I grew up with a mother who was true to her word, “I never met a potato I didn’t like.” I felt the same way and often repeated her exact words. Growing up, the only time I remember having a meal without potatoes was on Wednesday nights when she served spaghetti and meatballs.
As an adult, when given a choice, I pretty much ate potatoes and often made a meal out of a baked potato or a bowl of mashed. A few days a week I teach at Sacred Heart University in the Welch College of Business and the Jandrisevetts Learning Center. One day as I pulled out my lunch, a student took a peek at my fare and asked, “What, no potato today?”
Then I had a physical scheduled. “Wow, your blood pressure is high,” she observed. “Nervous because of your appointment.”
“No, not nervous, and that’s not my norm,” I responded, “I usually run very low.”
“What did you eat yesterday?” she asked.
“Yogurt, cherries and almonds for breakfast, a spinach and feta cheese omelet with home fries for lunch, and grilled salmon with steamed spinach and mashed potatoes for dinner.” I was proud of my healthy choices.
“Is that unusual?” she asked. “Repeating the same foods in one day?”
“No, I never met a potato I didn’t like.”
She sat down and gave me a very serious look, “There’s been research connecting increased consumption of white potatoes with high blood pressure, and your triglycerides are off too. I want you off milk products and white potatoes immediately and monitor your blood pressure every day.”
Then I found research online (Science Daily, May 17, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/z2zlojt) that backed her up. Researchers based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School researcher monitored more than 185,000 men and women in the United States for an extended period of time. They found that four or more servings a week of potatoes cooked a variety of ways was associated with an elevated risk of hypertension, particularly in women. Embarrassing to admit, I was eating potatoes seven or more times a week. The recommendation was to replace one portion of white potatoes with a high glycemic index with a non-starchy vegetable.
I stopped eating potatoes cold turkey, the minute I finished eating those I already had in the house. I bought a blood pressure cuff and was amazed how easy it was to take my own blood pressure, morning and night. In one week my blood pressure dropped 25 points. I’m running a bit low again, which is normal for me.