IT NEVER CEASES TO amaze me the diets people will try to lose weight. A new one on my radar, but one that supposedly originated in 1849, is the potato hack diet. On one hand, this diet is rather simple because all you have to do is eat potatoes. And yet, on the other hand, this diet is rather hard because all you have to do is eat potatoes. Let me explain.
The potato hack diet is a three to five day diet intervention where all you eat is 2 to 5 pounds of potatoes all day long, nothing else. It promises that you will lose around 1 pound per day. It also promises to not be just about weight loss, but also a short-term diet that will strengthen your immune system, digestive health and increase your energy levels.
There are many different variations of the diet, but the most popular today is one by author Tim Steele. In his version, only white potatoes are included and absolutely nothing can be added to them – no butter, sour cream, etc. Allowed cooking methods include baking, steaming, boiling and roasting, but without added oil. If thirsty, you can drink water, plain tea or black coffee. Walking or light exercise is encouraged, but definitely nothing too strenuous.
Potatoes are without a doubt packed with nutrition. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium and vitamin B6. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which may help strengthen our body’s immune system and prevent against certain cancers, aid in collagen production and help with wound care and oral health. Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure, and vitamin B6 helps our body break down the food we eat and convert it to energy.
One medium potato (with skin) is only 110 calories, has 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. It’s also sodium and fat-free.
Well, the answer is probably yes, but at what cost? Truth is, this is just another example of a highly restrictive diet. In fact, it probably takes the cake as far as restriction goes. I mean really, nothing but potatoes? And what seems to happen, is that you don’t even eat that many of them, even though you can. I’ve read some people get bored and therefore eat even less. So yes, of course you will lose weight because you’re hardly eating.
I’ve also read on-line that some people stay on the diet for longer than five days. I mean why not, right? You’re losing weight, so why not continue? But this is where one starts to go into dangerous territory by setting one’s self up for malnutrition. As nutritious as potatoes are, they do not have all the nutrients that one’s body needs to function properly. And nor could I imagine how someone wouldn’t simply gain all their weight back once they decide to no longer restrict themselves.
As far as I know, there haven’t been any human studies conducted with individuals following a 100% potato diet to support any claims. However, what I do know is that potatoes are a carbohydrate that when digested converts to mostly glucose and is used by our cells for energy. And since potatoes contain fiber, one could make an association there for improved digestive health.
Also, potatoes that have been cooked and then cooled are high in resistant starch. It’s basically a carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine. (Most carbs get digested in the small intestine and get converted to glucose.) Instead it moves onto the large intestine where the fibers ferment, feeding the good bacteria in your gut. For this reason, resistant starch is considered a prebiotic (the food for a probiotic) and may have a positive effect on our gut microbiome, which is also important for digestive health. Other benefits of resistant starch may include an increased feeling of fullness, prevention of constipation and a decrease in cholesterol levels.
The potato hack diet is just another example of a fad diet. A diet you start, then end, and have learned absolutely nothing about healthy eating. Potatoes on the other hand are a nutritious food, but one should eat them as part of a well-balanced diet versus the only food on their plate.