When I started eating Paleo, potatoes weren’t a part of it. It was almost considered as bad as bread. This always had me a bit confused, but I stuck to it and thought that the starches in white potatoes was the thing to look out for as well as the glycoalkaloids it contains, a sort of chemical seen in all nightshades.
As we find out more about our hunter and gatherer relatives, how they lived, what they ate and how they prepared their food, we also have to tweak the Paleo diet. Nothing is consistent.
Not long ago, more and more people within the Paleo community started to write about the white potato not being banned on the Paleo diet anymore. I thought we’d take a closer look at why this little beloved tuber.
What are some arguments against white potatoes?
- They are starchy
- They have a high glycemic index
- They contain glycoalkaloid
- They aren’t that nutritious
Lets’s take it from the beginning:
- Starch – it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Active and healthy people can eat more starches. If you have a metabolic disorder, you’re better off minimizing the starchy foods. The starch from potatoes is a much better choice than starch from grains for example, as you also get gluten and phytic acid with the grains.
- High Glycemic Index – well actually, the GI in white potatoes aren’t that much higher than in sweet potatoes. The GI varies depending on the type of potato. The GI for white potato is between 77 to 85 while sweet potato has a GI of around 70. You can read more on GI and potatoes here.
- Glycoalkaloid – the glycoalkaloids found in white potatoes are mainly alpha-solanine and alpha-chocanine. It’s a toxin that can cause irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. Most of the glycoalkaloid is in the skin of the potato and it protects the potato from animals, insects and fungi. People have been peeling the potato for centuries, knowing that they’d get rid of some of the toxin that way. You still get a little of this toxin even if you feel the potato. It’s safe to say that you should not eat too much potato in that sense. This is especially true if you have leaky gut or an inflammatory bowel disease.
More on this here and here.
- Nutrition – White potatoes aren’t that far behind sweet potatoes when it comes to nutrients. Except for vitamin A.
If you have 100 grams of white potato and 100 grams of sweet potato, you will get the following Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of different micronutrients:
Vitamin B6 – white potato (WP) 10%, sweet potato (SP) 10%
Vitamin C – WP 33%, SP 4%
Vitamin A – WP 0%, SP 284%
Calcium – WP 1%, SP 3%
Iron – WP 3%, SP 3%
And if you look at the total carbohydrate content, white potatoes lie on 17 grams per 100 grams and sweet potatoes lie on 20 grams per 100 grams.
White potatoes have more glucose than fructose, while sweet potatoes contain more fructose and sucrose. Glucose is better than fructose as our bodies can absorb it and use it easier than fructose. Fructose isn’t bad when it’s packaged in a fruit or sweet potato, but an excess of fructose can lead to insulin resistance. Today we eat a great amount of fructose, mainly in processed food. You find it in for example agave syrup and high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose in this ”simple” form goes directly to your liver.
This is what Kimberly Snyder writes about it: ”This places a heavy toxic load on your liver, which must work very hard to process it, sometimes resulting in scarring. Additionally, fructose is converted by the liver into glycerol, which can raise levels of triglycerides.”
So are white potatoes Paleo or not?
Well, the way I see it (and this is strictly my point of view, you all have to find your own truth), potatoes are ok every now and then. If you’re very active and healthy, it can be ok more often. If you have a leaky gut or other inflammatory bowel disease you should be more careful with this tuber. Perhaps even stay away from it until you’ve healed your gut.
I learned a lot while researching for this blog post, and it has caused me to look at my own intake of white potatoes in a new way. I have leaky gut. I guess the doctor’s would give me the very boring diagnosis of IBS. Even so, I’ve had new potatoes this summer and I have white potatoes every now and then throughout the year. This is nothing I regret. I enjoy my potato every once in a while. However, I need to really evaluate how I feel when I eat potatoes and see if it’s really worth it for me right now as I am getting my gut and hormones in order.
I hope this post has helped you shed some new light on potatoes and that the links I’ve shared in the post will clear things up even more for you.
Have a lovely day!