Excessive dietary NaCl in association with a paucity of plant foods, major sources of K alkaline salts, is a common feature in Western eating habits which may lead to acid–base disorders and to Ca and Mg wasting. In this context, to evaluate the effects of potato, rich in potassium citrate, on acid–base homeostasis and mineral retention, Wistar rats were fed wheat starch (WS) or cooked potato (CP) diets with a low (0·5 %) or a high (2 %) NaCl content during 3 weeks. The replacement of WS by CP in the diets resulted in a significant urinary alkalinisation (pH from 5·5 to 7·3) parallel to a rise in citrate and K excretion. Urinary Ca and Mg elimination represented respectively 17 and 62 % of the daily absorbed mineral in rats fed the high-salt WS diet compared with 5 and 28 % in rats fed the high-salt CP diet. The total SCFA concentration in the caecum was 3-fold higher in rats fed the CP diets compared with rats fed the WS diets, and it led to a significant rise in Ca and Mg intestinal absorption (Ca from 39 to 56 %; Mg from 37 to 60 %). The present model of low-grade metabolic acidosis indicates that CP may be effective in alkalinising urine, enhancing citrate excretion and ameliorating Ca and Mg balance.