The Dirt on Potatoes

September 16, 2011 - Posted by Sarah D-P

Ever heard of a purple potato? For those of you who channel your inner Emeril or Paula, you might have. But if you’re like me – more like Chef Boy-ar-dee, you may be saying, “a PURPLE potato?!” That’s right, a new study on purple potatoes has found consumption of these pretty little spuds can help to reduce blood pressure WITHOUT causing weight gain. Being a rather small study (only 18 subjects) more research is definitely needed in this area, but preliminary data displayed a decrease is systolic blood pressure of 3.5 percent and a decrease in diastolic pressure of 4.3 percent after only four weeks!

Study subjects were either overweight or obese and suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure). Subjects were divided and asked to either eat 6-8 skin-on small purple potatoes at both lunch and dinner (218 calories per serving), or include no potatoes in their diet whatsoever. After the four week stint, the participants crossed over to the other regimen.

Most of the subjects saw lower blood pressure, and NONE saw weight gain.

How do they work you ask? Purple potatoes have high levels of
polyphenol antioxidants that protect cells against free radical damage that can increase disease risk. Experts recommend only microwaving the potatoes in favor of other cooking methods to preserve these powerful chemicals.

Purple potatoes are becoming increasingly more popular at supermarkets and farmers markets, so don’t be surprised if they show up at your local grocer!

What about other potatoes? What’s so wrong with them?! Well, humans are turning potatoes into nothing but starch, fat, and minerals by cooking them at such high temperatures (think French fries and potato chips). It is because of things like these that the potato is largely blamed for the weight gain epidemic that has swept the nation. In actuality, potatoes can be a healthy addition to any diet – even if the goal is weight loss.  They’re:

  • naturally low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium
  • rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects against cellular damage
  • rich in  potassium, a mineral that helps balance body fluids and negate possible blood pressure-raising effects of a high sodium diet
  • full of fiber that may promote fullness

To maximize health benefits while keeping calories low, saute, mash, or microwave your potatoes instead of frying them. And don’t forget, watch the toppings! A potato topped with cheese, loaded with butter, and sprinkled with salt will do nothing good for your waistline.  Some other recommendations for preparing potatoes from Jackie Newgent, R.D., author of “Big Green Cookbook” are as follows:

  • Hash browns: Combine diced or sliced unpeeled potatoes with shallots and some chili pepper in a little olive oil. Cover first to steam, and then remove the lid, add garlic and scallions, and sauté until done. Finish with a handful of fresh herbs including parsley and rosemary.
  • Mashed potatoes: Keep potato skins on to maximize nutrients and add home-style appeal. For creamy moistness, use almond milk. Also add roasted garlic for extra flavor (and potential heart-heath benefits).
  • Baked or microwaved potatoes: Top with one pat of butter, a large dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a generous amount of fresh chives or scallions.
  • Potato salad: For 2 pounds potatoes, use 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons stone-ground or Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, and 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar. Serves 6.

Whether they’re purple, brown, sweet, or red – potatoes are to be overlooked no more! What’s your favorite healthy potato recipe? Any tips/tricks out there to get the perfect potato every time? I’d love to hear from you!

Related Posts:
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Healthy Food Review: Laughing Cow Cheese Wedges
A Colorful Guide to Fruits and Veggies

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