The potato's stereotype as a fattening food for health-conscious folks to avoid is getting another revision as scientists report that just a couple servings of spuds a day reduces blood pressure almost as much as oatmeal without causing weight gain.
But don't reach for the catsup, vinegar or mayonnaise. The research was not done with French fries, America's favorite potato, but with potatoes cooked without oil in a microwave oven. Although researchers used purple potatoes, they believe that red-skin potatoes and white potatoes may have similar effects.
"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," said Joe Vinson, Ph.D., who headed the research. "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."
In the new study, 18 patients who were primarily overweight/obese with high blood pressure ate 6-8 purple potatoes (each about the size of a golf ball) with skins twice daily for a month. They used purple potatoes because the pigment, or coloring material, in fruits and vegetables is especially rich in beneficial phytochemicals.
The majority of subjects took anti-hypertensive drugs and still had a reduction in blood pressure. None of the study participants gained weight.
Unfortunately for French fry and potato chip fans, those high cooking temperatures seem to destroy most of the healthy substances in a potato, leaving mainly starch, fat and minerals. Potatoes in the study were simply microwaved, which Vinson said seems to be the best way to preserve nutrients.
The story was reprinted (with editorial adaptations) from ScienceDaily.