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If there’s one universally loved ingredient that pairs well with nearly any dish and can be prepared in a practically infinite number of ways, it’s potatoes. French fries, mashed potatoes, potato salad, the list goes on and on. But while white and sweet potatoes often steal the spotlight, there’s another lesser known variation that should be gracing your table, as they boast an impressive variety of vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients: purple potatoes.
Typically in season during the fall but still available year-round, purple potatoes are a member of the Solanum tuberosum family and boast an earthy, nutty flavor that can be prepared in a variety of delicious ways. But why are they purple? “Purple potatoes get their pigment from a class of flavonoids called anthocyanins (this is the same compound found in blueberries),” explains registered dietitian Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN.
On the slightly more niche end of the produce spectrum you may not be able to find purple potatoes at every grocery store. So, before you begin your hunt for this nutritious starch, here’s everything you might need to know about why purple potatoes deserve a second look.
1. They’re antioxidant rich.
Filling your body with antioxidants can have a number of profound benefits, and purple potatoes are loaded with this compound—even more than any other potato. “Purple potatoes contain about three times more antioxidants than yellow or white potatoes,” explains women’s health dietitian and host of The Flourish Heights Podcast, Valerie Agyeman, R.D.
Remember how these potatoes gather their pigmentation from anthocyanins? This flavonoid is actually packed with antioxidants, making it of great value to the body. “Anthocyanins have antioxidant properties in the body. Studies show that eating foods rich in anthocyanins may protect heart health, help prevent high blood pressure, and promote cognitive and eye health,” notes Knudsen. That’s right, potatoes are actually good for your heart.
2. They can regulate blood sugar.
Not only do purple potatoes offer a unique flavor profile, but this starch may also be beneficial in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels in comparison to other potato variations. “Purple potatoes have an estimated glycemic index (GI) of 77, which is much more favorable than the GI of 93 in white potatoes,” notes Knudsen. “While a GI of 70 or greater is considered high, eating purple potatoes, especially paired with protein and fat foods, may have a more favorable effect on blood sugar.”
Taking your blood sugar into consideration with your diet is also important when it comes to heart health, and healthy blood sugar levels can even keep you feeling energized and stable throughout the day.
3. They’re nutrient-dense.
The health benefits don’t stop at blood sugar regulation and antioxidant content—in fact, purple potatoes boast a wide range of other valuable nutrients. “[Purple potatoes] pack in vitamin B6, vitamin C and potassium to support whole body health,” notes Agyeman.
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For those unsure why this is of value, B vitamins are responsible for supporting brain health and mood, while also impacting your immune system. Of course, this is essential for fighting off illness and keeping you healthy. Potassium, on the other hand, works to synthesize protein and keep your muscles and nerves functioning properly.
TL;DR: this is a key nutrient to get enough of within your diet if you want your body to feel its best.
Plus, we all know that vitamin C contributes to a healthy immune system, also supporting collagen creation within the body and ensuring healthy development over the years. It’s safe to say purple potatoes bring quite a lot to the proverbial table.
How purple potatoes differ from other potatoes.
Sure, purple potatoes offer a wide range of health benefits, but do they really differ from any other potato? Well, this variation is most similar to russet potatoes in macronutrient value and texture. “Basically, they have a similar amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein,” notes Agyeman. “However, they have a lower glycemic index compared to white potatoes which may help to support blood sugar levels.”
In comparison to white potatoes, Knudsen explains that this colorful variety is slightly more dense and filling. “Except Purple Peruvian potatoes have a more mealy texture (similar to the russet potato that’s commonly used for baked potatoes or French fries) because they have a higher starch content,” she adds.
Cooking with purple potatoes.
As with all other forms, the purple potato is just as versatile when it comes to making gourmet meals in the kitchen. Of course they can easily be baked and boiled, but there are so many other unique ways to cook purple potatoes to compliment any meal.
“My favorite way to cook purple potatoes is to cut them in half, toss them in avocado oil with salt, pepper, and garlic and onion powder. Roast them at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes,” suggests Knudsen. If you’re still lacking in inspiration, here are some delicious and savory dishes to try:
It’s not really fair to classify any form of potato as healthier than the others, but looking at the nutritional value of purple potatoes, we may have to play favorites. Considering the vitamins, antioxidants, blood sugar regulation, and generally delicious flavor, purple potatoes should become a new staple in your year-round meal plan. After all, the more colorful your plate, the better.