The Evil Potato

Monday Jan 9 | BY |
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Young Potatoes On A White Background

 

One of the first foods that someone on a diet learns to avoid, by well-meaning friends, relative, doctors, and diet books, are potatoes. Potatoes are rich in complex carbs, which turn into sugar in the body, and make you fat. Right? Well not so fast.

Nobody has ever gotten obese eating potatoes. Rather, it’s all the stuff that people put on potatoes that’s to blame. I’ll argue that displacing other fatty foods with potatoes can only result in better health outcomes.

If you only ate potatoes all day, to get all of your 2000 calories, you would get:

– 50 grams of protein, contain all the amino acids the body needs (that’s 10% of your calories)
– 2% of your calories would come from fat
– Well over the RDAs of the following nutrients: C, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, and zinc.
– You’d also get all of the other essential nutrients, and without falling seriously short, except in the case of vitamin E and A.
– Calcium intake would be at 200 mg, which is low, but your diet will have a super-positive alkaline balance, and you wouldn’t be at a calcium loss.
– Your fiber intake would be at 40 grams a day (the average intake is only 15 grams)

Let’s be clear that no one food is complete enough to be your only source of nourishment for a lifetime. But as a food you could live on for months at a time, potatoes are pretty close to ideal, compared to most other choices.

Potatoes have a very high satiety factor. Experiments have shown that people feel incredibly satisfied when they eat potatoes. That is why it’s impossible to get fat eating potatoes.

Let’s take a look at all-potato diets:

1) The 1927 experiment.

In 1927, a study was published by Stanislaw Kazimirz Kon, who studied the effects of an all-potato diet on the human body. A healthy man and woman in their twenties, who were very athletic, were put on a diet where most of their calories came from potatoes. To that they added only a few fruits, and butter or oil.

Now, this wasn’t an all-potato diet, but it’s important to note that although fat was added to the diet, this fat provided no protein. Yet, on a diet where virtually all of the protein was derived from potatoes, it was found that protein intake was adequate. The entire experimented lasted almost 6 months, and the participants said that “they did not tire of the potato diet or had any cravings for change.”

2) Twenty Potatoes a Day

A couple of years ago, a potato farmer by the name of Chris Voigt got sick and tired of the “Potato-bashing” common in governmental programs, and decided to prove everybody wrong by going on an all-potato diet for 60 days in a row.

Eventually he added a bit oil to the diet. Again, oil provides no nutrients and no protein. He used salt and seasonings on the potatoes.

It’s interesting to note that even when one can eat unlimited quantities of potatoes, it still becomes very difficult to get enough calories.

On a diet composed almost exclusively of potatoes, he experienced the following benefits:

• Weight dropped from 197 to 176
• Glucose of 104 to 94
• Cholesterol went from 214 to 147
• Triglycerides from 135 to 75
• Blood pressure was 112 over 70 by the end of the experiment.

4) Aussie Eats Only Potatoes for a Year

An Australian man took the challenge further and lived on various types of potatoes and nothing else for an entire year. Only with good results. Check it out here.

3) Paleo Promoters Go All-Potatoes

Paleo promoters are not typically big fans of carbs, but recently some paleo bloggers decided to go on an all-potato diet to lose weight and body fat. One commenter claims to have followed a potato diet for 30 days, and lost in the process 11 pounds of fat, gained 8 pounds of lean body mass, and reduced his body fat by 6%.

Author Stephan Guyenet summarizes the benefits of an all-potato diet as follows:

The potato diet works because:

1. Potatoes have a low calorie density and a high satiety value per calorie.
2. Eating a diet that is composed almost exclusively of one food is low in reward, low-moderate palatability, low in variety, and has a high sensory-specific satiety.  Even if you dress up your potatoes as well as you can, you’re still eating potatoes.  This tends to reduce calorie intake.
3. Potatoes are nutritious enough (including complete protein) that they can be the sole source of calories for an extended period of time.  However, they are not a complete source of all micronutrients and deficiencies will eventually arise.

It would be interesting if some of my readers tried an all-potato diet and shared their results, but I’m not specifically recommending it.

Now, someone could say that we could design a diet based on any one food and still get great results because it would force the person to eat less in general. But I say that it would only be possible to get such good results if the food was healthy to begin with.

An all-apple diet would probably lead to amazing health results, but people would get tired of it faster because apples are not concentrated enough in calories.

If the food wasn’t healthy to begin with, it could lead to disastrous results. Can you imagine the results of an “all-ice-cream” or “all bacon” diet? People would get tired of it much faster, too.

My point is that potatoes should not be feared. All of the hype about potatoes being junk food or too high on the glycemic index fade when faced with these facts:

1) Entire cultures in South America, such as the Quechua, have eaten potatoes as the main source of their calories and enjoyed great health.
2) Many people have tried an all-potato diet composed exclusively of basic, commercial, white potatoes, and have only experienced positive results.
3) Although no food contains every single nutrient that the body needs in exactly the right amount for all phases of life, potatoes come pretty close to meeting most requirements.

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

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49 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

  1. Lynette says:

    I am trying this potato food change. I will let you know my results. I am at 217 pounds and diabetic.
    I fee really good about this. V

    • aa says:

      I too was at 217+- lbs and pre-diabetic. I decided to eat one meal a day, and drink lots of water with fresh squeezed lemon juice. I chose to eat the dinner meal, and it usually consists of cooked organic potatoes with a little organic butter and sea salt. Sometimes I add a bean salad, all organic onion, celery, bell pepper and oil and vinegar. It is so satisfying and i’m losing weight every day and feeling great. I’m pressure cooking my potatoes in an Instant Pot, which is fast, convenient and healthy.
      Wishing you all the best!

  2. jim says:

    great post ive done this befor specially on my limited budget and felt awesome!!!!!

  3. Frederic—love the article and potatoes. It seems the health world has gotten so radical. If you follow some of the Paleo advice one bite of a carb could start a rapid descent into brain damage and diabetes. I don’t eat potatoes on a regular basis but ate a baked potato with butter before hitting the gym yesterday and had a great workout.

  4. Nina says:

    I agree with you Frederic. It is after all a very nutrient dense vegetable and should not be vilified the way grain carbs are. But you do have to buy ORGANIC Potatoes as they soak them in that nasty CARCINOGENIC chemical, “Bud Out”. Always buy ORGANIC POTATOES!!!

  5. otto says:

    Are potatoes cooked or raw?

    • Cassandra says:

      Aloha,

      Potatoes are one vegetable that needs to be cooked until they are firm but almost soft. They can be baked, boiled, fried, or barbequed, but you need to cook them. Tons of good recipes online, just Google it. Enjoy!

  6. rob says:

    great article! Very solid and grounded … in potatoes ( a root vegetable) (-;

    I am inspired … going to bake a sweet potato and some beets and next year I will add potatoes to my garden. thank you! Rob

    ps. was your article inspired by Matt Damon, in the film, The Martian?

  7. Karen says:

    Hello Frederic,

    Are you talking about cooked potatoes or raw potatoes or either? I had read that raw potatoes were more alkaline than cooked potatoes.
    Anyway, I was wondering if this “all potato diet” was raw or cooked. Thank you.

  8. Peter says:

    Very interesting Frederic, thanks!!
    Good way to get fullness addition to raw foods!

  9. Mark says:

    Frederic, Thank you for this excellent and informative article. Information like this helps bring into the light the fact that consuming animal protein is unnecessary. A diet of only fruits and vegetables provides everything humans need to thrive. I think potatoes are a much better option than grains and beans because of a much broader nutritional profile.

    Excess fat is the real nutritional villain as it causes insulin resistance. Carbs are an innocent bystander.

    My diet is mostly raw vegan but potatoes are great when needing some emotional comfort food. I prefer small red potatoes. They are best boiled and used to make potato salad.

    I loved the movie “The Martian”. It brilliantly demonstrated the potato as the ideal survival food.

  10. Tiffany says:

    I went through a phase earlier this year where I ate about 9-10 potatoes a day for months! I loved it and NEVER gained weight. I didn’t lose weight either because I ate other things as well (avocados, fresh salsa, oil and oatmeal for breakfast), but my point is I never felt better! People were baffled how I ate so many potatoes and didn’t gain weight and was extremely healthy without adding animal protein. I’m not a vegetarian but I have strong vegetarian/vegan tendencies most days. I love this article because it says better what I’ve been saying my all along! And I slightly feel justified for my love for potatoes!

  11. ken says:

    potatoes are also a resistant starch when cooked, cooled, and reheated.
    i can’t recall exactly, but i think potatoes block the uptake of other nutrients unless combined with corn.
    which supports a potato only diet.
    thoughts?

  12. E A Poe Tayt says:

    Great article Fred – many thanks.

    One question – were all these people, the South Americans, the farmer, the athletes – were they eating potatoes raw, or boiled and thus cooked?

    If you were to eat a potato diet for a while, Fred, would you eat them raw or cooked
    In some way, whether blanched, boiled, steamed etc?

    Thanks,

    Edgar.

  13. Ildiko says:

    Thank you for this great article.
    I know some people in the raw vegan diet circles recommend mono diets to break addiction to food and reset the body but mostly they recommend eating bananas and fruits that are high in sugar.
    I find that eating potatoes might really be something worth to try… seriously pondering to do maybe 2 weeks, but I would probably add some fat to it, like coconut oil or a bit of salt.
    Thought provoking for sure!

  14. Tom says:

    I’m glad to hear this. I’ve long had a weight problem. Have lost 52 pounds in the last 28 months. Wish to lose another 40 to 45. Have tried Everything under the sun! As a “lacto ovo” vegetarian since birth, I have always loved potatoes and will add them back in (organic grown) but with out the butter and sour cream. Oil and sea salt should do well.

  15. James says:

    This is the best article I have read in a while. I Love potatoes and eat them almost every day, unless I am eating beans n rice. I went on a all potatoe diet for a couple months back in 2011 to prove to a friend who was scared to eat them that there is no way possible to get fat (obese) from them. Unfortunally for him he went on believing the mislead doctors who think they know what they are saying is right.
    I believe that the meat industry popularized that whole idea potatoes makes you fat so people would not quit eating meat, Believe me, I quit meat and only like potatoes and feel so much better not eating meat.

  16. Amy rorris says:

    I dig the potatoe and find it very satisfying.

    It fits into the 80 10 10 diet also.

    However, I m wondering as a nightshade- if this will block calcium?

    And, I wondering about all nightshades blocking calcium.

    I will research!

    Im sure, they are great occasionally- moderation!

    I love The renegade Health show!! It has been very helpful to me!

    Ty

    Amy Rorris- Certified nutritionist.

  17. barbaraL says:

    I would LOVE to know how to prepare these palatably. I LOVE to toast baby halved organic fingerlings in my toaster oven and then eat with tons of fresh cukes, tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, basil, fennel, arugula, red onion, garlic powder, chipotle powder and sea salt. However … the big bad comes because I pout over them organic virgin olive oil, and then toss. The hot potatoes wilts the greens a bit and it tastes divine. But now I have gone and eaten the acrylimides from toasting the potato and combined with the evil olive oil. I am a mostly raw vegan and this is one of my few no no’s which I have tried without the toasting and without the oil, and it just doesn’t cut it. But oh how satisfying and comforting on a cold nite, and how crispy the potato crusts are.

    • aa says:

      Barbara, your fingerling potatoes and greens sound divine, and I would say super healthy! Don’t do away with the olive oil; it is super good for brain function. Make it a good quality olive oil, and as has been stated before, organic potatoes.
      Another way I’ve just discovered to cook potatoes is in my Instant Pot. You can sauté them and then pressure cook them or just pressure cook them with some water. It is super quick, they are delicious and healthy. Also very fast to rewarm refrigerated ones.

  18. Charles says:

    I’m very curious about this…

    What about the solanine content in potatoes (nightshade family)?

    I know the solanine is more a problem when the potatoes are sprouted and/or green, and that the skin supposedly has more, but I also understand that the skin contains most of the vitamins and minerals…

    So… what is the verdict?

    And should I peel them, or leave it on?

    Thanks! Very interesting article…

  19. Mangala says:

    Thank you for this article. I would like to add the following.
    Dr. Shyam Singha, the well known Acupuncturist and Osteopath who practiced in England for many years, recommended a potato peeling fast for arthritic conditions.
    In his book, ‘The Secrets of Natural Health’, he writes:
    “Boil I kg of 12mm-thick potato peelings in 3 1/2 litres of water. Mash them and eat nothing else for at least 7 days, drinking lots of hot water at the same time. This diet provides dramatic, sudden relief. Avoid aspirin-based tablets during this period. Follow this diet by eating only raw food for 28 days. The two diets should relieve the acute pain and result in the body functioning more effectively.” He goes on to suggest getting protein from vegetable sources and to consult with a medical practitioner before beginning the diet.

    Also here is a link for more of his information on potatoes:
    http://secretsofnaturalhealth.com/potatoes.html

  20. Craig says:

    Interesting article and perspective on potatoes. I do like Jackson’s Honest Chips made in coconut oil, so perhaps more potatoes might be good as well. Potatoes are indeed greatly different from standard simple carbs.

  21. Glenn Warren says:

    Without any desire to be the killjoy here, a 2002 study conducted by scientists proved cooked potatoes (though perhaps not boiled, see below) produce acrylamide, a known carcinogen. Other foods do, too.

    The study results were posted as “Analysis of acrylamide, a carcinogen formed in heated foodstuffs,” and can be found at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12166997.

    Note, however, the article also states: “Acrylamide could not be detected in unheated control or boiled foods (<5 microg/kg).”

    So, perhaps boiling potatoes is the cooking method of choice.

  22. suzanne says:

    Wouldn”t steaming them in a steamer basket take a really long time? Do you cut them up in small pieces, presumably with the skin still on?

  23. Brian Schade says:

    I’m going to assume that the all-potato diet does not allow for extras in the way of toppings? Potatoes by themselves can be quite bland, if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong, I love potatoes. But I do enjoy a bit of buter, cheese and some ketchup on them. I’m guessing the cheese is probably not going to work here?

  24. It seems that over the years, carbs have become a much more prevalent part of the American diet–not just potatoes, but other root veggies, grains of all kinds and sugar. From articles and such, many people have
    become carb resistant, meaning that the body doesn’t metabolize these well and weight gain inevitably is the result. Also, blood sugar issues may be connected. Personally, I am now hypo thyroid and that, in and of itself, is connected to a myriad of other conditions. The diet recommended for this condition is green veggies, protein and healthy balanced fats–staying away from potatoes and other starchy veggies and sugar. If anyone has information other than this to share (so I can feel ok eating potatoes again), please respond.

    • What causes “carb resistance” as some people call it is not eating carbohydrates but rather gaining body fat. Intra-cellular fat is the cause. The diet you mention only works as it enables you to lose weight. But it does not improve insulin resistance per se, in fact it decreases it. I would look into the book on Diabetes by Dr. Neal Barnard as a first place to start. http://amzn.to/2jbotnA

    • The thyroid requires iodine in order to function properly. Last year, I saw a study (wish I could remember which one so that I could direct you to it) quoted in an article which stated that “medical/nutritional experts” estimate that 98% of Americans are iodine-deficient — thus, the huge percentage of morbidly obese Americans. Google “iodine rich foods”. Potatoes are listed. I noted that missing from the “quick” list were: fish and unprocessed salt, both high in iodine. (Morton’s “iodized” table salt is a joke and to be avoided for the sake of health. Only 10% of the iodine in Morton’s is absorbable, the other 90% is literally pissed away.)

  25. Lady Lynn says:

    Greetings Frederic

    Are sweet potatoes equally good?

    Lady Lynn

  26. Amy says:

    Can you suggest the best way to wash a potato and to cook a potato? Thank you!

  27. Scott says:

    Potatoes are in the nightshade family and cause inflammation.

  28. Sharron says:

    Frederic,when you say ‘it is indeed” are you talking about PEELED boiled potatoes or boiling them with the skin on?

  29. Thank you! My vegan yoga/mediation teacher and nutritionist swears that nightshades are evil. They inflame the body and contribute to arthritis. Thank you for giving me an excuse to eat white potatoes again. And tomatoes. But I don’t really like eggplant.

  30. Bernman says:

    I was 220lb on December 14, 2016.. Way too heavy for me, I am a 68 year old male.. I have not had any success with any diet in the past. I have been eating 1 or 2 potato’s, 1 egg or 2 egg whites(cooked) 1/4 cup nuts, maybe 1/4 slice of ham or cheese. Lots of water. Tea or decaf coffee. This I do every day. I take 2000 – 3000 iu of vitamin ‘D’
    Today 1/14/2017 I am at 206lb.. I’ll keep working it until I get to 180lb. PS: I feel great !

  31. EMG says:

    I’ve been doing this diet – save for the Christmas holidays for a week or two – since November2016 . Started at 312 lbs (5’10” male, 40 yo), am now down to 289. I’m a 20-year strict vegetarian (who usually hovered around 200-220lbs, given how much sports I did at for the first 10 years) whose weakness is bread and wheat products, and a 6-month injury lay-off ballooned me above the 300lb mark. I’ve tried all sorts of diets – low carb (with soy proteins), low calorie, weight watchers, VLCD, etc. This is the only diet I’ve been A) able to stick to, B) felt good on, health-wise, and C) never felt hungry on. The key for me is to not be super-strict on it. So I eat plain low-sodium potato chips if I want, I eat air-fried french fries when I want, I have butter and salt on my potatoes, and milk or half-and-half with my mashed potatoes. Then 2 days per week I allow myself to go outside of the diet – but to be honest, I love potatoes so much, I rarely do – save for adding an egg or some mozzarella cheese or a thick sauce or something. The satiety is the main thing here for me. I’m pretty sure I’m eating only around 1200 calories per day, if that sometimes, but it never feels that way because potatoes are so very filling. I would heartily recommend it to anyone looking to lose weight in a satisfying way. However, it is advisable to maybe take a multivitamin too, to try and make sure all the nutrients are taken care of (I think Vitamin B1 is the one thing you can’t get from potatoes alone?)

    Otherwise, an excellent and satisfying way to lose weight. And my testing numbers last time out were well within the normal range, so it certainly didn’t seem to spike or trough anything so far!

  32. once you heat starch it denatures it and it forms acrylamide

    unfired food shows you can eat them raw to avoid that but we know free acids take organic mineral elements and heated turns things to inorganic mineral elements that takes more from us

    disappointed in you trying to sell out hygiene for products

  33. Karen Scobie says:

    As a Nutritional Therapist, I get asked “can I eat potatoes?’ all the time. The brainwashing on certain foods drives me mad. Potatoes are my comfort food. Especially new season potatoes. The nutrients, as you detailed above are phenomenal The more we can educate people on these humble vegetables the better.
    They are so easy to grow and cook and very inexpensive.
    Thank you for the information.

  34. Marisa says:

    Great article, thanks! I I’m also curious about potatoes being a nightshade. I saw a few people commented on that. what are your thoughts? The other night I had a baked potato before bed, still waited a few hours but I had the worst nightmares which I usually get with nightshades like eggplant. I love white potatoes but do you think some people could be sensitive to them?

  35. Step says:

    When ever I ate potatoes baked, butter, salt and pepper my blood sugar reading next day was higher. Not so with sweet potatoes.

  36. Lindsey says:

    I have struggled with food addiction since my first conscious memories at 3 years old, been overweight from 8 – 22 years old and obese from then to now in my mid-thirties and yo-yoing like crazy throughout those decades. I have read countless books on weight loss and nutrition. I could have easily been an expert. The ONLY diet that has ever worked for me like magic – meaning not hungry at all, not feeling out of control with food, and still losing weight – is eating only potatoes (with no oil but with fat-free condiments and salt). I eat a bit of vegetables and fruit too. I am so beyond grateful to Dr. McDougall and his insistence on the right way to eat.

    • Lindsey, I just read your story on Fred’s last post and would love to know if you have a FB page, or channel so that I can contact you as I’d love to hear more of your story. I also have Hashi’s and follow many others who are using potatoes to heal or to kick their food addictions. Thank you for your sharing and your story.

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