Recently, however, Paleo luminaries like Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf have started challenging the idea that potatoes are a primal no-no.
The conventional Paleo wisdom condemned potatoes for three reasons: their high glycemic index, low nutritional value, and the toxin saponin. Once you examine each of these points in more detail, however, potatoes don't seem that problematic at all.
Nutritionally, potatoes have a nutritional profile very similar to sweet potatoes, which have been Paleo-approved for years. Potatoes even have higher amounts of vitamin B6, thiamin and certain amino acids than their sweet counterparts.
Potatoes have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause a spike in blood sugar levels and blood insulin levels. Sweet potatoes also have a relatively high glycemic index. Judging by their glycemic index alone, there's little reason why one potato is better than the other. If you're concerned about your sugar levels, or have diabetes, you should probably avoid all potatoes.
Potatoes do contain saponins, a toxin that plants use as a defensive mechanism. Some are concerned that saponins could cause leaky gut syndrome or other health issues, although little scientific research supports these claims.
All told, potatoes and sweet potatoes have very similar nutritional pros and cons. If you eat sweet potatoes, there's little reason why you should avoid regular potatoes.
Putting potatoes back on the Paleo menu does not mean that potato chips of fast-food fries are a healthy choice. Ultimately, the decision to include potatoes in your diet is a personal one, and depends on your body, and your body's ability to handle starches.
If you're an athlete or you need this starch to keep your energy levels high, more power to you. Try this delicious Paleo potato salad recipe from Mark's Daily Apple – it tastes great using sweet potatoes or purple potatoes as well!
Paleo potato salad
4 large Okinawan purple potatoes, sweet potatoes or regular potatoes
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 pickles, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil, then add the potatoes. Boil until a fork easily pierces the potatoes. The amount of time will vary depending on the size of the potato chunks, but will probably be somewhere between 10 to 25 minutes.
Drain the water and let the potatoes cool completely.
Gently mix 1/4 cup of the mayo with the potatoes. You can use more if you like, but start with this amount and then add more to your taste.
Add salt and pepper to the potato salad to taste. Then, mix in other flavors as desired, starting with 2 finely chopped pickles, 1 finely chopped jalapeno and/or 1 tablespoon of chopped chives.
Other possible additions to this potato salad included crumbled bacon, chopped red onion, and hardboiled egg.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont