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Don't judge the nutrient content of white vegetables by color alone

Authors of a newly published journal supplement explore the state of nutrition science on white vegetables, especially potatoes, in supporting a healthy, well-balanced diet

(McLean, VA) May 15, 2013 – Potatoes and other white vegetables are just as important to a healthy diet as their colorful cousins in the produce aisle, according to the authors of a scientific supplement published yesterday in the peer-reviewed journal, Advances in Nutrition. Although green, red and orange veggies are often promoted as top nutrient sources, white vegetables are nutrient powerhouses in their own right and deserve a place on your plate.

"It's recommended that the variety of fruits and vegetables consumed daily should include dark green and orange vegetables, but no such recommendation exists for white vegetables, even though they are rich in fiber, potassium and magnesium," says the supplement's editor Connie Weaver, PhD, distinguished professor of nutrition science at Purdue University. "Overall, Americans are not eating enough vegetables, and promoting white vegetables, some of which are common and affordable, may be a pathway to increasing vegetable consumption in general."

The Advances in Nutrition supplement, "White Vegetables: A Forgotten Source of Nutrients," published by the American Society for Nutrition, features an executive summary and nine papers by leading nutrition scientists that explore the state of the science on white vegetables in supporting a healthy diet.

The supplement authors identify a substantial body of evidence that demonstrates how the inclusion of white vegetables, such as potatoes, can increase intake of shortfall nutrients, notably fiber, potassium and magnesium, as well as help increase overall vegetable consumption among children, teens and adults in the U.S. In addition, the papers detail the current and emerging science about key health benefits associated with consumption of potatoes and other white vegetables such as cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, turnips and kohlrabi. Some key findings are:

  • Color does not necessarily predict nutritive value of a vegetable. In fact, white vegetables, including nutrient-dense potatoes, contribute important amounts of essential shortfall nutrients to the American diet across all age groups. 
  • Vegetable intake, including consumption of starchy vegetables like potatoes, is about half of what is recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 
  • Improvements in cooking oils, coatings, preparation methods and processing technologies are enhancing the nutritional profile of the white potato in all forms, making an already healthy package even healthier.

The journal supplement is the outcome of a June 2012 Purdue University roundtable on white vegetable nutrition. The forum was supported by an unrestricted grant by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education, a non-for-profit organization dedicated to expanding and translating the latest scientific research and information on potato nutrition, consumption and affordability.

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