Friday, May 3, 2013

Potatoes Ain't Paleo

A potato is a lump of sugar. -Guest on Jimmy Moore's podcast

Three years ago when I got into low carb diets and helping my mother control her diabetes, I gave myself a blood glucose test. Since I was wheat-free, I used a suggestion from the Blood Sugar 101 site: I ate a potato. That you can use a potato for a home glucose test should be the first clue that it isn't very good for you.

Further clues take a little more digging (sorry). It's a given in camp paleo that grains and beans are Neolithic foods--foods that we weren't eating much of, if any, before we started farming. They're full of lectins and antinutrients. But so are some other agricultural products: potatoes have been cultivated for around 7,000 years in Peru,(1) and spread to the rest of the world only in the past 500 years.(2) Even if you're Irish, German or Russian, your ancestors haven't been eating potatoes for more than a few hundred years. Traditionally, potatoes went through a process of freezing, soaking and drying(3) that got rid of the glycoalkaloids, or saponins.(4) (It sounds similar to the traditional processing of grains.) No more.

Saponins can penetrate the intestines, especially in people with diseases of chronic inflammation (including insulin resistance) which may trigger autoimmune diseases. Potatoes are also a major source of lectins.(5)

Potatoes have vitamin C and potassium--but would you eat a bowl of sugar and justify it by taking a vitamin pill? The main thing potatoes are good for is being a vehicle for lard, butter and salt. (Butter isn't paleo either, of course, but it won't jack up your blood sugar and doesn't contain any funny proteins.) Put the butter and salt on a piece of fish instead, and have some bacon on the side.

Want more info on the non-paleoness of potatoes and other tubers? Read this well-researched article.

1. "Finding Rewrites the Evolutionary History of the Origin of Potatoes." University of Wisconsin-Madison News. October 5, 2005.
2. II.B.3. Potatoes, White, The Cambridge World History of Food.
3. Nutrition and Physical Degradation by Weston A Price. Chapter 13, "Ancient Civilizations of Peru."
4.The Cambridge World History of Food.
4. The Paleo Answer by Loren Cordain. John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Kindle Location 3381.


Lowcarb team member said...

Hi Lori
I don't know very much about paleo but I do know that potatoes are not low carb. If my husband who is a Type 2 diabetic eats them his blood glucose numbers go way too high. We do not eat them in our house and avoid them on menu's if we eat out.We find most restaurants, if you ask them nicely, will serve an extra serving of low starch vegetables and leave the potatoes off the plate.

All the best Jan

Lori Miller said...

They're definitely not good for anyone with diabetes or wonky blood sugar. You can get a salad or cole slaw at pretty much any restaurant here in the US, too.

horfilmania said...

This is a great post. I'm Ukrainian and you may call our ethnic cuisine cookbook, "1001 ways to prepare potatoes." What I find amazing is that no one in my family had/has diabetes, although they all die from heart disease and stroke. Plus we are/were all fat/obese. Those of us who went low-carb are doing extremely well, but we sure miss our potatoes. Can't help it as we grew up on them. I'm just glad I was able to strong arm my brother and sister into following this way of eating. It's put my brother's (he's lost over 100 lbs) cancer into remission (7 years now, multiple myeloma) and my sister's (90 lbs gone) migraines, arthritis and acid reflux into a long forgotten memory. I certainly don't believe in safe starches for those of us who are starch intolerant.

Lori Miller said...

Wow, that's so great about your brother and sister! Your family probably just doesn't have the genes for diabetes, fortunately.