When I started Primal in 2010, my attitude was that I would follow Mark on lots of things but I wasn't giving up potatoes - "I'm Irish. I have to eat potatoes!"
Right now, I can't handle potatoes. A few days ago, I made some potato salad. Very small semi-waxy Yukon golds, organic, extra virgin olive oil, organic balsamic vinegar, good quality cooked bacon, parsley. I ate a little of it the next day, cold. All of that should have blunted the glycemic impact. Two hours later, my glucose was 256. But if you don't have diabetes or metabolic syndrome, if your weight is good, and especially if you are active, you will probably do great on potatoes.
Some Paleo/Primal folks say that they came to find potatoes disgusting. Some Paleo/Primal people say that they can't tell the difference between cauliflower "mashed potatoes" and real ones. Amazing how humans can brainwash themselves into feeling what they think they should feel. I love potatoes as much as ever. And I love cauliflower, but it isn't mashed potatoes.
Thankfully, I have discovered Japanese white flesh sweet potatoes. (Purple ones are good too.) They really do look and taste like regular potatoes. If you can find them, give them a try. Standard sweet potatoes are OK but they are too sweet for me. When I need a potato for comfort food, a regular sweet potato won't do.
Ancient hunters and gatherers certainly ate tubers. Potatoes are from the new world. Humans did not discover them until the first native Americans came here. But most of the "Paleo" foods we eat are different from those eaten in Paleo times, especially larger. There are major differences between potato varieties and cooking methods. Large fluffy baked potatoes have a very high glycemic index. Small waxy potatoes, boiled and made into cold potato salad have a fairly low one.
Mind you, potatoes do contain poison. So do tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, but not nearly as much. (Most plants contain some sort of "poison" actually.) All four are in the Solanaceae or "nightshade" family. Relatives include lovely cousins such as Jimson weed, mandrake, belladonna and tobacco. Potatoes contain significant amounts of the glycoalkaloids solanine and chaconine. Solanine in particular has been accused of causing arthritis and other problems.
But "the dose makes the poison." (Paracelsus) That isn't completely true. For someone with celiac disease, tiny amounts of gluten can be poisonous. The same is true of peanuts and peanut allergy. But most people can handle the small amount of poison in potatoes.
Potato Eater's Guide
- Cook potatoes, refrigerate them, eat them cold (e.g. in potato salad) or rewarm them. This turns regular starch into resistant starch, a currently hot topic.
- Don't eat the skin. I know. The skin is the best part!
- Avoid potatoes with any green.
- Store potatoes in the dark.
- Keep them cool but not cold. Not in refrigerator.
- Discard or don't buy sunburned potatoes.
- Don't eat potatoes that taste bitter.
- Blue and golden potatoes have more anti-oxidants.
- Small, waxy potatoes have the least glycemic impact.
- Steaming, boiling, and baking all help reduce the alkaloid content of nightshades somewhat.