White potatoes fall into a bit of a gray area in the Paleo community. Some people insist that they are Paleo-friendly because they are a whole food. Others will fight tooth and nail to convince you that they are not Paleo because they are very high in carbohydrates. Let’s take a look at the facts, shall we?
Eat Real Food
On the one hand, the first step to living a Paleo lifestyle is eating real, whole foods. There is no doubt that potatoes fall into this category, but don’t go thinking that means the hash browns you eat out of a box at McDonald’s are Paleo. Plenty of hunter-gatherer societies have been known to subsist largely on starchy tubers, while remaining lean and fit. In that sense, potatoes can absolutely be included in your Paleo diet.
Paleo and Nutrition
Potatoes are also fairly nutritious, containing about 4 grams of protein and an impressive amount of vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. One of the main reasons we avoid grains and legumes is because they are high in calories without much nutritional benefit. Although potatoes may have the high calorie count, they win handily when it comes to micronutrients.
While there’s a lot to be said for maintaining a diet low in carbohydrates, that is not the be-all end-all of nutrition. The current Standard American Diet (SAD) is extremely high in carbohydrates, so most of us can eat the occasional potato and still do much better than the standard American. There’s only one diet that works best for you and that diet may not work best for someone else. The only way to discover your perfect diet is to conduct self-experiments and note what makes you feel like you’re operating optimally.
Paleo and Autoimmune Protocol
Potatoes are also a nightshade, so beware. Most of us have no problem chowing down on tomatoes and peppers, but some individuals have noted that nightshades cause digestive issues, often leading to inflammation and a host of other health problems. If you know that you are sensitive to nightshades, you’re better off avoiding them, including potatoes.
Mark Sisson provides a more comprehensive breakdown of the pros and cons of white potatoes here.