Sweet potatoes can definitely be included as part of a paleo diet. They are nutritious, high in fibre and not too high in carbohydrate (1 large baked sweet potato (180g) contains 37g carbohydrate and 6g fibre). Did you know that you can eat 5 LARGE sweet potatoes to get the same amount of sugar as just 250g of pasta?! Pasta contains 75g of carbohydrate per 100g.
Anyway, on to white potatoes. White potatoes are a gray-area food. They contain saponins called glykoalkaloids which can increase intestinal permeability leading to a leaky gut. These glycoalkaloids may also aggravate inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. However, most of the glykoalkaloids are in the skins so if you peel potatoes you remove a lot of the problem compounds.
White potatoes are also high in carbohydrates so if you are overweight and trying to lose weight then you might exclude potatoes for this reason. Many people cannot process dense sources of carbohydrate in a healthy way. Aim for around 100g of carbohydrates a day and see how potatoes fit into this picture.
Despite the above concerns, potatoes are whole, real foods that do not require much processing. Evidence exists for the consumption of roots and tubers in the Palaeolithic period.
If you are healthy and not overweight, with no symptoms of a leaky gut or any auto-immune issues and you don’t react negatively to white potatoes when you eat them then, there is no real evidence for excluding them completely from your diet.
Everyone is different! That’s the most important thing to remember. Potatoes are not very nutrient-dense, so you certainly shouldn’t let them push more nutrient-dense foods off your plate. And if they don’t make you feel good when you eat them then they should be avoided. However, they can be enjoyed occasionally as part of your diet without any detrimental effects if you do not react to them. Eat them with fat and protein rather than on their own (to avoid insulin spikes) and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Top tips for how to include potatoes in your paleo diet in a healthy way:
1. Do not eat processed potatoes! If you are going to include them in your diet then buy fresh, whole potatoes (and choose organic). Roast them in duck or goose fat or boil then mash them with grass-fed butter or ghee
2. Peel the potatoes – since most of the anti-nutrients (glykoalkaloids) are found in the skin
3. Limit or avoid white potatoes altogether if you need to lose weight
4. Stick to eating white potatoes once or twice a week to make sure they don’t push more nutrient-dense foods off your plate
5. We’re all different. Judge how potatoes make you feel – if you think you react to them then avoid them, if you feel fine when you eat them then enjoy!
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