pressure (via Livestrong).

Keeping the peel means getting more nutrients

While there has been some concern about health risks associated with certain chemical compounds found in potato skins, unless you eat dozens of potatoes in a sitting, there's nothing to worry about. "The nutritional benefits of potatoes eaten in moderation — say one to three a day — far outweighs the potential risk," Rita Storey, a registered dietician who is the media spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, told the Los Angeles Times. She does not recommend peeling potatoes, with the exception of areas that appear green or with sprouts. If the potatoes look good, "Just wash them vigorously under running water and use them in moderation," she said. 

Organic potatoes maximize the health benefits. Conventionally-grown potatoes are known to carry substantial amounts of potentially harmful pesticide residue and have made the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list for multiple years in a row. If potato skins are prepared in a health-conscious way (aka not loaded with butter, cheese, sour cream, and bacon), potato skins are actually a nutritious, low-calorie food. Go ahead and enjoy them guilt-free.