Looking for a satisfying comfort food that’s also healthy? Put purple potatoes on your shopping list. New research suggests these colorful, nutritious tubers may contribute to lower blood pressure levels.

In a study by the University of Scranton, 18 obese volunteers with high blood pressure were served 6 to 8 purple potatoes (golf ball sized) with lunch and dinner for four weeks. The subjects otherwise ate as they would normally. After a month, 72% of participants registered lower blood pressure levels — and no weight gain. While the average blood pressure drop was modest (4%), the proportion of those enjoying this benefit was significant. Moreover, the daily double dose of purple spuds constituted quite a contribution to nutrient intakes — offering 55% of daily vitamin C, 35% of daily B6 and 26% of potassium, for just 218 calories.

Purple potatoes get their vibrant color from anthocyanins, which may also have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant or anti-carcinogenic properties, according to preliminary research. Whether you like your potatoes purple, red, white or yellow — make sure to include the peels, which contain polyphenolic extracts shown to protect red blood cells against oxidative damage.

Looking for other ways to lower blood pressure?   Limit sodium and caffeine, get more protein from non-meat sources (like peas and other legumes), increase potassium intake (hello, bananas!) and get moving. Even three 25-minute walks a week can produce results.

Published November 1, 2011