The potato diet has gained notoriety for its simplicity and effectiveness, but how can eating only potatoes be good for you? We’ll look at the scientific and nutritional ramifications of a potato-only diet, and whether or not you can expect to lose weight fast.
Although exercise and diet are fundamental precursors to effective weight loss, the challenge of losing weight comes from the mental side of it. In most cases, losing weight is a simple mathematical formula of calories in, calories burned, and calories out.
Finding a plan towards that’s enjoyable, effective, and manageable is where most struggle and few succeed. With all of the fitness apps, weight loss programs, and diets out there, most people are looking for something simple and easily implemented.
For those people, perhaps there is not a more straightforward plan than the potato diet.
The potato diet has grown exponentially in popularity due to the advocation from various celebrities and talking heads. The potato diet is said to help you lose weight quickly, efficiently, and remains one of the cheapest ways to lose weight out there.
However, despite its benefits, the simplicity and effectiveness of the diet come at a price.
The potato diet is not named metaphorically, but literally. Choosing to go on the potato diet means that you’ll be eating potatoes—and only potatoes—for the entire duration of the diet.
This weight loss plan creates a lot of curiosity— Is it healthy? Is it safe? Does it work?
We’ll break down what the potato diet does to your body. Perhaps most importantly, we’ll also see whether or not it helps you lose weight quickly.
If you’re going to be eating nothing but potatoes for the immediate future, it may be wise to understand what you can expect to gain nutritionally by eating this plant.
According to the United States Food & Drug Administration, here’s what you can expect to receive out of each whole potato:
- 110 calories
- About 620 grams of potassium—or 17% of the daily value
- 26 grams of carbohydrates
- 8 grams of fiber
- Nearly 50% of the daily value of vitamin C
- Small amounts of vitamin A, calcium, iron, and protein
Since the potato is the sole item in this diet, we would recommend going over that list a few times. If you choose to go on the potato diet, this is the total of all nutrients you can expect to receive.
Some advocates of the potato diet recommend variations in preparation to offset the lack of nutrients and suggest small amounts of butter or cheese to make the diet more palatable. Since these recommendations are often up to the individual dieter, however, we can’t comment on just how helpful (or harmful) such additions would have on the potato diet.
Like we mentioned before, much of the struggle for weight loss include maintaining a consistent deficit in the number of calories burned versus the number of calories ingested. The potato diet works well in this regard for several reasons.
In comparison to other vegetables and fruits, potatoes come with a variety of nutrients and vitamins and is relatively light on calories. While there are gaps in the required nutrients for dieters, there are worse foods to attempt a single-food diet with.
Potatoes, in part due to their fiber and carbohydrate makeup, tend to make for a more filling meal. On the other hand, vegetables like cucumbers or tomatoes hold far more water than potatoes, but leave many feeling hungry shortly after consuming.
Finally, the potato has virtually no sugar. Refined and added sugars are often what triggers rapid weight gain. However, due to the makeup of potatoes, there is no way to consume too much sugar on this diet.
The Effect on the Body
The potato diet promises fast changes and speedy weight loss to the body, due to the lowered caloric intake. A person would need to eat upwards of twenty potatoes a day to begin to gain weight on a purely caloric level, which is something that most dieters could not realistically accomplish.
The starchy nature of potatoes also helps to mitigate cholesterol levels. Plus, it stops the body’s reliance on added sugars in favor of the complex carbohydrates found naturally in the plant.
For most people, this combination results in rapid weight loss. Dependent on your starting weight, most lose a dozen or more pounds within two weeks. That may sound tempting enough to head to the store to purchase your first bag of potatoes. Unfortunately, these aren’t the only effects you can expect to experience.
Any rapid change to a diet will cause the body to adjust to the new source of nutrition quickly.
The adjustment can often result in fatigue, depressed mood, and unpredictable bowel movements. Likewise, the amount of fiber and starch within potatoes will cause fluctuations— specifically within the digestive system.
Aside from bodily fluctuations, there is also the issue of psychological stress that may happen due to the potato diet. Most social events and gatherings are based on food and will require you to plan and bring your meals instead of ordering food.
Likewise, consuming nothing but potatoes will change the process of eating. Pushing through the initial slog of the first several days is often difficult and alienating.
Finally, there are the long-term implications of the potato diet.
Like we discussed earlier, eating only potatoes will leave gaps in your nutritional needs. Many advocates recommend healthy amounts of sweet potatoes to offset this issue. But even then, there are several problems will staying on the diet long-term.
With that said, the potato diet is often recommended as a “palate cleanser.”
For those looking to transform their lifestyle and diet radically, two weeks is the longest length of time recommended for staying on the potato diet. Afterward, it is usually recommended that other fruits and vegetables be slowly incorporated.
With all of the benefits and simplicity in a potato-only diet, it’s important to note that the diet is easier explained than it is implemented. Additionally, it’s one thing to know that your meals for the day will consist of potatoes and nothing else, but it’s another thing to go through the experience.
Scientific Evidence & Concern
The greater nutritional community tends to have a nuanced opinion about the potato diet. Individual physicians may condone or condemn the diet for its simplicity, and specifically the lack of complete nutrient intake.
When it comes to the scientific community, however, there are a few contrasting opinions on the matter.
Harvard University’s School of Public Health warns against not only the potato diet but the consumption of potatoes wholesale. The website expresses that Harvard does not promote potatoes due to carbohydrates found in the plant that can be traced to heart disease and diabetes.
Much of the argument stems from the radical shift in blood sugar that causes some to feel hungry and continue to overeat. As such, Harvard does not recommend potatoes in any capacity in their healthy diet recommendation list.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the other hand makes a note of Harvard’s findings and offers a different line of reasoning.
Their studies have corroborated the claims of Harvard and confirm that potatoes have been shown to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The NIH makes the argument that potatoes are one of the cheapest ways to receive vital vitamins and nutrients. For those less financially able to secure healthier alternatives, eating potatoes can radically improve overall health—even when accounting for the higher risk of disease in the future.
Other Possible Disadvantages Of The Potato Diet
Potatoes are full of nutritional value but they don’t contain enough to give your body all the nutrients it needs. Primarily, they lack protein and fat, but are also low in calcium, vitamin A, and some B vitamins. With that said, you are unlikely to experience nutrient deficiencies during a three to five-day window. However, if you choose to do the diet long-term or on a regular basis, it’s a potential risk.
You might also lose muscle while on the potato diet. It’s normal to lose muscle while losing fat, especially when calories are greatly reduced. According to studies, an increase in protein can aid in reducing muscle loss, but the potato diet doesn’t have a source of protein.
Potential Weight Gain After The Diet
While on a low-calorie diet, your body adjusts by slowing its metabolism and burning fewer calories. Unfortunately, slowed metabolism may continue for years after ending a low-calorie diet. It’s called adaptive thermogenesis and makes it challenging to maintain weight loss on a long-term basis. Unfortunately, most dieters eventually go back to their previous weight.
Rules For The Potato Diet
- Only eat plain, cooked potatoes—limit the diet to three to five days max.
- Don’t do heavy exercise. Stick to walking and light exercise routines.
- It’s okay to use salt if desired, but try to stay away from it.
- Only eat two to five pounds worth of potatoes each day.
- Hydrate yourself with water, plain tea, or black coffee. Stay away from juice and other sugary drinks.
- Continue to take your medications as instructed by your doctor. Stay away from unprescribed supplements.
Foods to Eat While On The Potato Diet
Although potatoes are the only food you can eat on the diet, there are several ways you prepare your meals. As you know, potatoes are very versatile and make a variety of delicious dishes. Here what you can eat:
- Steamed potatoes
- Boiled potatoes
- Raw potatoes
- Baked potatoes
- Oven-baked French fries with no oil
- Oven-baked hash browns with no oil
- Oven-baked home fries with no oil
You can only use salt on the diet and only a small amount is permitted. However, some versions of the diet allow other spices and fat-free condiments. Also, you can add use vegetable or chicken brother to enhance the taste of mashed potatoes.
Potatoes To Avoid While On The Potato Diet
Although this weight-loss plan is called the potato diet, there are some that you have to avoid:
- Tater tots
- Potato chips
- Hash browns
- French fries
- Sweet Potatoes
As mentioned earlier in the article, there are different versions of the diet. Unless you’re doing the Spud Fit Challenge or another variation of the plan, white potatoes are required. Again, no cooking oils, condiments, toppings, or spices are allowed.
Regardless of the monotony of the diet, trying out the potato diet for two weeks or even a little longer poses no serious risk to your health. The human body is a moldable, adaptable machine, and potatoes alone contain enough nutrients to keep you healthy while losing weight.
The increased difficulty in the overconsumption of calories also shows us that the potato diet is effective in weight loss. However, the amount of pounds lost depends upon a variety of factors.
Nonetheless, the potato diet is not designed to be ongoing and there are serious risks in the overconsumption of potatoes over a longer period. As with any diet, research thoroughly, pair food with effective exercise, and establish a health plan that you can feel confident about.