Fresh, Local, and Purple for Health

By Susan Littlefield

Potatoes sometimes get a bad rap nutritionally of late. But when they are not fried in buckets of oil or mashed with gobs of butter and cream, they are actually quite healthful veggies. They are a rich source of cancer-fighting antioxidants, especially red and purple-fleshed varieties.

And according to a recent Colorado State University study that evaluated the effect of storage on the antioxidants and anti-cancer properties of colored potatoes, the closer potatoes are consumed to the time of their harvest, the higher the levels of these healthful compounds they contain.

For the most benefit, purple and red-fleshed potatoes are the way to go. In fact, red and purple potatoes that have not been stored for long periods can deliver antioxidants on par with blueberries and grapes. One half of a recently harvested, baked purple potato has as many colon-cancer fighting compounds as three and a half recently harvested white potatoes, 600 potato chips, 45 blueberries, or 25 grapes, the study found.

According to Jairam Vanamala, researcher and professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at CSU, shopping for locally grown, in-season, red or purple potatoes is the way to get maximum health benefits from these vegetables. And of course, you can't get much fresher than potatoes dug from your own home garden!

To read more about this research, go to Colorado State University. For mail-order sources of red and purple seed potatoes, check out Maine Potato Lady or Potato Garden.

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