Up the nutrition ante by trading regular spuds for these vibrant violet beauties. In the age of all things keto and low-carb, potatoes and sweet potatoes tend to get villainized by some. Yes, they are carbs—and yes, we need carbs and potatoes as a good source of real, whole food. Also, when you dive into the nutrient profile, both regular and sweet potatoes are good sources of many micronutrients including calcium, potassium, and vitamin C.
So now that we’ve cleared up the fact that orange and white potatoes are still worthy of a spot on your menu, as long as they’re eaten as close to their natural state as possible (aka not in potato chip form), what about purple sweet potatoes?
What are Purple Potatoes?
Similar in taste to a russet with a more moist, less starchy consistency, purple sweet potatoes show off with beautiful purple skin and purple, lavender, pink or white flesh. These are different from ube (purple yam) which has a more bark-like skin and a dryer texture. You might find purple sweet potatoes in your grocery store under the name “Stokes.”
In addition to those growing in the U.S., other varieties originate in Peru and Okinawa, Japan. Wherever they’re from, true purple sweet potatoes are earthy and nutty in flavor, low in sugar, and similar in macronutrient content to russet potatoes. Where they differ, however, is in the antioxidant quotient (more on that later). Purple potatoes offer about four times as many antioxidants as russets due to the compounds that cause their violet hue.
Purple sweet potato nutrition varies by size, naturally, but as a rough guide, here’s what you’ll find in one 5-ounce purple sweet potato:
- 165 calories
- 0 grams of fat
- 3 grams of protein
- 16 grams of carbohydrates (including 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar)
- 25 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C
- 8 percent of your daily recommended intake of iron
- 5 percent of your daily recommended intake of calcium
- 3 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A
Health Benefits of Purple Potatoes
For most whole foods, the darker and deeper the color, the higher the antioxidant level. What makes these tubers purple are anthocyanins which is a type of flavonoid (a class of compounds with antioxidant effects) that has been linked to lower risk for many chronic diseases. (p.s. Eat the skin to score the maximum amount of body benefits!)
In one study published in The Journal of Nutrition, men who ate purple potatoes instead of an equal amount of white potatoes daily for six weeks had higher levels of carotenoids, anthocyanins, and phenolic acids (all disease-preventing antioxidants) than their white potato-eating counterparts. Over time, this might be linked to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and reduced risk for heart disease. They also had less inflammation.
Another study in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition found that in just two weeks of consuming one medium purple potato daily instead of one medium white potato, it significantly reduced blood pressure.
Purple potatoes may be better than their paler cousins in terms of blood sugar impact as well. Research in the journal Food & Function discovered that the higher level of antioxidants in these dark-hued potatoes may be related to a lower glycemic index.
RELATED: How Gut Health Impacts Blood Sugar
How to Eat Purple Potatoes
You can use purple potatoes in all the ways you would use sweet potatoes or regular russet potatoes. Boil, bake, mash, roast, and even air fry—they’ll all taste great.
Use an equal amount of purple spuds in place of sweet potatoes in these sweet and savory recipes for a showy, antioxidant-rich fix.
Recipes to Try
Baked Purple Potato Fries
Purple Potato Latkes
By baking the tasty tubers instead of frying them, you’re cutting down on unnecessary fat, and the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg provides an antioxidant boost. Pro tip: Add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and unsweetened applesauce for maximum deliciousness. Recipe here.
Purple Potato Nachos
Nachos are pretty much a guaranteed crowd-pleaser when it comes to party food. Sweet potato nachos are the same, except much healthier. This genius game-day upgrade eliminates empty chip calories and replaces them with delicious, nutrient-dense sweet potatoes. After replacing the base, you can enjoy all of the other amazing, nutritious layers of nachos you’re used to—from peppers and onions to black beans and avocado. Recipe here.
Purple Potato-Zucchini Bread
This wonder bread (not that kind!) includes healthy fats from coconut oil, antioxidant-rich spices like cinnamon, and nutrient-dense sweet potatoes. Last but not least, it packs a protein punch from hemp seeds that will help you start the day off feeling full and energized. Recipe here.
Chocolate-Purple Potato Dessert Cupcakes
You’ve roasted, mashed, and baked them, but have you used them in…cupcakes? Enter Chocolate Sweet Potato Cupcakes, which are all moist chocolate cake and rich chocolate icing—no grains or white sugar needed. Recipe here.
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