What You Need to Know About Eating Potatoes on the Paleo Diet11/25/2019
You say potatoes, we say paleo. Potato, po-tah-to jokes aside, nutritious tubers can be a key part of a balanced, paleo diet. On this high-protein regime—think lots of meat, seafood, fruits, and vegetables—you eat what our hunter-gatherer ancestors relied on centuries ago. This means cutting out all processed foods completely, and avoiding grains, dairy, and legumes.
“Indeed, whether or not potatoes are paleo is a good question and can be confusing because some versions of paleo do allow them. For the official or strict version of the paleo diet, white potatoes are usually excluded, says Randy Evans, MS, R.D., and consultant of Fresh n’ Lean, a ready-to-eat meal delivery service, that specializes in paleo meals.
You may question why potatoes are restricted since they’re unprocessed. One rationale is that potatoes have a high glycemic index—meaning they elevate blood sugar levels—relative to their nutritional benefits, Evans explains. Other versions of paleo focus on real whole foods, so white potatoes can be eaten in moderation.
And the second reason is because no one knows whether potatoes existed during the time of hunter-gatherers potatoes, says Heidi Moretti, MS, R.D.
“A paleolithic diet is based on the premise of foods that were eaten before agriculture. Since no one knows precisely when people first started eating potatoes, the answer of whether or not potatoes technically classify as paleo is unclear,” Moretti says.
Now, what about on the sweet potatoes front?
“Sweet potatoes are the only potato that is considered paleo,” explains Evans. “Sweet potatoes have a much lower glycemic index so while they have a similar amount of carbohydrates, their impact on blood sugar and insulin is much lower, which is a goal of eating paleo.”
It’s interesting to note that white potatoes belong to the nightshade family, while sweet potatoes are considered part of the morning glory family.
In regards to their vitamin and mineral content, Evans stresses that white and sweet potatoes have similar nutritional profiles. On the one hand, sweet potatoes boast a much higher level of Vitamin A, along with a greater amount of Vitamin C, B6, and calcium.
“White potatoes can have higher levels of potassium and both having similar levels for magnesium,” he adds.
Moretti bolsters this perspective, commenting, “Contrary to some people’s beliefs, all potatoes are nutritious and packed with nutrients like potassium, vitamin B6, niacin, vitamin C, and fiber. Sweet potatoes are lower glycemic index than white or red potatoes, but this doesn’t mean the latter two are bad foods.”
At the end of the day, as Moretti stresses, what state you’re eating that potato in is key—you don’t need us to tell you baked or boiled potatoes are healthier than french fries or eating potatoes in chip form.
If you suffer from achy joints after eating a meal with potatoes, you might have a rare sensitivity: “Some people are sensitive to white and red potatoes due to the fact that they are nightshade tubers,” cautions Moretti.
Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you think this may be you. Talk to your zealous pals on your paleo message board if you’re ready to nix potatoes from your diet. Or, check out one of our potato-friendly paleo recipes.
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