Monday, April 6, 2009

Potatoes Pack a Hearty Punch

(ARA) - It’s no secret that heart disease remains the leading cause of death in America, where one in every three Americans is at high risk, according to the American Heart Association. Sadly, most people don’t know about the risk.

If that thought doesn’t get your heart pumping, this will: Potassium, like that found in potatoes, may help lower diastolic blood pressure. Potatoes with skin are a good source of potassium, a nutrient that can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and promote heart health. In fact, a recent study from Deakin University found that increased potato consumption was associated with a decrease in diastolic blood pressure, likely due to the potassium content of potatoes.

Potassium is an electrolyte that’s necessary to keep a normal balance of water inside and outside of the body’s cells. It also plays an essential role in nerve stimulation and the contraction of muscles, including the heart muscle.

Take it to heart
Simple lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining a healthy body weight and choosing foods that are a good source of potassium and that are low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

“When I want to do something good for my heart -- I reach for potatoes,” says Devin Alexander, host of Healthy Decadence with Devin Alexander. “Research indicates that keeping weight down and eating a diet high in potassium is important to heart health. As a good source of potassium that is naturally fat-free and contains only 110 calories, potatoes fit the bill.”

One medium potato with the skin contains 620 mg of potassium. That’s 18 percent of your daily requirement. In fact, potatoes rank highest for potassium among the top 20 most frequently consumed raw vegetables and the top 20 most frequently consumed raw fruits -- yes, even more than bananas.

As an added benefit, diets high in potassium-rich fruits and vegetables may also help maintain lean body mass and bone-mineral density as we age, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

So, how do you perk up your basic potato?

* Add spicy salsa and low fat sour cream
* Top it with vegetarian chili and sprinkle with low fat shredded cheddar cheese
* Make it Italian with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese
* Steam vegetables with olive oil and herbs and perch them on top
* “Repurpose” last night’s rotisserie chicken; add sautéed, diced onions and peppers for a fajita potato

Or take it a step further with easy, one-dish potato wonders from your microwave, like Microwave Mashed Potatoes:

4 medium russet, yellow-flesh or white potatoes or 6 to 8 small red potatoes
Salt and pepper

1. Wash potatoes, do not puncture potato skin
2. Place potatoes into either a microwave steam bag or into a microwave-safe dish with lid or with plastic wrap cover. Note: If using plastic wrap, poke one small hole in cover to vent.
2. Microwave for 9 minutes on high (cooking time may vary depending on microwave).
3. Add milk, butter, salt and pepper to your taste, mashing until desired consistency is reached (for best results, add milk and butter, and then microwave for one more minute). Leave the skin on to enjoy all the wonderful color and nutrients, like potassium, fiber and vitamin C.

For a quick fix to get more potassium into your diet, visit for nutritious potato recipes. And, as an added benefit, you don’t have to break the bank to eat healthy -- at just 25 cents per serving, potatoes are by far one of the most cost effective ways to boost your daily potassium intake.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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