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:
- Potatoes have a low calorie density and a high satiety value per calorie.
- 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.
- 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.
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