A new study has linked purple potatoes to a lower risk of colon cancer in pigs.
Purple potatoes may do more than add a pop of color to your plate. These vibrant tubers might also help ward off colon cancer, according to new research done on animals at Pennsylvania State University.
Purple-fleshed potatoes are particularly rich in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compounds called phenolic acids and anthocyanins; and previous research has suggested that these compounds possess anti-cancer properties. To find out how the veggie might affect colon cancer risk, the researchers fed three groups of pigs one of three diets for 13 weeks: a high-calorie diet, a high-calorie diet supplemented with raw or baked purple potatoes, and a standard control diet.
After 13 weeks, the researchers screened the pigs’ colonic tissue for markers tied to colon cancer. They found that compared to the control group, the animals fed a high-calorie diet had higher levels of IL-6, a pro-inflammatory protein known to increase colon cancer risk. But the pigs fed the high-calorie diet supplemented with purple potatoes had IL-6 levels that were six times lower than IL-6 levels in the control group.
More research is needed, of course, and the results of this study—which was published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry—may not hold true in human beings. But the findings are hopeful, especially considering there will be more than 95,000 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed in the United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society.
And if you needed any more motivation to add purple potatoes to your plate, keep in mind that their phenolic acids and anthocyanins may help protect against other illnesses, including heart disease, as well. Here are a few simple ways to incorporate the veggie into your meals:
- Whip a third of a cup of baked, chilled purple potato into a fruit smoothie.
- Make sliced purple potatoes the bottom layer of a veggie quiche or frittata.
- Oven roast whole purple potatoes and drizzle with tahini for a healthy side dish.
- Chill oven-roasted purple potatoes, slice, and add to entree salads.
- Make potato salad using baked, chilled cubed purple potatoes tossed with a combo of EVOO, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, stone ground mustard, garlic, and fresh dill.
- Use purple potatoes in stews, soups, and chili.
- For a complete meal, bake purple potatoes, slice lengthwise, and fill with a combo of veggies and herbs sautéed with a lean protein, like lentils or ground turkey.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.