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Despite Their Reputation, Potatoes *Can* Speed Weight Loss, Say Doctors — Here’s How

Discover the 3-day mono-cleanse that burns fat fast — some women are losing 1.5 lbs a day!

The most consumed vegetable in America sometimes gets a bad rap for its binge-worthy, less-than-healthy forms like French fries and salty chips. But a growing body of research suggests that potatoes can play a critical role in weight loss. And some fomaclks swear by a 3 to 5-day potato diet that can burn fat fast — no counting carbs or calories required!

That’s right, many nutrition experts are now defending potatoes. “It’s time to put an end to that old nutrition myth that potatoes lead to weight gain and save some space on your plate for a favorite comfort food,” says biochemist Dee McCaffrey, MS, author of The Science of Skinny and host of the podcast “Diet Science.” She shed 100 pounds years ago by eating whole foods and notes, “I ate a baked potato at least three times a week when I was losing weight.” 

What makes potatoes a healthy food?

For starters, potatoes are naturally free of gluten and low in calories and fat. Spuds also contain many important nutrients. There’s vitamin B6 for mood and vitamin C for immunity, plus iron for energy, magnesium to support strong bones and potassium to help regulate blood pressure. Potatoes’ antioxidants even clean up the damage that free radicals cause to aging cells. “Potatoes can be part of a well-rounded healthy diet,” observes William Li, MD, bestselling author of Eat to Beat Your Diet: Burn Fat, Heal Your Metabolism, and Live Longer.  What’s more, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service analyzed certain potatoes (like red and Russet Norkotah varieties) and found they boast as many phytonutrients as spinach and broccoli.

How potatoes promote weight loss

This super-affordable and easily accessible food helps us feel full and satisfied, which helps speed weight loss, and the skins are a rich source of dietary fiber that aids in digestion. But that’s not all. Gastroenterologist William Bulsiewicz, MD, author of Fiber Fueled, says, “White potatoes are an excellent source of resistant starch.He’s talking about a special type of fiber that “resists” being digested until after it passes through the small intestine, a move known to increase fat burning and weight loss for 24 hours post-meal. (Click through to our sister site to see how resistant starch can heal your gut and how this starch in found in other dishes like overnight oats.)     

The fact that resistant starch flows through the small intestine without modification has a huge impact on your microbiome, or the healthy bacteria living in your digestive tract. When resistant starch enters the large intestine, it’s fermented by your gut microbes into short-chain fatty acids, like acetate, butyrate, and propionate that support gut and microbiome wellbeing. Butyrate, in particular, has been shown to have a positive effect on the gut by dialing down inflammation and helping to prevent colon cancer. Additionally, butyrate impacts all-body processes, helping to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and improve insulin function. Insulin, of course, plays a critical role in metabolism and weight loss. Research shows eating just two spuds daily can lower insulin by 57%. Finally, potatoes contain a nutrient called proteinase inhibitor 2, which decreases hunger.

For these reasons, popular diet plans are now welcoming more potatoes than ever before. For example, potatoes have been added into the mix of the new Whole30 diet, when they were originally excluded, according to plan co-founder Melissa Urban. (Click through to our sister site for details on the original Whole 30 diet plan.) What’s more, people are now following a modified Paleo diet that includes some starchy tubers like potatoes. The change is thanks to a groundbreaking study by Christina Warinner, PhD, a Harvard University associate professor in the department of Archaeogenetics, who discovered that the Paleo diet of our cavemen ancestors wasn’t as strict as we once thought. (Click through to learn how the Paleo diet can help speed weight loss.)

The 5 best ways to work potatoes into your diet

1. Try them baked or steamed

To keep potatoes low in calories and fat, experts recommend baking, boiling or steaming them. It’s a strategy that worked well for Mackenzie Scaccetti! She lost 110 pounds on Jenny Craig, eating lots of loaded baked potatoes with vegetables. And health coach Teri Yunus of Michigan lost 60 pounds with plant-based eating that included lots of cooked potatoes in soups. (Click through for our best baked potato hacks.)

2. Serve them up with the skins on

“If you’re eating potatoes on your weight-loss diet and want to retain the most beneficial nutrients, cooking the whole potato is the way to go,” advises naturopathic physician Brian Yuen, ND. That means leaving the skin on so you don’t miss out on the spuds’ trace minerals, including chromium. In one study, conducted at Louisiana State University, women who ingested more chromium daily cut their sugar cravings by 150%, which translated into consuming 374 fewer calories a day without trying.

3. Enjoy mashed potatoes this way

mashed potatoes as part of a potato diet
JGI:Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Leftover mashed potatoes are surprisingly healthy! Why? When cooked potatoes are cooled, they develop more resistant starch, that amazing form of fiber that helps with weight loss. Consider whipping up a double batch just so you’ll have those yummy leftovers. (Click through for healthy ways to thicken mashed potatoes.)

4. Experiment with different varieties

variety of potatoes, part of the potato diet
Westend61-1/Getty Images

Some people also use potatoes strategically in their weight-loss efforts by trying a wide range of varieties for color and flavor. Dr. Li explains, “Colored potatoes like purple potatoes also contain anthocyanins, which are bioactives that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting and cancer-starving properties in lab studies.” (Click through for more on how bioactives can help you lose weight.)

Farmers are also working hard to hybridize different potatoes to contain fewer carbs. For example, the Carisma potato has 25% fewer carbs. And while sweet potatoes contain a similar amount of carbs as Idaho spuds, the health benefits of sweet potatoes are legendary. And blue potatoes can even reduce your risk of diabetes!

Related: Sweet Potatoes Help Tame Menopausal Hot Flashes, Mood Swings & Vaginal Dryness

5. Blend spuds into a smoothie

raw potatoes in a smoothie with fruits and veggies–part of a potato diet
pilipphoto/Getty Images

Potatoes have always been used to bulk up stews and soups. But now experts are suggesting they be added to smoothies. In fact, William Davis, MD, author of Super Gut, recommends using small amounts of raw white potato to boost the body’s intake of prebiotic fibers, also known as the food that our healthy gut bugs need. (Click through to learn more about prebiotic fiber and how much fiber to eat to lose weight.) The raw form contains up to 12 grams of prebiotic fiber and 0 grams of sugar per one-half medium-sized potato. “Some of our choices in prebiotic fibers may seem odd,” Dr. Davis explains, “But remember, we are trying to recreate the bountiful prebiotic fiber intake of hunter-gatherer populations.” (Click here to learn how Dr. Davis uses raw potato starch in his gut-healing yogurt recipe.)

How to do the potato diet to lose weight

There are simple, inexpensive diet plans that focus on eating nothing but potatoes for a short stretch of time, a practice called mono-eating. These mini-cleanses promise to “gently detox” your system, helping you lose weight in just a few days without having to count or measure everything you eat. Anthony William, author of the best-selling Medical Medium book series, advises steaming potatoes for a short-term cleanse. In general, he admonishes, “If you’re avoiding ‘white’ foods such as white rice, white flour, white sugar and dairy products, don’t cut out potatoes!” (Click through for two delicious recipes for crispy rice.)

The most popular potato diet to hit the scene in 2016 when author Tim Steele wrote a book called Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified. Steele calls potatoes the “best diet pill ever invented.” He adds, “most people tend to lose 3 to 5 pounds a week, and many use it long-term to keep weight in check.” The book currently has more than 700 5-star reviews from fans on Amazon. Photographer Ann Overhulse lost 35 pounds on The Potato Hack diet and improved her blood work to the point where she was no longer prediabetic. (Click through to learn how long it takes to reverse prediabetes.) She says, “It’s a good diet. Where else can you go one a diet for three days and go off for four and begin all over again?” 

The potato diet, or “potato hack,” is pretty straightforward. There are seven simple rules to follow:

  • Rule 1: Eat only plain, cooked potatoes for three to five days.
  • Rule 2: Consume around two to five pounds of potatoes per day.
  • Rule 3: No other foods including condiments and toppings, such as ketchup, butter, sour cream and cheese are allowed.
  • Rule 4: Some salt is okay, but try to limit it.
  • Rule 5: You can drink water, plain tea or black coffee.
  • Rule 6: Light exercise or walking are encouraged. Heavy exercise is not recommended.
  • Rule 7: Take your usual medications as directed by your doctor. Don’t take any unprescribed dietary supplements.

There are some different variations, but on Steele’s version, you’re also only allowed to eat white potatoes. Other versions (for example, the Spud Fit Challenge) include sweet potatoes, Russets and gold potatoes as well as herbs and spices for flavoring.

So can adding potatoes to your diet actually help with weight loss? The answer is yes! Dr. Li offers one word of caution: “Keep potatoes on the list of foods that help your health, but watch how you cook them and what you serve with them.” Finally, it’s key to note that a potato diet may not be suitable for people with prediabetes or diabetes, given spuds’ high carb content.

For more ‘mono-diets” to help you lose weight:

The Grapefruit Diet Hack That Blasts Belly Bulge in Days

The Keto Kickstart ‘Egg Fast’ Will Help You Finally Shed That Unwanted Weight

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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