The potato diet has gained notoriety for its simplicity and effectiveness, but how can eating only potatoes be good for you? We’ll be looking at the scientific and nutritional ramifications of a potato-only diet, and whether or not you can expect to lose weight fast.
Weight loss is a difficult journey.
While exercise and diet are fundamental precursors to effective weight loss, almost the entire difficulty of losing weight comes from the mental side of weight loss. In most cases, weight loss is a simple mathematical formula of calories in, calories burned, and calories out.
Finding a pathway towards the right numbers that remains enjoyable, effective, and manageable is where most struggle and few succeed. With all of the fitness applications, weight loss programs, and diets out there, most people are looking for something simple and easily implemented.
For those people, perhaps there is no simpler diet 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.
For all of its benefits, the simplicity and effectiveness of the diet can 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.
It’s usually a shocking realization for most that can come with several questions. Is it healthy? Is it safe? Does it work?
We’ll be breaking down what the potato diet does to your body. Perhaps most importantly, we’ll also see whether or not you’ll be able to lose weight and fast.
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 previously, much of the struggle for weight loss includes 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 decent variety of nutrients and vitamins. While remaining relatively light on calories. While there are certainly gaps in the required nutrients for dieters. There are far 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. Vegetables like cucumbers or tomatoes tend to hold far more water than the potato. And leave many feeling hungry as little as an hour after ingestion. This is not a problem with the starchy potato.
Finally, the potato has virtually no sugar. Refined and added sugars are often what can trigger rapid weight gain. And 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 rapid changes and speedy weight loss to the body, for the most part. 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. Something that most dieters could not realistically accomplish.
The starchy nature of potatoes also helps to mitigate cholesterol levels. And stops the body’s reliance on simple and added sugars in favor of the complex carbohydrates found naturally in the plant.
For most people, this combination will result in rapid weight loss. Dependent upon 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. But 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.
That 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 matter of psychological stress that may come with a potato diet. Most social events and gatherings are based on food. And will require you to plan and bring your meals instead of ordering with the others.
Likewise, eating nothing but potatoes will change the process of eating. From an enjoyable experience to one solely focused on weight loss and nutrient gain. That transition cannot be overstated. And 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 talked about earlier, eating nothing but 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.
For that reason, the potato diet is often recommended as a “palate cleanser.”
For those looking to transform their lifestyle and diet radically. Two weeks is the most cited length of time for remaining on the potato diet. Afterward, it is usually recommended that other fruits and vegetables be slowly incorporated.
For all of the benefits and simplicity in a potato-only diet. It is important to note that the diet is far more easily explained then it is implemented. Additionally, it is one thing to know that your meals for the day will consist of potatoes and nothing else. And it is another entirely to go through such an experience.
Scientific Evidence & Concern
The greater nutritional community tends to have a nuanced opinion on the potato diet. Individual physicians may condone or condemn the diet for 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 recommends 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. Their conclusion, however, isn’t that potatoes should be avoided. But rather than the risk factor of potatoes doesn’t include the reality of the cost of food.
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.
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. The amount of weight loss will depend upon a variety of factors. But it is safe to say that the loss will be somewhat drastic in most dieters.
However, the potato diet is not designed to be ongoing. And there are serious risks in the overconsumption of potatoes over a longer period. While some may enjoy the potato diet, others may loathe it.
As with any diet, research thoroughly, pair food with effective exercise. And establish a health plan that you can feel confident in enacting.