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Potatoes May Soon Be Healthier


Potatoes, including baked potatoes and French fires, are among the most popular foods in America, and now scientists have found a way to make them healthier. The antioxidant power of potatoes can be increased when the spuds are treated with ultrasound or electricity.

Potatoes and Antioxidants

Potatoes are a good source of antioxidants, substances that fight molecules called free radicals that cause cell damage and can result in a wide range of diseases and health problems. Among the antioxidants found in these tubers are vitamin C, phenols, and chologenic acid. Chologenic acid makes up about 80 percent of the total phenolic acids in potatoes.

In May 2010, researchers from the Agricultural Research Service reported that they had used new analytic methods to identify the phytonutrient contents of several hundred different types of potatoes. They found, for example, that phytonutrients known as phenolics showed concentrations ranging from 100 to more than 1,500 milligrams per 100 grams dry weight in the potatoes. Chlorogenic acid, a type of phenolic, is being tested for its potential to lower blood pressure.

Making Potatoes Healthier
Reports on how to make potatoes healthier were presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston, Massachusetts. Kazunori Hironaka, PhD, who headed the research, noted that treating potatoes with ultrasound or electricity for 5 to 30 minutes raised the antioxidant levels, including chlorogenic acid and phenols, by as much as 50 percent.

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The scientists treated the potatoes with ultrasound by immersing them whole in water and applying ultrasound for 5 or 10 minutes. The electrical treatment involved immersing the potatoes in a salt solution for 10 seconds and then zapping the spuds with a low electrical charge for 10, 20, and 30 minutes. Each different treatment and time resulted in a different increase in antioxidant levels. Five minutes of ultrasound, for example, raised polyphenols levels by 1.2 times and other antioxidants by 1.6 times.

Boosting the antioxidant power of potatoes could make them healthier and place them in the functional foods category, along with other products that may have health benefits, such as red wine and chocolate. And that’s good news for potato lovers (but hold the deep frying).


American Chemical Society (2010, August 22). Electrifying findings: New ways of boosting healthful antioxidant levels in potatoes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2010/08/100822150636.htm

USDA/Agricultural Research Service (2010, May 19). New methods developed to detect, measure potato phytonutrients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2010/05/100519112715.htm