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What’s healthier pasta or potatoes?

Pasta and potatoes are both staple foods that are enjoyed around the world. Many people wonder which carbohydrate is the healthier choice. This article will compare pasta and potatoes on a variety of nutritional factors to help you decide which is best for your diet.

Nutritional profiles

Let’s start by looking at the basic nutritional profiles of pasta and potatoes.


Pasta is made from durum wheat and water. It’s low in fat, sodium, and cholesterol. An unenriched 1 cup serving of spaghetti contains:

  • Calories: 220
  • Carbs: 43 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams

Enriched pasta has added nutrients like iron, folate, and B vitamins. Whole wheat pasta offers slightly more fiber and protein than regular pasta.


Potatoes are an underground tuber vegetable high in carbs. A medium baked potato with skin contains:

  • Calories: 161
  • Carbs: 37 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams

Potatoes contain vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, and trace minerals. The skin adds valuable fiber.

Glycemic index

The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Low GI foods (under 55) cause a gradual rise, while high GI foods (over 70) lead to rapid spikes.

Pasta and potatoes fall in the middle range on the GI scale:

  • Cooked pasta: 41–62
  • Baked russet potato: 82
  • Boiled red potato: 89

Pasta, especially whole grain varieties, have a lower GI, meaning they provide a slower release of energy. Potatoes cause a quicker spike in blood sugar.


Satiety refers to how well a food keeps you feeling full and prevents overeating. Foods higher in protein, fiber, and healthy fats promote greater satiety.

Both pasta and potatoes are fairly substantial sources of carbs. However, pasta may be more satiating for a few reasons:

  • Pasta has more protein than potatoes.
  • The bulky texture of pasta takes up space in the stomach.
  • Pasta eaten al dente has a lower GI.

In one study, participants reported feeling fuller and less hungry after eating pasta compared to potatoes (1).

Nutrient density

Nutrient density refers to the amount of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients in a food relative to its calories.

Below is a comparison of the vitamin and mineral content in a 1 cup cooked serving of pasta vs. potatoes (2, 3):

Nutrient Pasta (enriched) Potatoes
Folate 138 mcg 57 mcg
Niacin 5 mg 4 mg
Thiamin 1 mg 0.3 mg
Riboflavin 0.9 mg 0.1 mg
Iron 3 mg 2 mg
Potassium 154 mg 1,048 mg
Vitamin C 0 mg 33 mg
Vitamin B6 0.2 mg 0.5 mg

Enriched pasta contains more B vitamins while potatoes offer more vitamin C and potassium. Overall, enriched pasta has a slight edge in nutrient density.

Weight management

Both pasta and potatoes can be part of a healthy diet for weight management. Portion control is key, since they are energy-dense foods.

Some studies suggest pasta may have an edge for weight loss due to its satiating qualities. Replacing potatoes with pasta reduced waist circumference in one study (4).

Preparing pasta al dente may also help with weight management, as it has a lower GI than fully cooked pasta (5).

Cooking methods

The way you cook pasta and potatoes also influences their nutrition profile. Here are some healthier preparation methods:


  • Cook just until al dente.
  • Choose whole grain or protein-enriched varieties.
  • Avoid creamy, oil-based sauces.
  • Try tomato-based sauces with veggies.
  • Use small amounts of olive oil.


  • Bake, boil, or steam instead of frying.
  • Leave the skin on.
  • Flavor with herbs, spices, vinegar, or yogurt instead of butter.
  • Try sweet or purple potatoes for more antioxidants.


Pasta and potatoes do have some downsides:

  • Refined grains in pasta lack fiber.
  • Paste and potato dishes often rely on high calorie sauces.
  • Fried potatoes can contain acrylamide, a potentially toxic chemical.

Choosing whole grain varieties and healthy cooking methods can help reduce these risks.

The bottom line

Overall, pasta generally has a nutrition advantage over potatoes:

  • Higher protein content
  • Lower GI
  • More filling
  • Higher nutrient density

However, potatoes offer different nutrients and fiber from the skin. Both can be part of a healthy diet in moderation when prepared in a nutritious way.


Pasta and potatoes are starchy staples enjoyed around the world. When comparing nutritional quality, pasta comes out slightly ahead. It has more protein, a lower GI, and higher nutrient density. Pasta’s satiating qualities may also give it an edge for weight management.

However, potatoes offer their own benefits, including vitamin C, potassium, and fiber in the skin. Both pasta and potatoes can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation and prepared healthfully.

To maximize the nutrition in pasta, choose whole grain varieties and serve with tomato sauce or veggies. For potatoes, baking, steaming, or boiling is best. Leaving the skin on potatoes also boosts their fiber and nutrient content. Overall, it’s the preparation method and portion size that have the biggest impact on the health profile of pasta vs. potatoes.