Potatoes are a highly debated food among followers of the paleo diet. A small portion of the community classifies this popular starch as paleo-friendly, while other omit tubers all together. Even the paleo favorite sweet potatoes are left out of some meal plans.
Here we’ll be taking you through a look at the factors behind each opinion so that you can decide for yourself which root vegetables you would like to include as a part of your paleo diet. If you want one of the best references around to determine which foods are paleo friendly, then give The PaleoHacks Cookbook a look. Exact information, recipes and more are waiting in this essential paleo cookbook and collection of handy bonuses.
White Potatoes and Paleo
Potatoes are high in starch and have a high glycemic index (GI) which makes them strictly unsuitable to the paleo diet. Despite being a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, white potatoes have a macronutrient profile made up of 90% carbohydrates. Also as a part of the nightshade family, potatoes can cause adverse reactions including digestive distress such as leaky gut and IBS. This family of plants also includes tomatoes, peppers and eggplant to keep a close eye on what you’re cooking if you find yourself having frequent stomach complaints.
The glycoalkaloid content and GI of potatoes make them unsuitable as a regular part of a healthy paleo diet but a small side of potatoes as part of a meal will normally be OK. Experts advise that a side dish of potatoes normally does not cause blood sugar dysregulation and insulin sensitivity problems, but the glycemic index is far too high to place them as a standard part of any paleo diet.
Why the Glycoalkaloid Content Matters
Glycoalkaloids are the substance released by plants which are a part of the nightshade family. Different varieties of potatoes all carry varying levels of glycoalkaloids. While not a classifying factor of which foods are recognized as paleo-friendly, glycoalkaloids are known to cause a rise in intestinal permeability and they amplify immunological responses. This makes them a key compound to avoid for anyone battling inflammation or autoimmune conditions.
White potatoes are terrible for anyone with chronic inflammation and should be generally avoided by anyone fighting off an infection or disease. You lower the glycoalkaloid content significantly when you peel your potatoes. Here’s a list in order of the lowest glycoalkaloid content across various white potatoes:
- Russet Narkota
- Dark red Norland
Paleo’s Favorite – Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are almost a staple Paleo food around the world despite being a starchy tuber. For example, The PaleoHacks Cookbook lists endless ways that you can cook up this delicious tuber. They’ve got a very low glycemic index and have high concentrations of fiber, potassium and both vitamin A and beta carotene. Even though sweet potatoes are a tad high on carbs, their comprehensive span of benefits still outweigh the cons making them the perfect paleo food.
Some critics argue that all starchy vegetables are unsuitable to a paleo diet which then puts all tubers as out of bounds, but more on this later. The slight effect which sweet potatoes have on blood sugar levels is slow and steady enough to never pose a problem. They are quite high in carbs so if you’re looking to lose weight then omit them from your diet or only eat tubers on the odd occasion.
Yams, cassava, taro and sweet potato are all very similar in their macronutrient profile and low glycemic index. All are openly accepted by most paleo diets with the only people who avoid them being those who avoid starches altogether.
If you’re going to go as far as setting yourself a strict paleo diet which starchy vegetables are off limit because of their sugar content, you’ll need to avoid all of the following vegetables not just white potatoes and sweet potatoes:
- White potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- Acorn squash
Paleo and Prehistoric Man
The Paleolithic diet aims to imitate the eating habits of our ancient ancestors and while this can be seen as a best guess by some, mankind has consumed tubers since the early beginnings of civilization. White potatoes are however a product of the Neolithic age proving that they weren’t yet known of by Paleolithic civilization. Most experts discourage paleo followers from eating potatoes altogether. From reasoning related to their effects as being a part of the nightshade family to the heavy glycemic load of potatoes with their skin on, this tuber is typically given a skip.
Due to their high starch content, even colored potatoes are normally skipped over. Yellow, red and purple potatoes have a much lower sugar content and a lower glycemic index than white potatoes. If you are going to indulge, make sure that you pick a colored variety of potato over standard white potatoes and peel them first. A potato or two every now and then will not harm your diet unless you’re trying to combine keto and paleo which puts the tipping point at just a few carbs to spoil the whole process.
Potatoes, a Personal Paleo Choice
Whether you should include white potatoes in your eating strategy depends largely on your metabolism and individual state of health. The PaleoHacks Cookbook has in-depth discourses at which foods are best for your individual health. For most following the paleo diet, stay away and substitute with other starches.
Studies show that most of the glycoalkaloids present in white potatoes are in the skin and frying them adds a great deal of unhealthy fats. A side of steamed or roasted potatoes every now and then using peeled potatoes only is possible but it is far safer to stay away if you want to be paleo safe.
However, if you are looking for the official verdict on potatoes then you should know that they are certified as paleo by the Paleo Foundation. This does not mean that they should be your go-to carb but it does mean that you can indulge from time to time without guilt or ill-health effects.