The Potato Diet 2023: Rules, Pros, Cons, What To Eat & Avoid

Ellie Busby, MS, RDN

Published at 04:57

Melissa Metri

Medical reviewer

The potato diet is a rapid weight loss diet where you only eat plain potatoes for three to five days. Photo: Gamzova Olga/Shutterstock

The potato diet is a rapid weight loss diet where you only eat plain potatoes for three to five days. By just eating potatoes, proponents of the diet claim you can lose one pound (lb) per week.

But are the claims true? Can just eating potatoes every day really help you lose weight? And is eating just potatoes healthy or dangerous? In this article, we’ll look at what the potato diet is, the pros and cons, and our verdict on whether you should try this diet to lose weight.

What Is The Potato Diet?

It is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – a diet of just potatoes and nothing else. It’s been popularized as a diet to lose weight quickly.

Some people say they lose a minimum of one pound per week while following the diet. However, there’s no scientific evidence to back up the claims.

The diet became popular after the book “The Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified” was published by novice nutrition enthusiast Tim Steele. It involves only eating two to five lbs (0.9–2.3 kg) of plain, cooked white potatoes for up to five days.

Potato Diet & Weight Loss – Does It Work?

Two to five lbs of potatoes[1] provide only 530–1,300 calories per day. This is significantly fewer calories than the average energy needs of most adults, which is likely why the diet seems to help people lose weight. 

Moreover, scientists discovered that potatoes slow down digestion, making you feel fuller for longer. Experiments show that potatoes are, surprisingly, even more filling than other carbohydrates[2] such as rice or pasta.

However, according to the scientific evidence we do have, we can expect the weight drop to be short-lived. Crash dieting (i.e., eating significantly fewer calories than you need) may lead to losing weight quickly, but this is usually followed by regaining all the weight you worked hard to lose.

This weight regain is due to metabolic[3] and hormonal changes which happen when you lose weight too quickly, which encourages weight gain[4] as soon as the diet is over. Your metabolism slows down while dieting and can stay slower for a year afterward, making it difficult to avoid gaining weight again after crash dieting.

Is The Potato Diet Healthy?

Although potatoes are rich in many nutrients, the potato diet is an extremely restrictive fad diet.

It lacks several essential nutrients you need to stay healthy, such as protein, healthy fats, vitamin E, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and iron. This isn’t surprising as it’s impossible to get all the nutrients you need from any single food.

While eating potatoes for five days is unlikely to cause any serious deficiencies, following the diet for longer (or repeatedly) might lead to deficiencies over time. Some deficiencies can cause irreversible damage to your body, brain, and other organs.

So, should you try it? First, let’s take a look at the rules, followed by the pros and cons of this diet, plus the weight reduction results you can expect – according to scientific evidence.

Potato Diet Rules

According to Tim’s book, the rules are as follows:

  • Only eat plain, cooked potatoes – no other foods.
  • Eat two to five lbs (0.9–2.3 kg) of potatoes per day.
  • Follow the diet for three to five days.
  • Avoid all condiments – including sauces such as tomato ketchup and chili sauce.
  • The only seasoning allowed is salt.
  • Potatoes should be plain and not cooked in fat. So, no potato chips are allowed.
  • Allowed drinks are water, plain tea (without milk), or black coffee.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise while following the diet.
  • Avoid taking supplements while following the diet.

Pros Of The Potato Diet

The pros of the potato diet are anecdotal, with very little evidence to back up the claims.

Fast Weight Loss

Potato dieters report losing weight very quickly, although this isn’t backed up by science.

However, the number of potatoes recommended on this diet adds up to very few calories – less than most people eat during the day. So, the reduced calorie intake will naturally help you lose weight.

Cheap And Easy To Follow

It’s hard to go wrong while following the potato diet because the potato diet rules are very simple. Potatoes are also very cheap – you can probably follow this diet for less than a dollar daily.

High In Fiber

Like most vegetables, potatoes contain fiber, which can help you feel fuller, making it easier to eat fewer calories.

A Good Source Of Some Micronutrients

Potatoes contribute several essential nutrients[5] to the diet including vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B9 (folate), potassium, and iron.

Potassium is especially important as many people have a low intake[6] of this nutrient – it’s even considered a “nutrient of concern[7] in the US.

May Suppress Food Intake Short-Term

Modifying the macronutrient composition of your diet and narrowing your food choices can suppress hunger and reduce food intake[8], potentially leading to short-term weight drop.

More Nutritious Than Refined Grains

If your usual diet consists of white, refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, or white pasta, eating more potatoes may improve the overall quality of your diet[9].

In fact, eating more potatoes is linked with better overall nutrient intake[10] in American adults.

Avoids Unhealthy Potato Products

While there’s no evidence of plain potatoes being directly associated with losing weight, potatoes and potato products cooked in oil are linked to weight gain[11].

May Improve Gut Microbiome

Studies into ancestral human diets suggest that, in the short-term, the potato diet can increase levels of gut metabolites associated with health, such as short-chain fatty acids[12].

These can affect hormone levels associated with appetite suppression. However, only eating one food for long periods of time is more likely to worsen gut health than improve it.

More Filling Than Other Carbohydrates

Potatoes contain a protein called proteinase inhibitor II, which may delay gastric emptying[13].

Studies in mice suggest that taking a potato extract supplement[14] may lead to eating fewer calories, better blood sugar balance, and weight reduction. In fact, potato extract may even be more filling than some whole grains, such as brown rice.

Cons Of The Potato Diet

However, there are several cons to watch out for if you decide to try the diet.

Low In Essential Micronutrients

Potatoes are low in several key nutrients you need to stay healthy including vitamin E, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and iron. Deficiencies in these nutrients can cause permanent damage to your brain and body.

For example, only eating potatoes can lead to a vitamin A deficiency[15], potentially leading to vision loss[16].

Difficult To Stick To

Only eating plain potatoes every day might be tough. Studies suggest people have difficulty adding more potatoes[17] to their diet, even when instructed on exactly what to do.

Diabetes

Potatoes have a high GI, meaning they spike your blood sugar more than other foods. This can lead to fluctuating energy levels, blood sugar crashes, and increased hunger in the short term.

Potato diet diabetes can also lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes if you follow a high GI diet such as the potato diet long-term. A high-GI diet may increase the risk of weight gain[18] more than a low-GI diet, too.

May Not Lead To Weight Reduction

Despite the claims, studies suggest that eating more potatoes doesn’t help you lose weight[17].

Low In Protein

Protein is crucial for maintaining lean muscle mass and increasing satiety. However, potatoes contain very little protein, putting you at risk of protein deficiency and muscle loss[19].

Moreover, people with the “fat gene”, FTO, will have an especially hard time losing weight[20] on a low-protein diet.

Low In Fat

Potatoes don’t contain any fat, but healthy fats are essential to health and satiety. Eating healthy fats with your potato diet meal ideas can slow down the absorption[21] of food from the gut, which may increase feelings of fullness[22] compared to eating carbohydrates alone.

Boiling Potatoes Can Cause Nutrient Loss

If following the diet, we recommend baking (without oil) rather than boiling as boiling potatoes can lead to nutrients leaching into the water[5].

May Lead To Muscle Mass Loss

Losing weight isn’t always a good thing – especially if you’re losing muscle rather than fat.

Studies show that eating a very low-calorie, low-protein diet such as the potato diet can lead to losing muscle mass while retaining fat mass[19]. Even worse, you’re more likely to put all the weight back on once the diet is over.

Crash Dieting Leads To Rapid Weight Regain

Crash dieting may help you lose weight fast, but the results are short-lived. In order to lose weight sustainably, it needs to happen gradually. Unfortunately, the diet would be classed as a “crash diet” due to the low-calorie recommendations and limited food choices.

What You Can Eat

If you’re following the “proper” potato diet, you should only eat plain, cooked, white potatoes every day for up to five days. That means you can cook potatoes by either boiling, steaming, or baking (without oil).

As you can imagine, recipes aren’t very varied. Some potato meal ideas include boiled potatoes with salt, mashed potatoes, and no-oil baked potatoes.

What To Avoid?

As this is a potato-only diet, the list of foods you’d have to avoid is pretty much endless. So, we’ll stick to the type of potatoes you should avoid while following the diet:

  • Potatoes cooked in oil (or anything else)
  • Potatoes mashed with butter or milk (or anything else)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potato chips
  • Potato fries
  • French fries
  • Hash browns
  • Seasoning and spices (apart from salt)

There are more relaxed variations of the potato diet that may allow you to eat other types of potatoes, such as sweet potatoes. A sweet potato diet means you might be able to vary your diet a little by adding different potato diet recipes such as baked sweet potato.

Is The Potato Diet A Healthy Choice For You?

The potato diet is a very restrictive diet, instructing you to eat only potatoes for up to five days for rapid weight reduction. The potato diet hasn’t been studied, so the claims haven’t been verified. 

Due to the low-calorie recommendations, the diet may lead to weight loss at first. However, you’re very likely to put all the weight back on again once you stop following the diet. Moreover, potatoes are missing several key essential nutrients, which are crucial for health. 

All in all, the potato diet is just another one of the unhealthy fad diets we see come and go. We don’t recommend the potato diet for healthy, sustainable weight loss.

Ellie Busby is a Registered Nutritionist (MSc, mBANT) and nutrition writer. She holds a bachelor’s in Chemistry and a Masters in Nutrition.

Resources

MANA adheres to strict sourcing guidelines, avoids most tertiary sources, and uses only professional resources updated to contain accurate and current information. We majorly rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research from reputable medical associations. For more information regarding our editorial process, please refer to the provided resources.

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