Potatoes have gotten a bad rap for years.
They’re considered fattening, especially that baked potato slathered in butter and sour cream. And those French fries covered in salt and ketchup will send your blood pressure through the roof, right?
Well, it’s time to think again about this staple of the American diet, according to a new study.
If you’re at risk for hypertension, you’ll want to read on and find out how the humble potato may help you keep your blood pressure under control…
Potassium is crucial to controlling blood pressure
If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, you’re probably already finding ways to cut back on your sodium intake.
But salt is essential to life. It supports nerve and muscle function and is involved in the regulation of fluids in the body.
And do you know what goes together better than salt and pepper? Salt and potassium.
Potassium intake can help to control blood pressure. But according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, potassium is an essential nutrient of concern, indicating most Americans aren’t consuming enough.
That’s a problem because Americans do eat far more salt than they should — and potassium lessens the effects of sodium. The more potassium you eat, the more sodium you lose through your urine.
Potassium also helps to ease tension in your blood vessel walls, which helps further lower blood pressure. Clinical trials have shown that even a small increase of around 250 mg per day in potassium may lower blood pressure by 2 to 3 mmHg.
But there’s a healthy food source of potassium that’s even better than potassium supplements…
Potatoes are better than potassium supplements
In a recent Purdue University study, researchers in the Department of Nutrition Science separated 30 volunteers into four groups.
All volunteers were either pre-hypertensive or already had hypertension (their systolic blood pressure was greater than 120mmHg).
One group ate a control diet, which included 2300mg of potassium each day. This reflects the typical American diet, which is considered low in potassium.
The other three groups ate the same diet, supplemented by either 1000mg of potassium from baked, boiled or pan-heated potatoes, 1000mg of potassium from French fries, or a 1000mg potassium gluconate supplement.
After 16 days, results showed that eating baked or boiled potatoes had an even greater effect than potassium supplements on reducing sodium retention.
What’s more, the much-maligned French fry proved it’s not deserving of its negative reputation. The researchers observed that including a 330-calorie serving of baked French fries in a typical American diet had no negative effect on blood pressure.
“Considering Americans fall significantly short in meeting daily potassium intakes, these findings show the importance of promoting, not restricting, whole food good-to-excellent sources of potassium in Americans’ diets, like potatoes,” says Connie Weaver, Ph.D., and the primary investigator of the study.
Getting more potatoes in your diet
Hopefully, by now you’re convinced that it’s not only okay but a good idea to include potatoes in your diet.
Why not try purple potatoes? Not only are they full of healthy phytochemicals, like other health-promoting purple foods, but in a 2011 study they helped reduce the average diastolic blood pressure of people with hypertension by 4.3 percent, and their systolic pressure by 3.5 percent.
But remember, it’s still not a good idea to load up your potatoes with salt or ketchup full of high fructose corn syrup.
Previous evidence suggests that added sugars, particularly fructose, may increase blood pressure and blood pressure variability.
Here are a few healthy and creative potato recipes to get you started!
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Short-Term RCT of Increased Dietary Potassium from Potato or Potassium Gluconate: Effect on Blood Pressure, Microcirculation, and Potassium and Sodium Retention in Pre-Hypertensive-to-Hypertensive Adults — Nutrients
How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure — American Heart Association