Purple vegetables are all the rage these days. In addition to their striking color, the phytonutrients giving these purple plants their color have been linked to reducing cholesterol and a number of other health benefits. One of the latest discoveries is that eating purple potatoes can help overweight people with high blood pressure reduce hypertension without gaining weight.
The boutique spud
Americans eat more potatoes than any other vegetable. Purple potatoes, a boutique spud gaining popularity in supermarkets, are noted for having high levels of healthy antioxidants. In a report published in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers concluded that two small helpings of purple potatoes a day decreases blood pressure by about 4 percent without causing weight gain. They said that small decrease in blood pressure is enough to reduce the risk of heart disease.
The purple potato study
The research, conducted by Joe Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, tracked 18 overweight subjects with hypertension. Participants had no potatoes in their diet for four weeks. Then they ate six to eight small purple potatoes (about 218 calories) at lunch and dinner for another four weeks. Diastolic blood pressure—the bottom number in a blood pressure reading—dropped 4.3 percent on average. Systolic blood pressure—the top number dropped an average of 3.5 percent. Even the participants on anti-hypertensive medications achieved lower blood pressure and none of them gained weight.
Potatoes can be part of any healthy diet, whether you need to lose weight or not. They’re naturally low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Potatoes are rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects against cellular damage, and potassium, a mineral that helps balance body fluids and helps offset the hypertensive effects of too much sodium. Potatoes are also packed with fiber that aids weight management by promoting fullness.
Scientists say purple potatoes in particular are heart healthy because they have high amounts of chlorogenic acid, a compound shown to reduce high blood pressure in animal studies. And like other purple fruits and vegetables, they have many of the same antioxidants, including anthocyanins, carotenoids and phenolic acids, which have been found to reduce inflammation linked to myriad chronic illnesses such as heart disease.
The best way to get the most phytonutrients and antioxidants from purple potatoes is to microwave, mash or sauté. Avoid frying potatoes. Here are some tasty suggestions for preparing potatoes, courtesy of Jackie Newgent, R.D., author of “Big Green Cookbook:”
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. Or add zing with a dollop of tzatziki dip (a Greek dip made with yogurt, chopped cucumber, and mint).
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.