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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 19 2010

Is Samwise Gamgee Right About Potatoes?

By Mark Sisson
217 Comments

Potatoes are controversial in the Primal and paleo world. They represent a bolus of dietary starch, which can wreak havoc on the insulin resistant, but they are undeniably whole, real foods that don’t require much processing beyond simple heating. Grains and legumes, on the other hand, are tiny, disparate sources of calories that need soaking, fermenting, and extensive heating to be palatable (and they’ll still mess you up), but potatoes are big, dense, and obviously food. Chimps have been known to use sticks to dig up and eat wild tubers, and they’ve got even less salivary amylase to break down starch than we do. Evidence exists for human consumption of roots and tubers from multiple sites spanning multiple time periods: Northern Europe (specifically Poland), in the terminal Paleolithic and early Mesolithic. Clearly, we have the physiology (amylase production, glucose metabolism), the tools (fire, hearths, digging implements), and the motivation (attraction to dense caloric sources with negligible or easily neutralized anti-nutrients) to consume starchy tubers.

So what’s the hold up? Why do I generally recommend limiting their intake?

As I mentioned in the rice post, a human metabolic tabula rasa can handle all macronutrients in whole food form without metabolic dysfunction. That’s why you get folks like the Kitavans eating a high starchy tuber diet with excellent health and fit figures, or the supremely healthy pre-colonial Tokelauans, who ate a mixed diet high in saturated fat from coconuts and supported with plenty of yams and breadfruit (similar to a plantain) that amounted to a roughly 52/36/12 fat/carb/protein macronutrient split. Not low-carb (or low-fat, for that matter), but they were starting from scratch using ancestral whole foods.

So, before you start frying up some hash browns in that bacon fat or enjoying an extra large baked potato with your steak, ask yourself: are you Samwise Gamgee or Frodo Baggins?

Remember the Lord of the Rings flicks (yes, I know the books are better, but my take on this relies strictly on the actors portraying the characters and a specific line used in the movies)? Besides being masterfully crafted amalgamations of Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology, fairy tales, and Judeo-Christian theology, they also represent an interesting – if unwitting – treatise on nutrition, metabolism, and the necessity of dietary individuation, especially when it comes to potatoes (who knew?!). Samwise Gamgee, as portrayed by Sean Astin in the movies, waxes exuberant about the myriad uses of the waxy tubers: “Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew!” But should we listen to the portly halfling’s views on potatoes? I mean, the guy walked clear across Middle Earth, all the way to Mordor and up the face of Mt. Doom, without losing a single pound. If anything, he gained a bit.

And what of Frodo? It’s true that Frodo was able to subsist entirely on Elvish bread while staying lithe and lean, but it was magic Elvish bread known as lembas. The Elves (stay with me here…) were immortal, giving them plenty of time to develop a mode of grain processing that destroyed all dietary lectins, gluten, and phytic acid while preserving nutrient, vitamin, and mineral content. Besides, Frodo got a lot of low level, slow moving cardio – hiking, really – and didn’t eat much fructose or seed oil, so his insulin sensitivity was adequate to deal with non-optimal food sources. He could eat potatoes (or lembas) for days and not gain an ounce, or worry about metabolic derangement.

But Sam? Sam reacts differently to potatoes. He’s a chubby, emotional eater who’s prone to manic excitement and instinctual distrust of outsiders. He clings to starchy foods, even as his ability to effectively metabolize them without excessive fat accumulation falters. Sam’s an active guy, too, putting in a ton of hiking, hill walking, bouldering, and hobbit-carrying, but he can’t seem to shake those pounds. Sound familiar?

You might say he’s a fair approximation of your standard SAD-eater straining away on the treadmill. His metabolism was damaged long before joining the Fellowship, and eating potatoes only makes it worse. Are you Sam or Frodo?

Of course, this is simply a playful way to illustrate my point: whether potatoes belong in your eating strategy may have a lot to do with the state of your metabolism.

My first impulse is to speak to the Samwises of the world: the metabolically-deranged, overweight, insulin-resistant men, women, and children (and even, horrifyingly, infants) who have lost the ability to handle glucose. They’re the ones who are most likely to be looking for a solution, while skinny (on the surface), fit (on the surface) folks tend to be satisfied with their current dietary path. Many of my readership started reading because they were overweight. A good chunk of this country, and indeed the entire world, is overweight. This is a problem. This is a problem that’s growing, quite literally and figuratively. And they may not have gotten overweight in the first place because of baked sweet potatoes with grass-fed butter, or Yukon golds roasted in duck fat, but those foods certainly aren’t going to help their current insulin-resistant predicament. Potatoes should be limited, or even outright eliminated, for this (large) subset of the population. For the lean and active, however, I don’t think a few red potatoes with dinner are anything to worry about.

The Final Word (There Isn’t One)

Deciding whether potatoes fit into your diet is ultimately a personal decision, but exactly how your body reacts to starch – in its current metabolic state, which, remember, is not set in stone – should be the major determinant. Other potential, secondary concerns with potato consumption exist, things like glycoalkaloids, macro- and micro-nutrient counts, intestinal permeability, and anecdotal accounts (including my own) of joint irritation, all of which I’ll get into next time, but for now, potatoes reside in dietary limbo. You guys are the deities here, folks. You get to decide who gets redeemed. You can be a loving, caring, selfless god who accepts everyone (including more weight around the midsection), or you can be a clever tactician, taking that which suits your current situation (think of the Greek gods, those immortals with very mortal flaws and foibles). If you’re still trying to lose thirty pounds, I’d go with the latter option and maybe hold off on the spuds.

(For my money, I’ll have what Gollum’s having, thank you. He rocked 5% body fat, a great strength-to-bodyweight ratio, retched at the thought of eating bread, and dined on whole, raw, living fish. I don’t recall him eating all that often, either, so I’m going to say he’s firmly in the IF camp, too. Yeah, Gollum was pretty Primal.)

What do you think? Can you eat potatoes and avoid fat gain? Did you have to lose the weight and reset the metabolism before you could partake? Let me know in the comments!

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217 thoughts on “Is Samwise Gamgee Right About Potatoes?”

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  1. Being Scottish/Irish I must love potatoes (by law I think). I try to limit them to once a week or less and keep them to farm fresh reds, yukons and the like. They are perfect in that slow cooked beef or pork, right next to the carrots and onions!

    1. I am curious, but what of potato skins? What are their role in the Paleo world?

    2. Hey. It was Golem that didn’t like potatoes. He was pretty thin.

      1. Golem was quite a primal purist – raw whole fish, raw rabbit, and that is about all I saw him eat.

  2. At the risk of sounding really really nerdy: You forgot to mention along with frodo’s slow moving cardio he was also doing heavy lifting. The ring got heavier as he approached mount doom.
    Also
    I am luckily blessed with a higher metabolism and good insulin tolerance. I can probably handle the odd potato and rice without any issue. However, I do prefer eating more meat and veggies than having potato. But sometimes i enjoy my baked potato with butter, sour cream and chives when we go out to eat. Especially if their “vegetable” of the night is “corn on the cob”.

    1. PS–I don’t know how it’s possible and I’m only on day 23 of Paleo, but I think I have a pretty good insulin tolerance as well since I’ve exceeded 100 mg of carbs on several occasions and stayed in keto (strong, according to the ketostix.)
      I’m curious of your metabolic/diet history. I should have trashed mine with the high consuming of sugar and refined carbs over the past 40 years but I think I still have some things going well. I’m female, too. Not sure how it all plays out so I was wondering if you were pretty “health conscious” previously.

  3. Wow, this is a timely little ditty! I was just at our local farm when I saw a little bag of organic fingerlings that looked too good to resist. I don’t eat potatoes. I have an autoimmune condition that reacts very badly to nightshades of all kinds. In fact, I never, every buy potatoes… until today.

    I bought them for our kids (all three of them). I thought it would be a nice little treat to have cooked up in my bison tallow with a light salting of oak-smoked sea salt, to accompany the garlic heavy pork chops we’ll be eating tonight.

    I don’t see any harm in using potatoes as a treat here and there for someone who, like Mark said, has the metabolism for it. I would also avoid them entirely if there is any sort of autoimmune or inflammatory type conditions.

  4. I love this analogy, because before I started eating PB-style, I joked about my “Hobbit Diet”: breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, etc. Basically, I got hungry every couple of hours. Now I only eat two or three times a day, and I would say that I’ve reached a more Frodo-like state where the occasional potato won’t hurt anything, but it’s not a regular part of my diet.

    1. I’m curious how long it took you to evolve to just two maybe three meals a day? I definitely am/was like a hobbit with eating a lot. I just LOVE food, and on many levels, some being emotional for sure. But I wonder if I’ll ever get so content on Paleo/Primal as to only eat twice a day?

  5. I ditched ’em when I got onboard the PB bus. I like some sweet potato or yam periodically – they are just so much yummier imo.

  6. I’m of Scottish extraction, too, and I love them, but merely looking at them makes me gain weight (and right in the belly). It’s hard, but I gotta let them go. *sniff*

  7. I’d like to see some sort of comparison chart between sweet potatoes, butternut squash, red yams, and spaghetti squash. How do these types of squash stack up against the sweet potato varieties? Is there a caution for squash as well? I suppose this could be done on nutritiondata’s website, or maybe even fitday. Perhaps I’ll look at that this afternoon.

    1. I second that! Root tubers vs stem tubers, what has the best nutritional profile.. or glycemic load..

  8. We eat them daily, up to 2-3 potatoes per person per day with no ill effects or fat going on. We bake, mash, shred and fry them up—or mix/mash them with less starchy sweet potatoes and carrots. I wish farm fresh or organic were an option for us, but even living in Idaho, since we are 2 hours from civilization we get nasty, garbage potatoes. Even then, we are healthy eating our modified Paleo/gluten free diet. Feeding a family would be prohibitively expensive—especially with 2 teenagers—if we didn’t add potatoes in to fill in the empty spaces 🙂

    1. Would love to see your post-prandial blood sugar readings. Mine would spike for sure, but I often wonder what readings “normal” people really have eating like this.

    2. if you choose to eat them, they are the easiest things in the world to grow yourself. cut one in quarters and bury it a few inches underground. water it and it will grow! no need to eat “garbage potatoes” 🙂

  9. Potatoes, white rice, and corn. I’ve added these 3 things back into my diet. I’d say I eat 3-4 servings per week out of that group. I still keep off the gluten grains though.

    I find it adds some variety back into my diet and keeps me from straying to the really bad stuff (see the aforementioned gluten grains). Plus, I wasn’t about to go through a summer BBQ season without some fire-roasted corn-on-the-cob, and now that the weather is cooling I will have some rice to go with my chili (since I still don’t eat beans).

  10. Definition of BOLUS
    1
    : a rounded mass: as

    a : a large pill
    b : a soft mass of chewed food

    2
    a : a dose of a substance (as a drug) given intravenously
    b : a large dose of a substance given by injection for the purpose of rapidly achieving the needed therapeutic concentration in the bloodstream

    Origin of BOLUS
    Late Latin, from Greek b?los lump
    First Known Use: 1562

  11. Great post!

    My opinion,

    There is nothing less wild than over-thinking simple, whole, real foods.

    truth,

    Intake of patatoes should be directly relational to activity level.

    1. So how do they figure that just because some type of bread was made that that somehow becomes the primary food? They want to say this discovery of grinding flour means that these primal peoples did not eat primarily meat and veg. Tell me how these people found an unlimited supply of cattail roots.

      1. 1) Your comment makes no sense. “Tell me how these people found an unlimited suppy of cattail roots”? Really? Tell me how people found un unlimited suppy of meat. Tell me how people found an unlimited supply of vegetables. What?

        2) I believe the actual study, not the Yahoo story, argues that bread made from cattail (and probably other) starchy substances was PART of the diet much earlier than previously thought, not that it was the PRIMARY component. Since before we were Heidelbergensis, the primary component of our diet was likely gathered fruit, vegetables and nuts, with meat coming in a strong second.

        1. It’s called sarcasm. Both the Yahoo story and the NPR story say that this discovery proves that they did not live primarily on meat and vegetables. It is a stupid conclusion. Of course they ate anything and everything they could that was edible.

        2. Helen: Re-read the story. It does NOT say that this proves early modern humans did not live primarily on meat and vegetables. Your reading comprehension needs some work, I think.

    2. They don’t really offer any evidence of “bread”, just ground plant material. The resulting paste/powder could have been baked, made into a porridge, or eaten as is by babies. It’s all supposition.

      1. It doesn’t matter if they were making bread or not…an extra 10,000yrs on our evolutionary time-line is only around a half of a percent. Or to be technical, a drop in the bucket.

        1. Really? I find your lack of faith in the power of Natural Selection disturbing.

          In humans alone, adult lactase production (aka lactose tolerance) and blue eye phenotypes appear and proliferate broadly in <10000 years.

      2. Larry: I’m with you. Who’s to say they even ate it? Maybe it was used for another purpose entirely??

    3. This was tuber bread, not grass-seed bread (ie: grains). Still starchy, but not the same as wonder bread.

      1. Exactly, because despite the scare-quotes around process, primitive peoples made their best efforts to process plant foods into something safe to eat (and animal foods into products that could be stored and carried), whereas Wonder Bread is manufactured with callous disregard for the health consequences to those consuming it…

    4. Remember: It was stoneground flour, different type of wheat. Flour is now ground so fine, it’s digested differently. (I get gut-wrenching pain reaction to ordinary breads, bagels, croissants, etc., but no pain the following morning if I eat Ezekial bread, for a sandwich.) I have been tested for celiac. That’s not the problem. Can remember having this pain since age 12. Deep black circles under the eyes since age 5. No pain with tabouli salad or pasta. I do have “wheat belly” so may drop all wheat products for a while.

      1. Ezekiel bread isn’t made from grains anyway. Everything in it has been sprouted so it’s basically vegetable loaf. Try Amaranth flour. I have read great things about it.

        1. Ummm, really?? Ezekiel bread IS indeed made from grains … sprouted grains of wheat, millet, barley, and spelt, as well as sprouted soybeans and sprouted lentils. This is not a vegetable loaf!!!

  12. Nice post Mark,

    What are your thoughts on the peel of the potato? I know Mat Lalonde recommends eating tubers, but making sure to peel them first.

    1. Stephan Guyenet also recommends peeled tubers, such as potatoes, as a healthy part of the human diet. Personally, I do just fine on them in moderation. When I make mashed potatoes for the kids, I add some raw milk and a ton of butter from pastured cows. It’s pretty hard to resist!

  13. Thankfully, I never really had a poor reaction to potatoes. I still keep them in my diet and like to add them to hearty stews or have them Mashed with lots of butter and cream. Heaven!

    It’s not a regular indulgence, but it is one that I will never give up.

  14. Potatoes are the starch of choice in our household. I can’t really eat rice or noodles without feeling bloated and sick, and bread leaves me feeling hungry mere hours after, but I can eat a potato every week or so and feel good. I like reds or Yukons best. (My husband is a “Sam,” so he doesn’t eat them so much, but I’m trying to gain weight, so I guess I’m a “Frodo.”)

  15. O yes, no corn either, of course. Corn is reserved for on-the-cob on the 4th of July, and that’s it.

    1. Try it nixtamalized. Personally, I found that for me, eating cornmeal products (cornbread, for example; also, arepas, polenta) led to violent acid reflux, whereas masa products–tortillas, gorditas, grits, hominy, tamales–go down super-easy.

      Nixtamalization breaks up the anti-nutrients and a lot of the corn gluten (I think this is called zein?) and also frees up the niacin. The meso-Americans only consumed corn this way–or fermented–but when maize spread elsewhere the preparation methods were lost.

      I love tortillas and gorditas. They don’t cause bloat like rice seems to. Of course I dole cheese and full-fat yogurt with extra butter for good measure all over them. Sour cream and crema mexicana are good too…

      1. Duh, masa is the FLOUR made from hominy, so hominy does not belong to the subset of masa products. It does however belong to the subset of nixtamalized maize products.

        Clear as mud?

  16. I find that I carry a bit more fat when I eat potatoes along with my meat and vegetables than when I go without. However, the amount is so negligible that it is hardly worth mentioning. Any side-effects that some experience from their consumption I also do not feel, such as joint irritation; while I do not try to downgrade others, it may just be confirmation bias.

    Potatoes are also very useful if you do an extensive amount of anaerobic exercise. I go to college and bike around UC Santa Cruz, and if anyone has ever been there, they would know that you get a real workout just going from class to class! A diet with some supplementary potatoes (say, 3-4 a day mashed with butter) definitely helps me recover more quickly and have that boundless energy the next day.

    Also, I feel no hunger swings and other symptoms of sugar addiction when eating potatoes; my eating regimen still consists of lunch and dinner, no breakfast, and a feeling of satiation for hours after every meal. You just have to strike an optimal balance.

  17. Haha, if it’s possible this post made me love MDA even more 🙂 I’m a big LOTR fan (okay, nerd, whatever), and loved that analogy. I always wondered why Sam didn’t lose an ounce over that whole journey!

    I love sweet potatoes and squash, but I do avoid white potatoes 99% of the time. I’ll have them at a gathering maybe once every few months, but even then it’s a minimal amount. The carb crash and joint inflammation from eating a big dose of white potatoes makes it not worth it.

  18. I will continue to eat my 1-2 potatoes per week. I usually go for the sweet potato but enjoy a nice variety. Yukons gold are awesome tasting. Throw some butter or coconut oil on it for some healthy tasting fat!

  19. Timely post – I started the Paleo Diet about 4 weeks ago – lost 12 pounds so far! Yay! I cut out potatoes completely. This weekend I’m going to a Wisconsin Fish Boil – which is boiled fish and potatoes, coleslaw, sweetbreads and Cherry Pie. I’m going to indulge in the boiled potatoes – we’ll see how I react after not having any for 4 weeks.

  20. Celery root! I can’t say it enough. For hash browns, stews/soups and even mashing, celeriac rocks! Low GI, high flavor.

  21. I was surprised by how big of a staple potatoes used to be in my diet before I had any guidelines. When I turned Primal I was pleasantly shocked at how easy it was to forget about them. I thought it would be tough to ditch potatoes, but it was a non-thought! I’ll have a little bit every now and then since my insulin sensitivity seems to be at a great spot and my weight is in a good place as well. That’s what I tell my girlfriend when she respectfully challenges certain primal stuff: potatoes are REAL so I think we can eat them, but since we have knowledge about what they can mean for you, you should make a concious effort to eat them correctly!

    At the risk of also being nerdy: Frodo survivded off of the ‘magic’ power of the ring for a while… talk about low carb, try no carb! Turns out Frodo is a posterchild for anorxia… never thought about that before

  22. Are you saying that after a few months of primal eating and repairing our bodies, we can go back to eating potatoes? 😉

  23. What about Golem/Smeagol? He regularly eats lots of fresh fish (and the occasional goblin child under the misty mountains). He’s probably the most primal of the bunch! Of course, he seems oblivious to produce. And with all that time spent underground, he probably has a pretty nasty vitamin D deficiancy. ;^)

    1. I just saw the paragraph about Golem. Strong, yes but bad hair and skin. His time with the hobbits was probably the healthiest that he’d been in quite a while!

        1. He didn’t eat very much after Sauron tortured him; he was preoccupied with finding the ring.

  24. If you can relate all future posts to Lord of the Rings as well, you have my undivided attention.

  25. We eat the occasional sweet potato or yam, plenty of squash and some parsnips. You can eat like 10 parsnips for the carbs in one standard potato and they taste damn close, especially with all the good stuff on top.

  26. sweet potatoes are also delicious raw! Peel’em, cut’em into sticks or chips and enjoy.

    1. you can eat sweet potatoes raw. however, they do contain trypsin inhibitors which make protein hard to digest.

      1. Hey I think you’re being a bit harsh on poor old Sam! Not only does he have strength of character showing stalwart loyalty to Frodo but he also can’t have been in bad physical shape to have made the trek all the way to mount doom! LOL

  27. Sure, Gollum & Frodo may have been the fittest of the three, but as for mental stability & general happiness on life, I’ll take Sam.

    I eat potatoes, even though I’m still in weight loss phase, if for no other reason than they’re a whole food that’s affordable. I could probably lose faster if I nixed them altogether, sure, but I do have to eat something. 🙂

  28. Potatoes are never something that I crave. I have them around the house regularly, and prepare them for the kids and husband, but I might have a few bites and that’s it. If I want starchy produce, I’m much more apt to go for winter squashes or sweet potato. I do like that potato doesn’t give me the same ill side effects that rice and other grains do (bloating, digestive issues), but it’s still a contributor to my sensitive insulin levels.

  29. This is personal / anecdotal but … I was insulin resistant and could not eat potatoes. If I ate no carb, whenever I went back I would gain weight.
    Then I discovered fasting, and not the 12 hour kind. I did it once, for a week, and it seemed to reset my insulin sensitivity.
    Might not work for everyone but I did it under the guidance of a naturopathic doctor and it worked.
    I don’t eat potatoes all the time now, more as a treat a couple of times a week but I am not afraid of them anymore.

    1. are you the nicola from ZIOH??? if so…. when did you finally switch out of ZC?!?!?!?! and i am glad to hear it as well 🙂

    2. Haha, I read your comment after I posted mine. I totally agree with fasting. In the past year I’ve done four 10 day fasts and a handful of 5 day fasts. Nowadays I fast, on average, once a week for 1 day, and sometimes I.F. by skipping a meal or two. It’s definitely been a lifesaver for me as well 🙂

  30. Having Scottish/Irish ancestry makes you love potatoes? Don’t be so bloody ridiculous. It’s 2010 guys!

    1. I know! I feel I come from the land of potatoes, myself – Germany. And then there’s the fact my father is of Polish and Russian origin – anothe country of potato eaters! It’s just Europe in general, guys.

      1. I’m part Scot and Irish too, not to mention Dutch, German and Norwegian. I can take or leave pototoes, but weren’t they native to the new world?

  31. Wow, what an awesome post. Being a huge Lord of the Rings fan I laughed out loud more than once. Gollum was definitely primal. Well done, Mark!

    All that being said – I generally avoid them. At this point I am pretty lean and my metabolism could probably handle them but I just don’t want to take the chance of undoing what I’ve accomplished. At most I will have a sweet potato (medium to small) at the end of the week and right after working out to replenish glycogen stores. Otherwise, I avoid them. Maybe I won’t worry about it quite as much anymore if they are on my plate but I will never eat them in any way resembling good ol’ Samwise.

  32. just had a baked potato last week weighing in at about 2.5 pounds….biggest potato I ever had. was delicious with kerrygold butter on top. I find nothing wrong with spuds.

    1. Yeah Kerrygold! I grew up on that in Ireland.
      I never are spuds much as an adult but ate all the other ‘bad’ starches – pasta, rice, bread, etc. However now that I am working my way to being 100% Paleo the only starch I eat is potato. I run ultramarathons and cannot yet give up ALL starches when it comes to fuelling for a race. Now I enjoy one potato or sweet potato per week, and I make sure to bring a boiled spud for my pre-race breakfast.

  33. All potatoes are not created equal, definitely. This year we grew ours without irrigation. We got a lower yield but the potatoes we got were much denser and waxier. *I* think they’re more nutritious too. We prefer the yellow varieties like Yukon Gold or German Butterball. I think Russet potatoes are far starchier. And sweet potatoes aren’t really potatoes….

  34. I think Sue is on to something — waxier potatoes, like Yukon Golds or the purple potatoes we grow on our farm, leave me feeling less full than starchy ones like Russets or those big baking potatoes. All potatoes are not equal, after all – just ask the Irish.

  35. My husband loves potatoes and only has to LOOK at one to become the same shape as it… I on the other hand can take them or leave them and they barely affect my weight at all! Not fair, is it?

  36. Everything about this post was ridiculous, but I’ll add: I eat potatoes for at LEAST one meal a day. I’m super lean (BMI is actually underweight, but I have a genetically athletic body) and healthy. Potatoes are the one food that keeps me full for hours – literally nothing else does. Plus, they are delicious covered in butter!

  37. *giggle* Funny analogy, if stretched… although the stretch makes it funnier.

    I appreciate the “draw your own conclusions” conclusion, too. Some folks seem so focused on Mark’s Official Verdict on various foods rather than on how it seems to work for them… but after all, he started this blog sharing his own experiences because others might find them useful in the same way!

  38. I gave up potatoes initially when I went Primal, but hitting my weight goal as well as seeing Richard’s post entitled “So You Think You Can’t Cook?,” got me back on the potato wagon. That pot roast looked so good I couldn’t help myself. I really only eat them when I make that meal though, so we’re talking 1-2 a month, tops. I don’t think that’ll kill me.

    Still, Richard caught a lot of flack for that potato post, Mark. Better watch out!

  39. a quick review of “farewell to lorien” reveals that lembas was made of a “meal that was baked a light brown on the outside, and inside was the color of cream”. i suggest that i was in fact a cake of almond meal, eggs, butter (or cream) and honey….

    😉
    she who is possibly the biggest nerd of the bunch

  40. Mark,
    I have a question about potato skins. I’ll bake potatoes for my family but my daughter doesn’t like the skin. I scoop out the inside and give it to her and I’ll eat the outside, but I never eat the inside. Do you think that’s a better alternative? I figure I’m getting the fiber and not the starchy part. What do you think?

  41. In the last 9 months I’ve lost a total now of 44 pounds in fat. When I commenced my new lifestyle I did indeed reduce my intake of starchy foods but I certainly did not eliminate it. So far, simply reducing starchy foods like potato has served me well but perhaps if I find I plateau in my fat loss then I may try ‘tweaking’ my diet by further reducing or completely eliminating starch. Thanks for a very good post! 🙂

  42. Love the potatoes!

    Stephan Guyenet’s recent three part series on potatoes had ample evidence that potatoes can be part of a healthy diet. They’re a much maligned vegetable, and while there is question about glycoalkaloids, saponins and glucose in potatoes, I think that a potatoe is a pretty healthy way to get a bulk of calories in a paleo diet.

    When I was attempting to restrict my carbohydrate intake, this tended to result in a diet that had a high nut consumption. Comparing say a potatoe to an almond, and I think the potatoe comes out far ahead. It doesn’t have the problems with the phytates and omega-6 that almonds (or nuts in general, or any high-fat plant-based food) have, which I think are worse than the problems of glycoalkaloids, saponins and glucose spikes. Subjectively, I feel better after switching out nuts for tubers.

    Lately I’ve been trying to add muscle mass (doing Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program) which requires 4,000 calories a day. It’s damn hard to overeat on potatoes. To make up 4,000 calories in potatoes would be 36 potatoes. The most I’ve been able to eat in a day is a 5 lb bag. To me, this really puts potatoe starch on a different level than grains. It’s not that hard to eat 4,000 calories in grain if you’re really trying to tuck in.

    I have also experienced a rise in metabolism as measured by body temperature (about 0.7 C) since adding 2-4 lbs a day of tubers in my diet a few months ago. I think Matt Stone’s arguement that there is great merit in having an active metabolism is another valid reason to give a diet high in starch from healthy sources such as tubers a second thought.

  43. I haven’t had potatoes in over two years and am none the worse and 40 pounds lighter.

    I do crave McDonald’s hash browns at times, with lots of ketchup.

  44. My husband and I do eat potatoes, since we both have fast metabolisms and like our current weight. But he has a lot of joint pain lately — could potatoes be the culprit? What about potatoes makes them cause joint inflammation?

  45. I have to say that I disagree that Sam Gamgee was manic, even if he was a starch eater. I saw him as by far the steadiest of the hobbit group. Frodo OTOH, while fairly steady in the book, albeit somewhat fey, was played by Elijah Wood as kind of manic.

    I’m one who didn’t come to the PB for weight loss (wasn’t that big an issue for me), but for better health, after reading about wheat. However, I’ve lost weight anyway, maybe too much, so maybe I’ll put some potatoes back in my diet, even though I have never loved ’em that much anyway, except for french fries.

    Nice post Mark, LOTR has long been one of my all time favorite books. And I thought the movies was very good too, thankfully.

  46. Great post.
    I cannot eat potatoes or tomatoes, they are, for me, inflammatory and kick up arthritic pain. I once ate gluten-free at PeiWei and was in intense pain the next day. I called and learned they had used potato flour. (PF Changs however uses rice flour for GF.)

    I can eat sweet potatoes which are from the morning glory family -BUT- I don’t. Its carbs leave me feeling heavy. I might splurge and make sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving with zero sugar and a nut crust. I’ll probably cut back on fruit for a few days prior.

  47. A lot of the time, I think that if we just avoided sugar and high fructose, avoided prepackaged food, and instead cooked all our own food, as was mostly done before, say 1965, there wouldn’t be much of a problem with obesity. When I was a kid in the 50’s you just didn’t see many people around who were very overweight.

  48. OK, my conclusions:

    Anything approaching Gollum’s body fat is repulsive.

    I decided before I started this that I was going to go on eating potatoes. I do. About twice a week. Even if you could prove to me that it would take 5 years off my life.

    Fortunately, I am losing weight and everything else is going fantastically well despite eating potatoes, rice or corn (about 2 servings of one of those) daily.

  49. Gollum seemed to be the one with serious manic problems. At least Sam went barefoot all the time.

    Sure would like to know how Legolas loaded up on carbs for long distance runs…….

    1. Elves are lighter than snow. And Gollum doesn’t wear shoes either.

      (Barefoot propaganda!)

  50. I’ve not found any research on this but the older varieties of potatoes are very different to the modern ones. Much slower releasing sugars and also much better flavour. My guess is they did something to them around about just after WW1. We tend to stick to the old maori varieties from way back for the times when we eat potatoes.

  51. Potatoes may or may not be bad for you. I’ve never had a weight problem, used to be a runner (until my back and knees gave out), so eating potatoes or not is not a weight thing for me.
    All I know now (and want to know) is that since I went Primal about 3 months ago, along with improving my posture per the Esther Gokhale method, I have all but stopped taking even ibuprofen for my many-joint arthritis. And when I fall off the Primal wagon even for a day or 2, I can feel the difference. I’m a believer!
    PS. If I ate many potatoes anymore, it would be in the form of potato chips, and probably half the bag.

  52. Before I read this, I prayed Mark’s concluding sentence will be: Hell yeah, eat the potatoes!

    Y_Y

  53. Samwise carried Frodo AND the ring up the side of Mount Doom.

    Just sayin’

  54. Awesome post, especially since I read it after spending all day building a ballista for Ring Game (www.ringgame.net) this weekend.

  55. I tend to avoid cooking white potatoes at home, but will eat small quantities (e.g. a few tbsp of mashed potatoes or 3-4 fingerlings) if they are served on the side of my meal in a restaurant. I don’t think potatoes are so much “bad” for us as they are simply far less nutritious than other vegetables. Thus, I would prefer to get my calories from veggies that are more nutritionally dense.

    I do cook other starchy gourds and tubers (yams, squashes, pumpkin), but I tend towards consuming these types of foods post-workout only, and on an infrequent basis (a few times per month).

  56. Here’s the thing….

    The potatoes we buy are like the corn we buy — nothing resembling the whole food they once were. I am hoping the true indigenous tubers, even the ones domesticated by the Mesoamericans, still exist. The potatoes we know are not ‘whole’ foods, any more than the ‘sweet’ corn is.

    If you’re Scottish or Irish, or of any European genetic heritage, your ancestors have only been able to eat potatoes for 300 years. Your metabolism isn’t programmed to eat them — you’re conditioned to do so by a cultural adaptation by people facing extreme poverty and extreme exploitation.

    Yeah, they taste good. God, they taste good — because tater tots were comfort food, and baked potatoes and butter and fried potatoes with onion and maybe cheese, have traditionally been ‘cheap’ food, the food of the poor — be it the working class or the college student.

    Don’t be sentimental about ‘taties. If you must look to ‘culinary heritage’, the Irish and Scottish ones, the TRUE ones, are things like Venison, Salmon, beef (especially Ireland!), turnips, parsnips…. If you must have a traditional carbohydrate staple, it’s Oats.

    I know, it’s a rant. Sorry!

    1. I never had a turnip before going LC. They are my substitute for mashed potatoes. No, they really don’t taste much like a potato, but when I get done cooking them up with some parmesan cheese and maybe some sour cream … ummmm! yummie!

  57. I’m trying to lose my excess fat so I am staying far away from potatos. Sides I never cared much for the pasty things anyway. Also I don’t care what yahoo put out there about bread. It is still not good for me so out the window with it. I was tough at first to give these things up but now I feel so good I don’t want to eat them anymore. My health means more to me than a bowl of starch.

  58. Definitely have to agree with Carly, Frodo was doing some major heavy lifting!
    Not to mention going barefoot all of the time…
    (And speaking for all of us “nerds” out there, thank you for acknowledging that the books ARE better.)
    Secondly,
    Potatoes.
    These are one of my downfalls in the Primal lifestyle. However, I have found if I eat them consistently for a week or so I feel almost like I did when on grains. Thus, limited potato consumption for me. Although it helps that it is a slightly grey area…

  59. I think in reality Samwise wouldvt lost weight.

    If you’re as active as someone like Michael Phelps (and Grok mustve approximated to something like that) then potatoes and diet dont matter so much. Michael Phelp’s diet is wretched (look it up!), yet he is in amazing shape. All about the hormones and being super active. Do that and diet is just details.

  60. Potatoes don’t seem to have an adverse effect on me. Then again, they aren’t a staple of my diet. So I include them when the desire strikes me.

  61. Oh this was a delightful post on 2 fronts: 1) great literature (Fantasy) from the man who (posthumously won the greatest Sci Fi award of the 20th century – JRR Tolkien) -what a great story writer (and MY favorite!), & 2) the issues w/ potatos and cereals/grains/starch in general.

    Let’s address both of these subjects gently.

    1) I am THRILLED that I was able to read the original JJR Tolkien Trilogy to my 3 children BEFORE we saw the movies (and got all the DVDs)! It is a seried of moments that I will cherish for all time. Actually, my younger son, while watching “The Two Towers” in the movie LOUDLY EXCLAIMED “hey Gack (aka Dad) that’s not what happens to Aragorn (Strider) in the book!!!!” “Shush Josh, we’re disturbing the other people watching the movie!” “But gack, that;s not how the story GOES!!!” “Josh, I’ll explain later…” “Oh, gack, they got it WRONG!!!” “Yes, Josh, I’ll explain later when we get home – have some more popcorn…”

    And so it went – he was so crushed by what Peter Jackson did there. Because he loved the story better. But! It captured their hearts and made them better at reading literature! Coolio!

    Literature 101 – was a success! It grasped their hearts!

    On to topic #2) Potatos: did you miss Merry ans Pippin making sausage & bacon both at Weathertop as well as in the lower ranges of the Misty Mountains??

    Potatos are something we now eat about one time every 6 months. My concern is our rice intake (Zatarains). Usually when I make their “dirty rice” or “jambalaya” recipe (sorry fellas, I am the prep cook on the weekends). Both involve a hefty amount of beef and sausage.

    But it gets back to your comment on “Rice” some years ago (2007). Mebbe, we can tolerate a little bit?

    Personally, I am NOT primal. I eat the equivalent of about 3-4 pieces of bread per week (I am so ashamed – grin!).

    But, during the week I GORGE on raw vegetables (not just `cause they taste great, but also b/c they are a great enzyme replacement therapy! (sprouting, seeding, and something else (I forgot) vegetables are frickin’ LOADED w/ enzymes!!!).

    Man! Have I noticed a difference (even though for the past 20 years I have been pseudo-primal (beef eater))!

    But my key source of “sugar” is from raw snap peas and frozen peas – dudes are very sweet! Oh yeh, and bananas. But that is incidental as I am going after the potassium.

    Plus, a whopping and overwhelming amount of cheese (digestive metabolic rate is much better than MILK!) and olives! Hey! We all gotta pick our path of how we are gonna die, right? This is mine. Especially french cheese – Yum!

    I am a Brie-aholic! (But Gruyere is my FAV – just can’t afford it)

    As to “weight”, our society’s ever-encompassing ADDICTION (I don’t weigh myself except rarely b/c I had to buy the scales `cause my boys wrestled) – I am 6’1/2″ and weigh about 162-167 (a bit heavy – I have bones like a bird, but I can see my toes!!)

    But as 2-4 “sigma” athlete (sorry dude – You were a 6-sigma+ athlete; I didn’t break the 10-minute barrier in cross-country until I was a freashman in college – DUDE!!)), and a player in college/adult Ultimate (right below the National level), I can tell you that athletics DO matter when you are young.

    And they MATTER when you are 50+. O/w, your body will start to cannabalize your muscles (~atrophy). Your body will “digest” your muscles and turn them into fat. If you lift, you promote testorone which promotes muscle promotion.

    But as to recent comments regarding Ultimate, DUDE, you must realize that players at the regional/national level are TOTALLY chronic-cardio! (As I was)

    Better bet is to suggest some light Ultimate pick-up. You get some sprints (like your oh-so-familiar interval work-out) and be done with it!

    Just a friendly tip – I’ve seen your prior messages about Ulitmate and “chronic-cardio” – thought I would mention what Ultimate is really about at my (previous) level.

    peace, brothers…

  62. The posters comments here today were not only great(!!!), but they were very funny too!

    I laughed temendously (an ex nihilo) poster…

  63. No problems with potatoes. If I haven’t eaten any in a real long time, I’ll get mild gas, but if I then start to eat them several times a week I no longer get it.

  64. It’s actually hard for me to GAIN any weight. Sweet potatoes are my fave, and if I feel like my blood glucose is out of whack, then I commit to a 24 hour fast, or just skip breakfast and lunch, and then supplement with ceylon cinnamon. My diet is roughly 60/40 raw/cooked. Not much meat, lots ‘o veg, fruits, nuts, avo, egg yolk, fermented soybeans, and SAHWEET Potatoes!

  65. this post makes me want to go to my favorite watering hole, which serves up the best sweet potato fries i’ve ever had along with really tasty IPAs on tap. i also like potatoes with bacon and egg “treat” breakfasts out. but lately i’ve been laying off them…my digestion is picky and lately it says no to potatoes. i’m pretty sure the oils they fry them in when i eat out are really bad anyhow.

  66. Haven’t had any potatoes since this round of the 30 day challenge (Sept 7, 10) Before we may have had them 4x a week! My husband loves his meat, potatoes, and veggies and would eat that every night if I served it. I think potatoes are in that gray area where other gluten free foods I was eating in abundance prior to the primal lifestyle fall (rice, beans, etc.). I think I now understand where all the weight gain came from! We were having tons of homemade Mexican food weekly also in the way of Enchiladas, Tacos, etc. made with corn tortillas. I can slowly feel myself losing some weight but I know it will take a long time as it was a long time putting it on, and I’m patient. As long as I feel well and I’m satiated from all the delicious primal fare, all is good in my world. I do have a yam smothered in butter at least once a month. Infact I had that included in one of my breakfasts over the 30 day challenge! Delish=)

  67. I have been reading for months and gently easing into the primal pool. This post is the funniest, most timelest I have read. Thank you Mark! Not only for answering my questions, of late, about tubers, but also for tickling my ribcage! Grok squats can do much, but not that!

    1. @Mark, Is an aversion to avocado common? I feel sick and pained in the middle when I eat it, more than I do with any other food (read grains). I do not have problems with any other nuts or fruits, nor am I allergic to anything. I’m sad and confused ’cause I make a mean guac! Grok guac rules!

  68. If you like them they can be hard to give up. However, I guess I am lucky in that I never really cared much for spuds. Now knowing what that big bowl of starch is doing to me I like them even less. While I’m trying to slim down I have been real careful of grains and all the starchy stuff I used to eat. But, if potatos are your thing and you want them have them but, be ready to pay for it all that starch at once can’t be good for you. My head hurts thinking about it.

  69. I love how the cast of Lord of the Rings took the place of Grok today for potato eating. Tolken would be so proud 😀

  70. Very well written blog, thank you! alike Led Zeppelin, the lord of the rings references are great!

    Regarding potatoes I prefer sweet potato in moderation. It would be good to know your advice about the skin of either tuber though.

    Also think it should be added that this doesn’t give anyone permission to go out and think that eating deep fried in vegetable oil like “Fish and Chips” is suddenly Primal.

  71. I liked your site when it was more nutrition based and less “I want to be a cave man”. “Grok-on” and Elvish lore are a bit to out there. The site went from respectable to a little ridiculous. Can’t say I enjoy your post much anymore.

    1. I’m impressed with his ability to take a piece of modern media and draw a real lesson from it.

      I don’t know Mark’s “target audience” but I have to assume it also includes people without the desire/ability to wade through 4 years to get a biology degree and decades of science and extract a sensible, logical, supportable and most importantly DO-able philosophy and turn all of that dry, insoluble fiber into an engaging, understandable, relevant story that most everyone can understand.

      I’d say Mark is an amazing teacher for exactly the ability you call “ridiculous”.

      Ok, so it isn’t your style. Give the guy a break. He’s trying to make this LIFE SAVING information available and palatable to as many people as possible.

      If he was only interested in impressing bunged up, tight sphinctered, lab coated blowhards, he wouldn’t have put this site together (for FREE) at all.

  72. Any time I make a major decision, I always ask myself, “Is this something Frodo Baggins would do?” Nobody wants to be a Samwise.

    WWFBD?

  73. Nice post.

    I do yams occasionally, but white potatoes are out for me.

    I think more people need to understand that there are a few grey areas in paleo/primal eating.

  74. Potatoes are my Precious. They are My Birthday Present! If you try to take them away from me, I might bite your finger off!

    Seriously, I grow cute little Peruvian purple fingerling potatoes, and larger sweet potatoes. For somebody trying to grow a lot of their own food, potatoes really are The Precious. They can make more calories per square foot than almost any other food plant.

    I read an article recently about Andean people who practically live on potatoes, and they are not fat. Granted, they walk a lot.

    And I’m not just saying this because I’m Irish.

  75. i think potatoes are great for use in carb re-feeds i.e after some heavy training… i think making the diet more cyclical is the best approach…

  76. I cannot lie…I love potatoes! I have mostly given them the boot since becoming primal – however there are occasions when I will happily eat a few. I really wish I could stomach sweet potatoes, but after years of being forced to eat disgusting sweet potato casserole (w/loads of sugar and marshmallows saturating the poor potatoes!)during the holidays, I can’t eat them without a strong gag reflex. Shame, since they are so good for you!

    Anyway, just wanted to say that if I feel like going all crazy and eating something from SAD, I’ll take a baked potato over fast food or processed junk anyday.

    And while not a LOTR fan, I find that your use of this to explain how food intake & exercise affect people is great. Anyway you can get through to folks about this is awesome! I constantly share your feeds on my FB page in hopes of getting others interested. I’m not going to preach it to them, but I hope my interest will encourage others to check it out – and I have had a few friends and family start leaning this way! So keep up the good work, Mark!

  77. How funny that you use a fantasy film to perpetuate the belief that anyone who enjoys as much whole foods as their appetite requires (including potatoes) would be manic depressive and overweight.

    People do not enter into a metabolically damaged state from eating potatoes, and potatoes are not going to hinder metabolic healing. True metabolic damage is done by industrial food, chronic exercise, and prolonged dieting… or anything that raises stress hormones and increases inflammation in the body, including odd obsessions with bashing whole foods.

    1. “the belief that anyone who enjoys as much whole foods as their appetite requires”

      Whole foods? Isn’t that one of those nebulous terms that means absolutely squat and just serves as a placeholder for “food I consider nutritious”? I’m sure that not everything that isn’t processed is good to consume.

      “potatoes are not going to hinder metabolic healing”

      Is that opinion based on extensive expertise working with metabolically disordered individuals, or did you just make that up?

      1. Yes, it is based on my extensive expertise. I was certainly metabolically disordered and I know many people who are and have been. The presence or lack of potatoes in their diet was not the deciding factor in the restoration of metabolic health. Period. And if it’s not, then why obsess about it? Better to put energy into finding and avoiding foods that are causing real problems.

        By whole foods I mean foods traditional, healthy cultures ate. (Not Dannon yogurt or whole wheat Wonder Bread, obviously, I’m not a moronic USDA spokesperson.) And if we assume potatoes aren’t healthy because traditional cultures weren’t metabolically damaged, then why do we assume steak is? What is the difference?

        1. My question was rhetorical. Your personal experiences are irrelevant. You can’t speak with that kind of authority from anecdote. Your elaboration on your original invalid statement is unfortunate.

          “”By whole foods I mean foods traditional, healthy cultures ate”

          More subjectivism. Using “traditional” and “healthy” in the same sentence doesn’t unite those concepts into any kind of coherence and certainly doesn’t imply “wholeness”.

          “And if we assume potatoes aren’t healthy because traditional cultures weren’t metabolically damaged, then why do we assume steak is?”

          Because a disordered insulin cycle *is* metabolic damage, making carbohydrate loads aggravating whether they come from potatoes, fruit or otherwise. Healthy undamaged people being able to process taters round the clock doesn’t mean a lifelong victim of CW can do the same.

  78. It’s not JUST the potato. It’s the whole diet you have to look at when trying to determine what puts weight on–or keeps it off. And it’s your exercise program, too.

    At 55, I competed in bodybuilding at age 41. I carried low bodyfat for years before competing, and I ate potatoes regularly back then. Including them in my diet permitted me to drop bodyfat. But, then, it wasn’t just the potatoes that did that. It was regular, intense weight workouts along with a disciplined lower-carb diet devoid of processed junk.

    I’m not a huge potato fan, but I like them every once in a while, for dietary variety. They’re also great after a workout, when the insulin surge and blood sugar spike help shuttle protein into muscle cells.

    I find it interesting that Russets have such high ORAC value…so I tend to find room in my diet for any food that promises me health benefits.

  79. I grow wonderful bintje yellow potatoes but if I eat any nightshades my osteoarthritis kicks my butt. I’ve been able to stop taking celebrex since I gave them up…**sigh** and I’m grateful but sometimes a teensy potatoe tear trickles down my cheek…

  80. Thanks Mark! I’m totally with you here. I know a lot of Primals are Low-Carb and have weight loss goals, but I’m underweight, low energy, and have a weight-GAIN goal. Ultimately the Kitavan example prompted me to experiment with raising my starch intake. It’s been successful! I do bananas and sweet potatoes, and have much more energy. It’s only been 2 weeks, so we’ll see about weight gain, but it’s worth it for the energy.

  81. I am sure that if potatoes were in the land of Grok, he and his family would have eaten them. Potatoes keep well, veratile and they taste delicious. Actually I think that the only reason I cannot eat potatoes has nothing to do with the potatoes but all of the candy, bread, rice,Little Debbies etc that I included in my diet just ruined any hope I may have had to eat my ever-loving, potatoes.

  82. I just had to comment, given that my strong Lithuanian heritage makes avoiding potatoes impossible during the holidays. I have a Lithuanian cookbook. It has a section on bread. All, oh, five entries are just variations on the first recipe for real, fermented black rye. But then there is a whole section dedicated to potatoes. They literally eat potatoes with EVERYTHING. Oh, and sour cream.

    I can take or leave potatoes, except when it comes to Lithuanian cuisine. Given that I’m so close to my roots (I still have relatives over there), I think I just won’t worry when potatoes are on the menu. I just won’t have them all the time!

  83. Initially, I completely eliminated them. But now I eat them in moderation once a week at the most, especially after I learned the importance of re-feeding (replenishing my glycogen and leptin levels). As long as I boil or bake them and eat them in moderation, there are no adverse or bloating effects. I have similar good results with corn. Too bad I can’t say the same about potato chips – my all time favorite comfort food, so salty and crunchy – they really leave me bloated.

  84. The BIG difference with primal is eliminating the grains. They cause all sorts of problems. Potatoes, with plenty of fat to slow down the sugar release, are fine and necessary for me. Sally Fallon is quite clear in her book Nourishing Traditions that tubers were a part of most traditional societies and they were ALWAYS consumed with lots of fat. They are very easy on digestion, unlike grains, and are delicious. Spuds are definitely primal and should be enjoyed.

  85. This is my favorite post ever Mark and that’s saying a lot! I’m not even that much of a LOR fan, but the Sam/Frodo comparison is just so visual. When you hope to see Gollum in the mirror that’s some kind of hard core. Sadly, when I look in the mirror I see Sam. I certainly needed the inspiration to leave those spuds in the field. Many thanks for all of your work!

  86. French Fries.

    I, like many, eliminated potatoes for months. Now that I’ve reached my weight, I can step out of primal eating once in awhile and French Fries are one thing I do enjoy. Especially if I make my own using lard. I may suffer from a leaden stomach for a half hour or so, but it goes away pretty quickly.

  87. I have made a decision that I can eat those yummy potatos once in a while with strict moderation. Like last night I made this super delicious salmon cooked in oven with cream, sour cream, onions, garlic, 3 different peppers – I decided to take one small-ish size potato to accompany the two carrots and salad. There was a lot of salmon to eat but still I didn’t get that bloated feeling that I used to get when eating salmon – the difference was the potato count.

    Altough, I have been following the PB for a few months now and seen the results (seems like without any effort I’ve dropped 10 pounds of flab [from my impressive 160 pounds :D]) so I can give myself a few ‘treats’ here and there.

    As Mark pointed it out, it’s mostly a personal decision.

  88. Oh yeah, just to mention that I generally avoid them because I don’t want that bloated feeling or the sleepiness that follows if stuffing my face with too much carbs/food at one sitting.

    Just an afterthought. 🙂

  89. This post made me laugh so much, because it’s SO true! I’ve been Primal for 4 weeks, lost 9lb, and feel so much healthier already.
    I think Sam would’ve benefitted from switching to parsnip chips too 😉

  90. RE: Gollum’s bad hair and skin

    I’ll cut him a little slack on this. After all, the dude is almost six-hundred years old.

  91. Raising insulin levels and the high GI are not the only problems with potatoes.
    They contain a lot of anti-nutrients, like lectins etc. The whole plant is poisonous – leaves, flowers, etc – we can only consume the tuber. Isn’t it possible that it also contains some poisons?
    Furthermore, here in Europe (and other continents, for eg most people in the present US for that matter) we’ve been consuming this plant for barely 500 years. Before Colombus it was unknown for the rest of the world. To what extent have we been able to get accustomed genetically to a plant that we have known only for a couple of hundred years?

  92. I love my main crop red rascals baked and my early crop of jersey bennies boiled. We grow them organically and in very healthy soil… we know what we are putting in our body. With three or four other home grown vegies every night to sit next to the grass fed beef that we raise and kill on our little farm, its a perfect meal to help keep the old fart at 10% fat and a VO2 max bigger than his age. Spuds… right for me.

  93. This post was the best and most amusing thing I’ve read all week. The ad for lembas wafers topped it off (kudos to Dragonmamma for posting the link). Thanks for being a fantastic and entertaining writer, Mark!

  94. Don’t forget Golem as a model of paleo fitness. The hearty lad lived on raw fish and raw rabbits, and the meat off of an occasional small orc or goblin (according to the books)…Paleo indeed! He was strong, lean, and tough as nails! Sure…over time, his hair fell out, his eyes started bulging, his skin turned somewhat grayish green in color, and he was plagued by chronic whooping cough and serious dental issues, but that was largely due to his living in a dark, watery cave for decades, being tortured by the forces of Mordor, and–of course–the ever debilitating effects of owning that cursed ring.

    1. Those negatives could as well be attributed to negotiatig his salary with Sir Peter.

  95. Everyone is forgetting the one true food that nearly every people, race, kingdom or nation ate at one time or another usually during times of great stress and drought. PEOPLE. The long pig is probably the most nutritional of any animal meat, easy to catch, easy to kill, easy to butcher and oh so easy to eat. Delicious. Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew. Better than a brace of coneys and more meat than you can possibly eat in one sitting. We can all look forward to returning to the cannibal cookery soon when the grocery shelves are empty and the government stooges burn your little victory gardens to the ground lest you have non GMO Monsanto foods to eat or barter. We do not know fear, we do not know pain… we will EAT MANFLESH!

  96. AAAAARG! My grrrrr-avatar didn’t show up. We ain’t had nuttin’ but maggoty bread for three stinkin’ days! Yea, why can’t we have some meat? My, you look tasty!

  97. after surviving 6 months of pancreatitus where food of any kind made me feel worse. I am now eating, Love my oatmeal, squash of anykind, legumes (onions for my dark sweets, and toasted pear slices or banana slices for my potassium sugar. Water, tea and soymilk. may sound disgusting, however, more energy, less body fat, and for a chef, thats amazing!

  98. I grew up in Eastern Europe (I’m Polish/Russian), and life is inconceivable there without potatoes. They are everywhere – in soups, salads, as a side dish, even as a main entree, you name it. The rest of the diet is pretty primal – lots of meat, veggies, some fruit and some dairy. The majority people there are slim. During my childhood working out was not something people did, and yet most still stayed slim. I never had any weight problems back then, they started when I got pregnant for the first time. I did not completely eliminate potatoes when trying to lose postpartum, but I limited the intake, and I still lost (slowly but surely). I’ve tried eliminating potatoes completely, too, and it seems that they simply have no impact on my weight. With potatoes or without, I don’t lose or gain. So I decided I’m going to indulge sparingly… I do love ’em taters. 😀

  99. Potato is so over-rated and over-served and it usually has a revolting texture.

    99.9% of the time everything tasty about a potato comes from something else: butter, salt, bacon, onion, mayo, sour cream, tasty grease, celery. And the potato itself distracts me from those other flavors I like. I swapped potato for turnip in a potato salad and it was delicious.

    I truly suspect most people do not stop to taste and analyze but just swish it down with their chosen liquid liver toxin of the day.

    Fried into a potato chip is the only special thing really….crispy texture is neat.

    1. I disagree, Olivia. I often have a baked potato with nothing on it at all – no salt, butter, etc. I love the texture. I’ve tried turnip, and hated it… Different strokes for different folks, I guess!

  100. My husband and I eat for our blood type so my husband limits his white potato intake and neither of us avoid sweet potatoes. We prefer green veggies anyway so we only have white potatoes about 6 times a month and sweet potatoes 2 to 4 times a month.

    We don’t see any weight gain or loss relative to our potato intake – it’s the grains that affect our weight.

  101. Being of Scottish extraction, and married to a man who could only be more Irish if he were born in Dublin, potatoes have been a big part of our diet. I’m four days into the primal way of life, and have decided to avoid spuds until I’ve lost this odd 20 pounds (would you believe I’m more than 2.5# down already?) I’ll see how I handle them after that – as a die hard grain-holic, though, I’m shocked that I’ve avoided grains as easily as I have – not that I don’t have to remind myself, but there are so many other options, and no grains = no real psychological need to snack between meals. Yahoo!

  102. This is personal, but I’ve noticed that eating paleo (with a lot of meat) gave me acne, while eating vegan with a lot of potatoes got them away. I’d rather eat paleo, but I’ve always been in better shape when I ate potatoes.

    The days where I looked at my best was, believe it or not, when I started eating tons of french fries and potato chips. I’m not saying this is healthy, but instead of reducing the amount of potatoes I eat, I’ll increase the amount. They taste great, I don’t care about the bad things they cause, as they obviously help me.

  103. Interesting…one of the challenges I face is that my wife is Bolivian, of Incan heritage, and their meals generally contain at least two, if not all three, of the non-nos – potatoes, pasta, and rice. Makes it hard to generate meal plans we both can live with because there’s no convincing her the potato is evil.

  104. My carb cravings have pretty much disappeared, so I don’t even want potatoes. But I sure like butternut squash/pumpkin, and its pretty close to a sweet potato, which taste ok but I’ve never liked the slimy-ish texture…

  105. Potatoes stall my weight loss but they don’t cause me to gain weight unless I eat alot of them and other stuff.

  106. Excellent post. Again it comes down to knowing your body and what works for you. Having said that it’s also being honest with yourself. Many people are overweight and don’t necessarily consider themselves to be. I personally don’t eat potatoes unless I’ve been invited to someone’s house for dinner and they’ve made them. I don’t have a problem with them but there are too many other amazing other foods I find tastier.

    1. Awesome post, also my favorite and I’m new to the Apple and love it.

      I get locally grown from an organic farm small blue and yellow potatoes that are amazing cooked Indian style with Turmeric.

      I somewhat limit potatoes because the starch maxes out my carb load quick but I enjoy them occasionally.

      I find I like the small colored ones (yellow, red) rather than the larger white variety. Don’t ask me why, just the big ones seem drier and more carby to me.

      I might get some of my geeky LOTR friends interested in paleo showing them this post!

      I WANT that recipe for Lembas someone mentioned:

      “lembas was made of a “meal that was baked a light brown on the outside, and inside was the color of cream”. i suggest that i was in fact a cake of almond meal, eggs, butter (or cream) and honey….”

      Goes away to do research..

      Thanks for this post!!!

      1. To clarify: yes I do get blue potatoes locally but you may not find them at your store.

        And when I say “bit potatoes” I mean those big ones with the dark brown skin and light colored flesh.

        The big yellow ones can be fine in my experience.

        Over and out. 🙂

  107. I have been eating copious amounts of potatoes for the last 9 months(10-12 per day) as my primary source of calories and I’ve lost 75lbs! Not bad eh paleo trolls. Had I followed the poor dietary advice offered here by this nitwit Sisson and all you fools, I’d be dead. So STFU and quit with the tuber bashing.

  108. As a kid when I was hungry and it was way before dinner was going to be ready my Mom would give me a big slice of uncooked white potato with a little salt and pepper on it to hold me over until dinner. Tasted fine and held me over.

    Any thoughts on the difference in the insulin response and nutrition between raw and cooked potatoes?

  109. I’d rather be a Samwise and lead a mortal life rich in good character and God made carbs than a vile, wretched Gollum dieting on raw fish, destined to an eternity of misery…which is pretty much what life would be without potatoes 😉

  110. Hasn’t anyone read Clan of the Cave Bear, The Earth’s Children series? Jean Auel did a ton of research for them. I remember something about “ground nuts” which were described as being similar to potatoes. The series is great if you want a good read. The main character knows ALOT about food.

  111. I don’t eat potatos (nightshade intolerance) but iv been experimenting with paleo over the last month. On three occasions sweet potato has caused bloating and weight gain. Nothing else iv eaten has had this reaction.

    So all potatos are off the menu for me I think.

  112. I have eliminated wheat, rice, legumes from my diet and life is 10x better, stronger leaner…

    However I do eat potatoes and yams regularly with my vegetables and steaks.

    They are very mineral and vitamin rich, they provide nice clean energy, and they are great on training days for adding muscle mass!

    Potatoes and beef all the way 😀

  113. Wondering what’s the take on sweet potatoes. I’ve been helping my mom cut out the grains and sugars, and I keep catching her cheating and thinking its healthy (juicifying fruits and veggies with yoplait flavors into smoothies is a fun example) Every meal she tells me about involves sweet potatoes. My instinct says sweet potatoes on the reg is still a lot of carbs and sugar and not really necessary, but I’m also thinking that if she’s gonna eat something sweet it might as well be that. Any cautions against daily sweet potato consumption aside from the fact that you just might not lose weight as effortlessly? What about for my diabetic grandma? Any concerns there? Thanks guys!

  114. I wouldn’t worry about sweet potatoes… there’s lots more to them than just carbs. Advise your family members to steer clear of empty carbs, processed food, grains… but I would advise you not to push them too hard (e.g. no carbs at all) or they’ll stop listening to you altogether!

  115. New to the paleo diet, our family has been eating low starch, refined grains and sugar diet a long time. Alway heavy on the veggies and proteins. SInce starting paleo, I save the potatoes for big workout days. It helos me stay energized int eh workout.

  116. I’ve been tinkering with this.. So, I like to eat potatoes raw. Like the little Gold potatoes, from Trader Joe’s. I just slice them and eat them raw with a little salt on them. Am I eating something I shouldn’t be, by eating them raw?

  117. I’ve been playing with fermenting potatoes to reduce the starchiness, reduce inflammatory bullshit and just cause I like fermenting things to see what it does.

    I use brine from sour kraut previously made, so the culture is already established and armed with enzymes. The result is a delicious and far more complex food, with a really nice flavor arch. Can’t do shit with it other than mash, since the fermentation loosens it up quite a bit, but you don’t need to add sour cream or salt cause it’s already got the sour/savory thing going on. Just add one metric f&*^ton of butter and you’ve got a great side dish for a post assbust meal.

  118. I ate plenty of raw potatoes when I was a child. In fact I found them quite palatable. (Not ‘New potatoes’ as they gave me a slight burning sensation on my tongue.) I can’t say I was ever ill through eating a raw, King Edward’s!

  119. I used potatoes to help eliminate wheat, for example eggs with potatoes and I still lost 12 pounds in less than two mnoths. I also eliminated sugar. So occasional potatoes seems to suit my metabolism ok.

  120. Being Irish and all, I eat between 4 and 6 spuds a day and I don’t have a problem with them. Even if I did, I couldn’t give them up. Dad and myself have just finished planting all of this years spuds and if I don’t eat them the alternative is going hungry.

  121. Mark, thank you for the great post about potatoes.
    I grew up in a potato eating culture, where potatoes were the main source of energy along freshwater fish and game meat, counting probably as high as 50% of the daily calorie intake. I, however, quickly grew out of the habit of eating potatoes when I moved out of home. This was something that came very natural to me without anyone ever telling me that I should not eat potatoes. This happened when I was about 20 years old, after extremely active childhood. For me that indicates that my body was telling me that I do not need all those starchy calories anymore as my metabolism was slowing down, as was my activity level, too. Nevertheless, I do still enjoy potatoes occasionally, as long as they are “primal” varieties and organic.

    As a side note I would like to point out one thing about Tolkien and his inspiration. In addition to the Norsk and Anglo-Saxon mythology, one of Tolkiens major inspirations came from the Finnish national epic Kalevala and finnish language.
    “Tolkien’s High Elvish language, Quenya, was inspired by Finnish. Tolkien taught himself Finnish in order to read the Kalevala, a 19th-century compilation of old Finnish songs and stories arranged by Elias Lönnrot into a linear epic poem and completed in 1835 and revised in the mid-1800s.
    The Kalevala epic parallels the real history of the Finns. It played a key role in preserving the oral legends and songs of the Finns, which linguists think date back to preagricultural Finland. As cultural anthropologist Wade Davis notes, “it goes back to the time of the shaman … when people lived…”
    continue reading here: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngbeyond/rings/language.html

    You might already guess that I’m a Finn myself 😉

    Thanks!

  122. I feel fine when I eat potatoes, they are high in nutrients and contrary to popular belief I consider them a low calorie, healthy food. That being said a large potato has roughly 90 calories and can quickly gain more when fat is added which also diminishes the nutritional value. To feel satiated I have found that I need to eat a starchy carbohydrate and potatoes fit the bill.

  123. I’m 29, 6’1 and 155 lbs. basically been this weight since high school. Before paleo I could eat anything and not gain a pound. In fact I ate 10k calories a day for three months once and didn’t gain much. I just started paleo and I feel hungry non stop even though I am eating tons and often through out the day. I also get headaches in the evening (I’m guessing withdrawals) so would working in some potatoes help here?

  124. I follow Dr. Kwasniewski’s Optimal Diet and eat a potato every night for dinner and continue to lose weight each week.

  125. What about the toxic compounds in potatoes – glycoalkaloids? If I remember right they are not present in sweet or yams. Also too lazy to look it up right now, but i believe these compounds are mainly in the skin of the potato.

  126. What about soaking potatoes in water for a few hours and then boiling them to remove starch? Does that make it better?

  127. I’ve got ‘kinda’ Paleo a while back. I was always a chubby kid, despite being incredibly active from the age of 5 until my late teens (when drink and drugs took over from sport as my main focus). I used to go to the gym four times a week, play tennis, swim, and cycle, and yet I was always sporting a flabby gut.

    I grew up eating mountains of mash, and later, my mum got into pulses and pasta in the early 80’s, and from the age of 20, until my late 30’s I steadlly but slowly put on weight. Back in 2008, I split up my girlfriend rather messily, and decided to stop drinking and smoking, and lost quite a bit of weight straight away, the following year, I was given a book by my Gary Taubes on carbs and weight gain, and changed my diet, eliminating or reducing, rice, pasta, bread, and potatoes (thought less so potatoes). I went from 16 stone at my heaviest, to 14 stone now (I’m 6 foot 3 and fairly big built) – and my weight now very rarely varies my more than a couple of pounds in either direction. I exercise moderately, cycling 4 miles a day, and occasionaly doing some calisthenics and weight training once or twice a week. I’m in better shape now than my late 20’s. I smoke and drink, perhaps once a week, maybe twice I’ll have a good old drink, some weeks none at all.

    Last year I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease, after a year of feeling so bad I felt like I was dying, i was so fatigued and malnourished, I could hardly stay awake during the day, constantly had IBS, and couldn’t concentrate. After a battery of blood tests, my doctor suggested eliminating grains completetly, which I did, and immediately felt better. The test for Coeliac disease came back negative, but my doctor said the test was not reliable and said to trust my body – what a great doctor! He was right.

    On to potatoes. I found that after long bouts of carb rich foods for several weeks, I would lose a lot of body fat, and then could reintroduce potato, and very occasionally rice into my diet, without gaining weight. However, once I start eating those things, I find an incredible craving – I eat enough rice for 4 people the other night, and in the same week, wolfed down two huge baked potatoes.

    I think clearly that if you reset your metabolism by elimination – you can afford to reintroduce those foods, but you need to watch out for the binging. I could eat a huge pot of mashed potato with butter which would feed 6-8 people by myself, without any trouble.

  128. I certainly try to avoid white potatoes as much as I can, but when my mum makes a pot roast, my body wont let me say no.
    Its good to know im not really breaking any laws if I nibble a few spuds every 6 months or so.

  129. The only way for me to keep a healthy (high enough) weight is to eat starches.
    I eat lots of banana’s, carrots and I also eat sweet potatoes or potatoes once in while.
    I do not know how my insulin levels are doing though. I don’t have any obvious problems, but I feel a bit weak if I don’t eat for a long time. Not sure that means anything.
    I always had an extremely hard time gaining and that helps plus fat.
    I tried low carb before, I was able to maintain at a lower weight and not lose but my face was sunk in, saggy and I started getting a fungus on my face and digestive issues as well as PMS, thyoroid and liver problems…short: it really wasn’t for me. With the same weight and starch I looked glowing, youthful it rud me of all the problems 🙂

  130. Im at week 5 of paleo eating and I have terrible nasal congestion, week 3 I felt great after an initial 2 week detox. Any suggestions what the problem could be?

  131. Oh, read the books, folks: Frodo complains about his waistline in the first few chapters, and both Sam and Frodo lost a significant amount of weight during their quest to destroy the ring. They are HOBBITS; they weren’t eating as much as they normally did–they were starving, lembas or no–and were far more physically active than usual, in fact physically tortured. Gollum was alive merely by willpower and the influence of the ring, not his diet. Using their weight and diet as a measure of their survival is as irrelevant as using their height. It’s not meant to be a serious correlation, although it did appeal to my LOTR nerdiness. 😉

    I think it’s far more significant to point out Sam’s distrust of ‘foreign food’ as he describes the Elven lembas, and Tolkien’s own preference for ‘simple fare’ and forging in the woods for wild mushrooms. Simple unprocessed foods–whether one includes tubers or not–sounds like a healthier way to me, and seems to be working for me. I don’t currently eat white potatoes or dairy on a regular basis, but I’m also avoiding even paleo baked goods because I tend to overeat them and I’m trying to avoid that.

  132. For children: how about potatoes for children who have a healthy weight, are active, and seem to have a relatively “undamaged” metabolism. I have 6 year old twins and I’ve very recently gone paleo. They were put on grain-free just this past week. After about 6 days the loose stools started and I thought to check for ketosis. I was not too happy to see that’s where they are at–in keto! So I’m scrambling to find carb and starch sources *that they’ll eat* (picky eating persists, of course.) Bananas aren’t yet an option (but I’m baking them into lots of things for them,) but I know they’d eat baked “french fries” or hash browns. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

  133. Don’t forget that Gollum was a cannibal, so he probably went mad due to prions. (Loads of those in goblin brains!)

  134. I remember hating the *taste* of white potatoes as a child (and yukons, reds, russets, etc); then add on the ‘bloated/sick’ feeling afterwards, and that further increased my distaste for potatoes. SWEET potatoes, however, are a completely different story. They send my energy levels through the roof, and don’t seem to affect my digestive tract.

  135. I’ve heard that cooking and then cooling a potato helps turn its starches back into a more resistant starch. can you heat the potato back up really quick in the microwave before eating it or do you have to eat it cold to retain the benefits?