Potatoes, especially French fries, get a bad rap for their perceived lack of health benefits since they are high in carbs. Until now, that is. Researchers from Purdue University are changing the narrative around this root vegetable. As part of a new study that was published in the journal Nutrients, researchers found that eating potatoes and baked French fries actually helps control your systolic blood pressure levels even more than taking potassium supplements.
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"While significant emphasis is often placed on reducing dietary sodium intakes to better control for blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk, that's only half of the story," Connie Weaver, PhD, the primary study investigator, said in a media release. "Potassium plays just as an important role, and perhaps the ratio of potassium to sodium is most important in the context of the entire food matrix, as the potato meal resulted in a greater reduction of sodium retention than the potassium supplement alone."
Since baking or broiling potatoes helps the vegetables keep its potassium benefits, the researchers split 30 study participants in four groups for just over two weeks to test its health-related impact in the volunteers' diets. One group had a 2,300 mg potassium-based diet. The other teams had the same thing, but they also had also had another 1,000 mg of potassium in their diet from baked, boiled, or pan-heated potatoes, another group had 1,000 mg from French fries, and the last had 1,000 mg from a potassium-gluconate supplement. "It's important to establish clinical trials that follow observational research to establish a causal link between diet and health," Weaver said. "For example, in this clinical study baked French fries had a null effect on blood pressure, which counters observational findings, at least in the short term, and helps to prioritize the importance of focusing on a total diet approach for maintaining health versus one that overemphasizes avoidance of any single food or food group."
The result? Eating baked or broiled potatoes had the best impact on blood pressure levels. "All clinical studies are faced with limitations; however, despite those found in this study, the rigor of the study design is strong and unlike any other studies that have investigated the effect of a whole food-and potassium-on high blood pressure," Weaver said. "Through our carefully controlled balance study, we could determine the mechanism by which potatoes reduced blood pressure. Overall, we concluded that boiled or baked potatoes can help reduce systolic blood pressure-and baked French fries have no adverse effects on blood pressure and can be included as part of an overall healthy diet."