According to a recent study, potatoes are a lot healthier than most of us would think. Widely regarded as fattening foods, high in carbohydrates and lacking in nutrients, potatoes may, in fact, rival broccoli and spinach in terms of dietary properties, says chemistry professor Joe Vinson at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
To test this new and daring idea, Vinson conducted a one month long study on 18 overweight individuals with high blood pressures, who were provided with portions of 6 to 8 potatoes, twice a day. Vinson’s team of dedicated researchers closely monitored the patients’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure, documenting some significant changes over such a brief period of time – a drop of 4.3% in average diastolic pressure, and a drop of 3.5% in systolic pressure. Moreover, none of the participants in this study had gained any weight by the end of the trial period. Professor Vinson believes that the high carotenoid content of purple spuds is mainly responsible for these interesting results.
Carotenoids are crucial chemical compounds that occur in plants and that the human body cannot produce on its own. Since we must derive them from food, diets rich in colored vegetables, such as green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, carrots, apricots, and papaya have been associated with lower risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as lower mortality rates.
Thanks to the recent increase in scientific interest for colored potatoes, as well as a growing public awareness regarding their benefits, red and purple spuds are becoming a common sight in supermarkets and farmers’ markets alike.
Vinson further explained that “the potato, more than perhaps any other vegetable, has an undeserved bad reputation that has led many health-conscious people to ban them from their diet. Mention ‘potato’ and people think ‘fattening, high-carbs, empty calories’. In reality, when prepared without frying and served without butter, margarine or sour cream, one potato has only 110 calories and dozens of healthful phytochemicals and vitamins. We hope our research helps to remake the potato’s popular nutritional image.”
For this specific study, only microwaved potatoes were taken into account, although raw potatoes, surprisingly not often included in typical raw food diets, provide the same health benefits, if not more, and considerably less calories when compared to baked versions. 100 grams of raw potatoes, with skin, can provide 24% of the daily requirements of vitamin C for an average person, as well as significant amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and dietary fiber. In addition, other past studies have revealed that potatoes may posses properties that rival those of ACE-inhibitor drugs, yet without any of the damaging after-effects.
Unfortunately, highly processed potatoes such as chips, or potatoes cooked at very high temperatures, such as french fries, have none of these important health benefits. Professor Vinson warns that high temperature cooking destroys most of the vitamins and phytochemicals in potatoes, leaving behind only residual minerals, saturated fats and carbohydrates.