What I’ve learned since educating myself in nutrition is that if something is edible there’s a fad diet for it. Some of those diets have merit and are based in actual science, and others seem to get traction based around only how extreme they are. Fortunately, the potato cleanse seems like one of the healthier options for those who want to follow a strict diet regime. Also, yay potatoes!
What Is A Potato Cleanse?
While this is not really a ‘cleanse’ in the traditional sense (since there is no focus on eliminating toxins from the body), it’s more of a strict diet regime that focuses on keeping you well fed, without consuming too many calories, by eating potatoes and non-starch veggies.
The Potato Basics:
- Most of your calories should come from white or sweet potatoes.
- The rest of your diet should be filled with non-starch vegetables like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, etc.
- Fat free spices and garnishes are allowed as long as they are vegan
- You may consume up to 2 tbsp of sugar or sugar alternative a day; like maple syrup or date syrup
- Drinks should be pure water or herbal tea
- Can use any herb or spice to your meals, including nutritional yeast, but a small amount of salt is acceptable if needed.
- You are allowed sauces like dairy free/oil free/fat free ketchup, sriracha, sweet chill sauce, mustard, and marinara.
While I haven’t found any official info on how long you’re supposed to do this diet, most people seem to follow it for a few days to a month, which is both long enough to help your weight loss efforts, and short enough that it shouldn’t cause any great nutrient deficiencies.
Why Are Potatoes So Great?
Potatoes are a versatile, nutritionally dense, filling food, making them good for weight-loss. They have more potassium than bananas, allowing them to help regulate your blood pressure and heart function; and are high in vitamin B6 which helps your immune system; and are a good source of fiber for bowel function.
Sweet Potatoes are even more nutritious. They’re high in fiber and help protect gums, promote strong connective tissues, and help wound healing. They help with bone and tooth development and help to lower cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease. Sweet potatoes also help fight depression due to their high content of the carbohydrate that initiates serotonin production.
How To Potato
If you’re interested in starting the Potato Diet, but not sure what to eat, here are some sample meals:
- Hash browns with ketchup, mushrooms, onions, and peppers.
- Potato wedges with raw carrot and tomato
- A veggie smoothie with spinach, kale, carrot, beet, frozen sweet potato, and maple syrup.
- Baked sweet potatoes with a salad made with spinach, kale, cucumber, and apple cider vinegar.
This diet/cleanse is built around losing weight rather than promoting optimal health. This is because there are no limitations on how the potatoes are cooked (aside from not using oil or fat) and it completely blocks out fruit, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, thus it is missing a number of nutrients, including fat. While it also blocks meat and dairy, I don’t really see a real issue in cutting out dairy and meat in a diet, as their nutrients can be easily found in plant foods, but I do not like the idea of cutting out fruit as it limits your nutrient intake, and starch vegetables and whole grains help to provide other vital nutrients to your diet.
This diet also blocks out foods that contain the essential amino acid Tryptophan, which you need for quality sleep and your mood. It also lacks foods containing good amounts of the essential amino acids Isoleucine, Leucine, and Phenylalanine. A diet that is missing four essential amino acids does NOT supply you with complete proteins; but again, short-term, that shouldn’t really be an issue. In other words, when you tell someone you’re only eating potatoes and veggies and they ask “but where does your protein come from,” it is a valid question.
While I would recommend a quality protein powder that contains your essential amino acids, I don’t think they’re allowed on the potato diet if you follow it strictly. Supplements would be a good alternative; including B12, as this is a vegan diet. Fortunately, this isn’t meant to be a long-term diet, so it’s unlikely you will have any issues with nutrient deficiencies if you don’t continue it longer than 30 days. If you do start having strange symptoms, however, you should speak to your doctor or naturopath in case any nutrient deficiencies are having a negative impact on your overall health.
Is It Harmful To Eat So Many Potatoes?
For people who are generally in good health it shouldn’t be a problem. However, potatoes (white) raise insulin and blood sugar levels quickly, so eating too many could be harmful for someone with diabetes. People with arthritis should also limit their intake of potatoes.
What Else Should You Know?
- Do not refrigerate potatoes as it causes their contents of starch to covert into sugar; instead, store them in a cool, dark place for a maximum of 1-2 months, but no longer as naturally occurring toxins will start to accumulate in them after 2 months. Sweet potatoes can be stored in a cool, dry, well ventilated spot for no longer than three weeks.
- Most of the mineral content in a potato is just underneath the skin and its vitamins and starch are in the potato’s center. The skin is high in fiber, but this should be peeled unless you are buying organic.
- To avoid losing potassium from your potatoes, steam them rather than boil.
- Any recipe that calls for white potatoes can be swapped out for sweet potatoes.
If you have problems with your weight and feel like the potato diet would give you that extra push towards a plant-based diet, then by all means, go for it. A short-term diet like this can really help break you away from refined and processed foods and set you on a healthier, more nutrient dense path.
If you already eat high quality foods with a variety of whole grains, healthy fats, fruits and veggies, the potato diet likely will not benefit you in any way.
If you want to try the potato diet but you’re worried about possible nutrient deficiencies, then create a potato diet that works for you! Eat potatoes, veggies, fruits, nuts, and whole grains; you’re free to eat however you desire. Have fun with it and seek out communities of people on similar diets who can give you tips. Research, ask questions, and as Ms. Frizzle says, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy” 🙂