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White Vegetables Redeemed!

Are Potatoes Vegetables?

Yes, Potatoes are the most popular white vegetables.

White vegetables can provide key nutrients lacking in the diets of many Americans, and they can help increase overall vegetable consumption,  according to the authors of a special scientific supplement published last week in the peer-reviewed journal, Advances in Nutrition.

In fact, a key finding was that color does not necessarily predict nutritive value of a vegetable (yes, potatoes are a vegetable). White vegetables, including nutrient-dense potatoes, contribute important amounts of essential shortfall nutrients to the American diet across all age groups.  This includes potassium—a nutrient essential to healthy blood pressure, of which only 3 percent of American adults consume the recommended daily.

“It’s recommended that the variety of fruits and vegetables consumed daily should include dark green and orange vegetables, but no such recommendation exists for white vegetables, even though they are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin C and magnesium,” says the supplement’s editor Connie Weaver, PhD, distinguished professor of nutrition science at Purdue University. “Overall, Americans are not eating enough vegetables. Promoting white vegetables, some of which are common and affordable, may be a pathway to increasing vegetable consumption in general.”

The Advances in Nutrition supplement, “White Vegetables: A Forgotten Source of Nutrients,” published by the American Society for Nutrition, features 10 papers by leading nutrition scientists that explore the state of the science on white vegetables (potatoes, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, turnips and kohlrabi) in supporting a healthy diet. The supplement authors identify a substantial body of evidence demonstrating  white vegetables, such as potatoes, can help increase intake of shortfall nutrients, notably fiber, potassium and magnesium, as well as help increase overall vegetable consumption among children, teens and adults in the U.S

Why Nutrients Found in Potatoes are Important to Your Good Health

There is good reason potatoes are a staple food of choice for cultures throughout the world. In addition to their flavor and versatility, potatoes, especially with skin, are an important source of the following nutrients, which play a vital role in your good health.  Just read the label:

Potassium:  Diets rich in potassium and low in sodium reduce the risk of hypertension and stroke.  Accumulating evidence also suggests that increasing dietary potassium and lowering sodium can provide greater heart health  than intervention alone.

Vitamin C:  This nutrient acts as an antioxidant, which helps prevent cellular damage.  Vitamin C also aids in collagen production, a process that helps maintain healthy gums and is important in healing wounds.  It also assists with the absorption of iron and may help support the body’s immune system.

Vitamin B6:  This nutrient helps the body make non-essential amino acids needed to make various body proteins.  It is a cofactor for several enzymes involved in energy metabolism and it is required for the synthesis of hemoglobin—an essential component of red blood cells.

Magnesium:  This essential mineral is involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions including the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, the conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.  In addition, magnesium plays a structural role in bone and cell membranes and is required for a number of steps during nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) and protein synthesis.

Dietary fiber:  Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate.  It has been shown to improve blood lipid levels, regulating blood glucose and increasing satiety, which may help with weight loss.

Resistant starch: the consumption of resistant starch may help regulate blood glucose levels and favorably alter bacteria in the colon.   Emerging research in animals has linked resistant starch to satiety.

The journal supplement is the outcome of a June 2012 Purdue University roundtable on white vegetable nutrition. The forum was supported by an unrestricted grant by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education, a non-for-profit organization dedicated to expanding and translating the latest scientific research and information on potato nutrition, consumption and affordability.

The executive summary for “White Vegetables: A Forgotten Source of Nutrients,” is available at http://advances.nutrition.org/content/4/3/318S.full.pdf+html.  All papers are available http://advances.nutrition.org/content/4/3#content-block.


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