Are potatoes paleo?

by | Oct 5, 2022 | Last updated Feb 25, 2023

  • Potatoes are hotly debated in the paleo community—some say they’re paleo-friendly, others say they aren’t. 
  • Processed potatoes, like French fries and potato chips, aren’t allowed on the paleo diet. 
  • When it comes to whether white, sweet, red, or purple potatoes are paleo, the answer varies by potato variety. 

To eat a potato or to not eat a potato? That is the (great) paleo question. 

Paleo experts and dieters have long debated whether potatoes are paleo or not. 

However, the answer isn’t as simple as yes or no. It depends on which potato and who you ask—especially because there are different versions of paleo out there.  

We discussed the hot potato paleo debate with Noom coach Ashley Bannister, MS, RDN, so we could pass along her knowledge on all things potato and paleo.

Before we get into it, keep in mind that at Noom, potatoes are definitely not off limits. In fact, one of our writers even penned a love letter to these spuds. But some people do choose to avoid potatoes or follow paleo principles—and we’re here to support them. 

Note: Consult with your health care provider before making dietary changes.

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Experts disagree on white potatoes

“There’s a bit of a debate on whether white potatoes are paleo,” Bannister says. “Some say yes, while others say no.” 

The Paleo Foundation—a paleo certification organization for brands—conducted a survey on whether all potatoes (white potatoes included) were indeed paleo. Approximately 72% of paleo respondents said potatoes were paleo, while 27% said potatoes were not.

But white potatoes, in particular, are a bigger sticking point for paleo dieters. A quick search online will show you just how much paleo earters disagree on whether white potatoes are truly paleo. 

Here are the arguments for and against the spuds. 

The paleo argument against white potatoes 

Two big arguments against white potatoes are their glycemic index and their carbohydrate content (which go hand in hand).

Bannister says that paleo proponents emphasize eating low-glycemic vegetables. 

The glycemic index of food—measured on a scale of 0 to 100—is determined by the number of carbs it contains, and its likelihood and speed of spiking blood sugar levels. A boiled white potato has an average glycemic index of 82, which is quite high.

In addition, Bannister says that some paleo advocates discourage high-carb vegetables and favor low-carb ones instead. 

And a single small baked white potato has 29.1 grams of carbohydrates, whereas the US recommended daily carb intake is 130 grams. So, one potato takes up a lot of the carbs you should eat in a single day. 

However, Bannister points out that there are other foods allowed on paleo that contradict this argument. For example, fresh fruits tend to be high in carbohydrates and natural sugar, but are paleo-friendly.

The paleo argument for white potatoes 

The strongest argument for white potatoes is that they are whole, unprocessed foods—which is the whole premise of the paleo diet

“When prepared with paleo-friendly ingredients, potatoes ultimately should be considered paleo,” Bannister says.  

The Paleo Foundation agrees, as it has stated that white potatoes are, in fact, paleo

So, cooking potatoes with chicken breast and other roasted veggies is perfectly fine. However, if you’re following paleo, don’t add any sour cream or butter to that potato because dairy products are processed.

If you want more ideas for other paleo-friendly meals, we’ve created a list of 50 paleo recipes just for you. 

The verdicts on other potato types

While all potatoes are part of the same family, not all of these starchy tubers have the same nutritional value and health benefits. As a result, the paleo verdict on other popular spuds varies. 

Are sweet potatoes paleo?

The consensus among the paleo community is that sweet potatoes are paleo-friendly foods. 

For starters, sweet potatoes, when boiled, have a lower glycemic index of 63—compared to their white potato counterparts (which, again, have a high glycemic index of 82).  

Many paleo eaters also don’t consume white potatoes because they don’t believe they are especially nutritious. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are excellent sources of key nutrients and antioxidants, including beta carotene, fiber, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and potassium. 

Are red or purple potatoes paleo?

Similar to white potatoes, the answer on whether red or purple potatoes are paleo depends on who you ask. 

Paleo proponents who advocate for low-glycemic veggies will likely tell you “no.” That’s because red and purple potatoes have a high glycemic index.

A research study found that red potatoes have a glycemic index of 78 and purple potatoes have a glycemic index of 77 after being cooked in a convection oven.

However, others say these potato varieties are paleo. That’s because, like white potatoes, red and purple potatoes are unprocessed whole foods—which, by definition, makes them paleo. 

These potatoes are also nutritious. Research suggests that both red and purple potatoes have up to three times as many antioxidants as white potatoes. 

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Processed potatoes are not paleo-friendly

Processed potatoes—like French fries and potato chips—is the one type that is clearly not paleo. 

Remember, the paleo diet focuses on eating like hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic era would have. And it’s unlikely that our cavemen ancestors would’ve been munching on bags of potato chips throughout the day. 

Even foods like legumes and grains are off limits because our Paleolithic ancestors wouldn’t have had access to them.

Personally, we can’t imagine giving up waffle-cut fries. But if you’re serious about paleo, best to stick to whole potatoes.

Focus on high quality foods

There’s lots to love about potatoes. And while the paleo debate on potatoes continues, the final decision on whether you’ll eat them is really up to you. 

We don’t recommend cutting entire food groups at Noom. And we definitely don’t label high-carb foods as “bad.”

Whether you decide on eating potatoes on paleo or not, we encourage you to focus on high-quality, nutritious foods that will satisfy you.

But if you want to learn more about paleo-friendly foods you can eat, we’re here to help you on your wellness journey. We’ve compiled an entire paleo food list (and accompanying paleo grocery shopping list) for you to explore and use. 

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