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White-hued vegetables and their health benefits

Don't judge the nutrient content of white vegetables by color alone, says a recent report. Authors of a journal supplement explore the state of nutrition science on white vegetables, especially potatoes, in supporting a healthy, well-balanced diet. 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. For example lotus wheels are white and so are daikon radishes. See the recipe site, "Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Daikon Radish - Fruits & Veggies More Matters." Or check out, "Recipes for Lotus Root - Natural Import Company."

White-hued vegetables and their health benefits.
Photo by Clemens Bilan/Getty Images

There also are bamboo shoots, sliced chestnuts, cauliflower, onions, garlic, mushrooms, fennel, white beans, coconut, celeriac, pears, turnips, leeks, lotus root, taro, and jicamba also is known by the name of yambean. Apples are white after being peeled, and there are other exotic vegetables and fruits that have a white hue in addition to varieties of pears.

For example, jicama has a white hue and numerous health benefits. And so does a daikon radish or the stems of bok choy. Many people think of potatoes when white vegetables are mentioned. Rice becomes white only when the colorful coatings are taken off the grain. And white bread made from white wheat may be white because it's bleached with chemicals. But there also are health benefits of vegetables or fruits that are white as they grow in nature, even though colorful beans or cabbage have more of certain nutrients than white beans or white cabbage.

When most Americans think of white vegetables, one of the first veggies that come to mind are white potatoes, rice, wheat, or cabbage, but there are lots more such as jicama, daikon, lotus, in addition to the traditional cole slaw vegetables

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. You also may be interested in another article, "Sprouting garlic – an unexpectedly rich source of antioxidants."

"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, according to the May 15, 2013 news release, "Don't judge the nutrient content of white vegetables by color alone." Weaver is a 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 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.

A full list of authors, table of contents and abstracts also are available for viewing on the Advances in Nutrition website. The Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE) is a not-for-profit organization 100% dedicated to expanding and translating scientific research into evidence-based policy and education initiatives that recognize the role of all forms of the potato—a nutritious vegetable—in promoting health for all age groups.

APRE is actively building the science foundation concerning the nutritional benefits of the white potato; creating partnerships with critical health professional organizations in the United States and Canada; and informing dietitians and health professionals by providing them with the latest scientific research and information on potato nutrition, consumption, and affordability. APRE is a National Strategic Partner with USDA MyPlate.