The National School Lunch Program is proposing that cafeterias will not be allowed to serve more than one cup of starchy vegetables a week – and that includes white potatoes, corn, peas, and fresh lima beans.
Some schools have already changed their menus from French fries and tater tots to lower fat varieties – oven-baked “fries”, baked potatoes, and mashed potatoes made with skim milk.
The purpose of this proposal is to include healthier vegetables such as dark green and orange vegetables. They also say that kids will consume the starchier vegetables outside of school.
But hold on – not so fast – the National School Lunch Program should maybe take a second look at their proposal.
A study looked at the effects of purple potatoes on blood pressure readings of 18 overweight, hypertensive people. They fed them two meals a day of 6-8 small purple potatoes cooked in a microwave oven – No oils, butter, or sour cream here.
On average, the diastolic blood pressure readings of this group decreased by 43% and the systolic readings by 3.5% and no one gained weight. Potatoes as well as all starchy vegetables have the reputation of being “fattening”.
The researchers attributed the lower blood pressure readings to the fact that purple potatoes contain a pigment that offers nutritionally many phytochemicals. They also noted that purple potatoes contain a compound with similar effects to the often-used blood pressure medication, ACE-inhibitors. Potatoes are also a great source of potassium, known to lower blood pressure. Further studies with white and red potatoes are planned. For a more information on the nutritional value of white potatoes, click here.
Critics of the School Lunch Program proposal not surprisingly, include the CEO of the National Potato Council, John Keeling. He makes a valid point: “It’s only nutrition if the kids eat it… if the dark green leaves end up in the trash can, nobody’s better off.”
Dr. Josh Bloom of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) states: “Should we also ban rice, pasta, and bread? They are also high starch foods.” Will school lunches soon be mostly protein, since starchy carbohydrates and fats are on the “bad food” list?
American Chemical Society. “Potatoes reduce blood pressure in people with obesity and high blood pressure.” ScienceDaily, 31 Aug. 2011. Web. 1 Sep. 2011.