Health Benefits of Purple Potatoes
Colors don't just make food pretty: they can be a sign of nutritional power. And purple is mighty. This royal shade comes from anthocyanins—disease-fighting antioxidants. The pigment produces red, blue and violet foods, depending on the type of anthocyanin (there are hundreds). The high antioxidant content in these pigmented potatoes fights inflammation and helps slash heart disease and cancer risk. (For more, check out these Best Antioxidant-Rich Foods.)
Purple Potato Nutrition
Purple potatoes have a lot going for them nutritionally, beyond antioxidants. They are packed with fiber, vitamin C and potassium, which can help with weight loss, immunity and heart health. The nutrition for 1 medium baked purple potato is as follows:
When it comes to antioxidants, usually the deeper the color, the better. Purple potatoes are chock-full of anthocyanins, which are a type of antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. A 2015 study found that red- and purple-fleshed potatoes average 16 to 57 mg of anthocyanins per 100 g, and other research says their antioxidant power is comparable to that of Brussels sprouts or spinach.
In some instances, how you cook a food can influence its antioxidant levels. In a study published in Food Chemistry, researchers looked at what this means for purple potatoes specifically. The biggest antioxidant losses came from stir-frying (60%) and baking (22%); whereas microwaving (6%) and boiling (8%) preserved the most nutrients. This doesn't mean you should never stir-fry or bake purple potatoes, but to get the most antioxidant bang for your buck, try other cooking methods too.
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Purple potatoes' high antioxidant content translates into impressive heart health benefits. A 2015 study in the Journal of Biology, Agriculture and Healthcare investigated how purple potato extract (180 mL daily) compared with a common blood pressure medication called captopril. Not only did the purple potato extract significantly improve people's blood pressure, but also it significantly increased the hypertension-fighting antioxidants (called superoxide dismutase) in people's blood. Other research in humans and animals has echoed these findings.
To take it a step further, a study in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition sought to find out how eating whole purple potatoes influenced arterial stiffness, which can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. People in this study were either given 200 g of purple potato (about 1 medium potato) packed with anthocyanins or 200 g of white potato with negligible anthocyanins. After two weeks, blood pressure significantly improved for those eating purple potatoes compared to white potatoes.
Pictured Recipe: Purple Sweet Potato Pie
Can purple potatoes help reduce inflammation? A 2015 study took a closer look at a Taiwanese type of purple potatoes to answer this question. The extract researchers created from the potatoes had high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds that also could inhibit future inflammation development. These compounds are thought to slow the growth of cancer as well.
Several studies have looked at what organs specifically could benefit from the compounds in purple potatoes, namely the liver and kidneys. So far, most of these studies have been done on mice or rats. However, a recent study in Food Chemistry followed 17 healthy men to see how purple potato extract impacted the inflammation that can happen after a large, high-carb meal. Even four hours after eating, the men had improved digestion and reduced levels of post-meal inflammation. Including antioxidant-rich foods, such as purple potatoes, with a meal can help your body get more of what it needs and less of what it doesn't.
Cancer is a complicated disease, but antioxidants have some promising research to back up their anti-cancer potential. Purple potatoes are no exception. The type of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in purple potatoes have been found to stunt cancer cell growth. This is an exciting implication for a few specific types of cancer. A study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that baked purple potato and purple potato extract slowed down one of the regulators for colon cancer growth (called beta-catenin), and inhibited several of its dangerous byproducts from forming. This could be good news for the future treatment of this common cancer type. Additionally, a 2018 study found promising results for purple potatoes' anthocyanins targeting and suppressing bladder cancer cells. Though potatoes are no substitute for treatment, their powerful antioxidant compounds do show potential to help prevent and stall the development of several kinds of cancer cells.
Purple potatoes have a slew of health benefits, most of which stem from their high antioxidant content. Eating them may help cut down on inflammation and damage that can lead to chronic illnesses, like heart disease and cancer. There are plenty of compelling reasons to get these brightly colored beauties on your plate. For more inspiration, check out our Healthy Potato Recipes.
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