The color purple doesn’t just make food beautiful, it’s a vibrant sign of an item being packed with beneficial nutrients. The royal shade of red, blue or purple, found in pomegranates, elderberries, concord grapes, purple potatoes, and more, is a sign of anthocyanins, a potent antioxidant that helps to fight inflammation and offer chronic disease protection.
Purple Potatoes are an Antioxidant Powerhouse
When it comes to natural food pigmentation in general, the darker the color, the better. Richer colors signify more nutrition and antioxidant concentration which is why a cup of dark green kale leaves contains more nutrition than a cup of paler iceberg lettuce.
Purple potatoes get their rich shade primarily from anthocyanins, a flavonoid with antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity. A recent study compared various colored potatoes and found that purple pigmented potatoes had a similar antioxidant power to spinach.
That’s good news for those who want the benefits that antioxidants provide but would rather enjoy a plate of roasted purple potatoes than steamed spinach or other dark, leafy greens.
Anthocyanins may improve heart heath
Anthocyanins are mainly found in red and purple colored potato varieties in both the skin and the inner flesh; these compounds appear to help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and fight oxidative stress; a process known to increase heart disease risk. 
In a 2015 study, researchers compared 180ml of purple potato extract to a common blood pressure medication, captopril. Both the medication and purple potato extract groups saw significant blood pressure improvements but only the purple potato group saw higher levels of an antioxidant called superoxide dismutase, which has shown to be helpful in hypertension.
Another study looking at consuming whole purple potatoes and blood pressure changes found that those who consumed one medium purple potato (about 200g) for two weeks had significant blood pressure improvements.
Other studies looking at the connection between consuming purple potatoes and cardiovascular disease risk factors like high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol continue to show benefits when participants consume anthocyanin rich foods, like purple potatoes. Those are impressive results from a whole food source of nutrition and a reason to consume purple potatoes more often.
Purple Potatoes are Better for Blood Sugar
The glycemic index, or GI, is a measure from 0 to 100 of how single foods raise blood sugar levels. While most people eat a variety of foods and don’t need to focus on blood sugar shifts after meals, those with diabetes or who rely on insulin to help with blood sugar control use the GI regularly.
When it comes to purple potatoes, their effect on the glycemic index is lowered due to the amount polyphenols and anthocyanins. It’s thought that these compounds may decrease absorption of some carbohydrates and therefore reduce overall impact on blood sugar levels.
Cancer is of course a complicated disease, with many factors both known and unknown. However, antioxidant consumption in the diet is currently shown to help reduce overall cancer risk and anthocyanin purple potatoes are no exception.
A study looking specifically at purple potatoes found that baked purple potatoes and purple potato extract reduced colon cancer cell growth in lab tests. This has been shown in other lab-based study’s for overall antimicrobial and anti-cancer inhibition and in bladder cancer cells.
It’s important to note that all of these cancer studies were done in lab tests and not yet in human trials, but they show promising implications for future cancer research. And while purple potatoes are not a substitute for effective cancer treatment, their powerful antioxidant activity may be helpful in reducing overall growth. Either way, purple potatoes are a delicious – and healthful—part of any diet.
Besides their incredible taste, there are plenty of persuasive reasons to consume purple potatoes more often. Their brightly colored pigment is related to their potent antioxidant content, which may reduce risk of chronic disease like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Simple, vegetarian recipes.
From St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, Yoga Teacher, and Mom to her one-year old son. They love to travel, explore a new country each year, and have winter plans to hike through Argentina and Chile.
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