Why you want your potatoes to be purple

Close up of blue potatoes sliced in half

If you never saw – let alone tasted – a purple potato, perhaps it’s time you went out looking for some.

Especially if you’re one of those people who really likes the “comfort-food” taste and texture of potatoes, but has been turned off on them by all those warnings from nutritionists about how they cause your blood sugar to spike, promote weight gain and abdominal fat, and set the stage for diabetes (one site even calls them “health enemy No. 1”).

The purple potato, however, which hails from South America, could be the perfect answer to all those health concerns.

To be sure, it’s a carbohydrate, just like the common-garden variety spuds you’ve probably been eating all your life. But this richly hued little tuber has a lot more going for it health-and-nutrition-wise than those common garden-variety spuds.

For one thing, purple potatoes – which come in several different variations, including Purple Majesties, Purple Vikings and Purple Peruvians — are loaded with a particular type of antioxidant phytochemical called anthocyanin, which, as we’ve noted previously, is what gives blueberries their blue/purple color and which serves as a powerful immune booster and cancer preventive. It’s also anti-inflammatory and helps protect the capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in our bodies.

But those aren’t the only health benefits of consuming a mini-potato imbued with the color purple both outside and inside. A 2012 study found that people who ate six to eight of them a day had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t – which might be due both to keeping those capillaries flexible and the presence of another phytonutrient that has been shown to help lower blood pressure in mice.

Participants in that same study, by the way, also appeared to have no weight gain from having all those purple potatoes as part of their daily diet.

The relatively small size of the typical purple potato offers another advantage, since the most nutritious part of any potato is the skin and the part just underneath it. (For this reason, you might want to look for organically grown ones, so you won’t feel the need to peel them.)

As for taste, well, you won’t find them all that different from the potatoes you’re used to – just a bit “nuttier,” perhaps. They also have a creamy texture that makes them great for mashing and mixing with herbs and spices.

But even if you don’t find purple potatoes in your store right now, the good news is that they’re becoming more popular every day.

Here at the Jersey shore, for example, one of our local farmers is making a point of cultivating them.

They may even be coming soon to a supermarket near you – if they’re not there already.

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