Americans’ love affair with potatoes has added to our weight problems, but purple potatoes may be the super spud we need to negate the downside of white potatoes while improving our health. No matter their size or shape, purple potatoes have royal benefits.
Purple potatoes have 4 times the content of antioxidants as russet potatoes. Within hours of eating purple potatoes, the blood is filled with antioxidants, fighting free radicals and protecting cells in the body from damage. The purple pigment comes from anthocyanin. This group of flavonoids appears to help protect us from cancer and heart disease, as well as strengthen the immune system and protect against age-related memory loss.
All potatoes are naturally high in potassium, which helps to balance body fluids and regulate blood pressure, but the extra antioxidants in purple potatoes make them even more effective. One of these antioxidants is a polyphenol called chlorogenic acid that has been shown to lower blood pressure in animals. The USDA recently conducted a study with overweight, hypertensive participants. The participants in the treatment group consumed six to eight golf ball-sized purple potatoes, twice daily for one month, and their blood pressure decreased by an average of 4 percent without any weight gain. The next month, the same participants did not eat the purple potatoes, and their blood pressure no longer decreased.
It has recently become better understood that chronic inflammation in the body is an important factor in the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many types of cancer. When studying the effect of potatoes on inflammation in the body, researchers discovered that when people ate white or russet potatoes, their levels of inflammation went up. Yellow potatoes were a little better, but still increased inflammation levels. Sweet potatoes were better still, but purple potatoes were the most effective in terms of decreasing inflammation significantly. If you want to learn more about the effect of various foods on inflammation in the body, watch this 2 1/2 minute video by Dr. Michael Greger.
Another problem with white potatoes is the quick rate at which the sugar is broken down and absorbed into the blood stream. This high glycemic index causes an inappropriate hormone response in our body that may heighten our desire for more carbohydrates, and thus lead to overeating. Red potatoes have a better glycemic index than white, but purple potatoes and sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index: the carbohydrate is released more slowly into the bloodstream, making blood sugars and body weight easier to manage.
All potatoes, including purple potatoes, are a fairly good source of vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium, tryptophan, manganese, and fiber. The use of high cooking temperatures to make French fries and potato chips destroys most of these healthy nutrients, and baked and mashed potatoes are often loaded with butter, sour cream, and cheese, making them somewhat less healthy as well. Roasting potatoes with a little oil is a healthier and tasty way to prepare any potato, since it brings out the natural sugars and caramelizes the potatoes. Introduce purple potatoes to your family and friends by roasting them with red potatoes, and orange and purple sweet potatoes, to make this beautiful side, Roasted Potato Medley. They will love them and you will notice that the purple ones disappear first after eaters get used to the color. Anything you can do with other potatoes, you can do with purple potatoes. We would love to hear what you make with purple potatoes, so share your ideas in the comment section below.
Take November’s (2013) Healthy Challenge and eat purple potatoes. Replace white potatoes (especially french fries and fat-loaded mashed and baked potatoes) with purple potatoes on a regular basis. Dress up your Thanksgiving table with purple potatoes for an outstanding new tradition! They are so delicious, everyone will thank you.