Meat & Potatoes: Back on the Menu

Just in case you haven’t been paying attention lately, meat and potatoes are okay to eat again.

It’s a pretty comical situation, really. Meat and potatoes used to be the basic chow of every American – at a time when Americans were the healthiest and tallest people in the world.

I was a youngster in the 70’s and 80’s, and I can remember even then how if you ate meat and potatoes you were some kind of throwback – caveman, even. People would shake their heads and tsk, tsk, tsk. Doesn’t he know that meat is full of fat and that will lead to an early grave? Even back then we were already being indoctrinated into the fat phobic culture.

We all know now how badly that worked out. People didn’t get healthier, they got sicker. The “bad fat” got replaced by low fat junk food – Snackwells and such. That was the start of the obesity epidemic.

Then Atkins burst on the scene. It’s not the meat that’s bad it’s the potatoes. Potatoes are full of carbs and that will lead to an early grave. Same story, different scapegoat.

The only problem was those pesky Kitavans – living on their tropical island and mowing down on copious

amounts of roots and tubers and doing just dandy with it. The Adkins concept was better, but still didn’t explain all the observations.

So what have we learned here? Judging a food solely by its macronutrient composition is stupid. It’s hard to believe it has taken us 50 years to figure that out. We have good fats (saturated and omega-3’s) and bad fats (omega-6’s), good carbs (starch) and bad carbs (fructose), good proteins (meat) and bad proteins (gluten). It’s the quality of the macronutrient, not it’s classification, that makes it good or bad.

So does that mean everyone should be out there chowing down on potatoes? Unfortunately, no. Not because there is anything unhealthy about potatoes, but a lot of people cannot process dense carb sources in a healthy way. It ultimately depends on your activity level and metabolic status. Basically those carbs fuel your activity level. If you’re living a desk to couch lifestyle then either up your activity level or keep the intake low. You have to earn your carbs. If you have metabolic issues (read: abdominal fat) then you need to get that sorted out first since you are not processing carbs correctly. It ends up being shuttled to the fat tissue instead of being available as energy.

But if you are a lean, hard training athlete then go ahead and eat up. In fact, you NEED to. Without sufficient dietary carbohydrates your body will start scavenging protein to convert to glucose (a catabolic process) and your aerobic capacity will suffer without sufficient glucose to burn the fat.

Does this mean that fries and a Big Mac are recommended? Nope. That’s meat and potatoes in name only. It’s a meal featuring highly processed industrial food-like items, combined with gluten and soaked in omega-6 fat, so stay far far away. We’re all about food quality here. What I’m talking about is a homemade stew with a big joint of meat with potatoes, onions, and carrots in the mix. This is easy to make and kicks ass in every way possible as far as nutrition is concerned. And it’s cheap.

Here’s the kicker. Meat and potatoes is probably the most Paleo of all meals. While the men were out hunting the women were gathering. What were they gathering? More often than not, tubers. For the most part, fruits, nuts, and seeds are targets of seasonal opportunity. Because it’s a plant’s long term storage organ, tubers are always around. They can and did form the backbone of many hunter/gatherer diets.

It was this high nutrient density diet based on meat and tubers that made humans the high energy, big-brained masters-of-our-domain that we are today. It’s our heritage and it’s time we (re)embraced it.



Categories: Anti inflammatory diet, Autoimmunity, Celiac and Gluten-Free, General, Paleo Diet Basics, Paleo/Low Carb


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


  1. Guy says

    We’ve reading a lot about how many carbs are paleo recently. I think you’ve managed to explain very well the basic rules here without getting into science and prejudice…
    As you say, meat and potatoes is probably the most paleo of meals and a nice beef stew is probably the most comforting way to enjoy that combination, especially now we have some nice cool winter weather coming our way :)

    • says

      ~Guy; absolutely.

      this is one of the more lucid, uncomplicated and, dare i say, sane paleo posts i’ve read on any blog to date.

      tubers of all types (spuds, cassava, taro, yams, sweets) make up an indispensable part of my diet. i simply can’t eat so much meat and fat, and tubers keep me from over-eating fruit.

  2. says

    When I saw the title, I thought, ” Holy Crap! People are gonna take this as a license to shove potato chips and fries in their mouth.” It was, however, well explained. We have been eating small amounts of potato in our household for about 10 months now. We just try to keep the portion small ( a little goes a long way ) and the product unprocessed. Great post!

  3. Jami says

    “But if you are a lean, hard training athlete then go ahead and eat up. In fact, you NEED to. Without sufficient dietary carbohydrates your body will start scavenging protein to convert to glucose (a catabolic process) and your aerobic capacity will suffer without sufficient glucose to burn the fat.”

    I’m confused about above statement. According to Paleo Solution, “Our bodies can make all the carbohydrates it needs from protein and fat.”

    Can you please explain the discrepancy?


    • Amy B. says

      If you’re working out hard on a regular basis, it merits upping your carbohydrate intake. Our bodies *can* make all the glucose it needs from fat and protein, but if your energy output (via exercise) is high, eating more carbohydrates will ensure your body doesn’t make the carbs it needs from *your own proteins* — that is, *your muscle.” Our bodies can make glucose from dietary protein, but also by breaking down the proteins that already exist inside us…pretty much the dead opposite of what you’d be trying to achieve by working out and trying to *build* muscle. Hope that makes a little sense.

    • Matt Lentzner says

      The Paleo concept keeps evolving which is why I wrote the article. The anecdotal evidence that low-carb was not working well for athletes (especially Crossfitters) was mounting. Paleo started out as a low-carb diet, but it has become more nuanced in the last couple years.

      • says

        So what amount of exerise are we talking about here. Can we actually create some numerical table to represent the amounts of starchy carbs to be consumed per unit of exercise? Say I exercise at a moderate-high level for 1 hour a day, 5 days a week. How many additional carbs would be allowable to maintain lean muscle or even slightly increase lean muscle mass w/out storing visceral fat?

        • Jason says

          I’m no expert, but I’d assume this is a “know your body” type of deal. Paleo recognizes that we’re not all the same, so you just have to figure out how your own body reacts and adjust accordingly.

        • says

          You’d be interested to read John Kiefer’s articles on what he calls “carb backloading”. Basically a system of strategizing carb intake based on what time of day you train.

          It’s diet-restriction-agnostic and very paleo-friendly. I use it myself.

          The idea is to use fasting in the morning and ultra-low-carb food intake most of the day to let the body use only fatty acids for fuel, and then to eat carbohydrates specifically AFTER a muscle-building workout, within a 2- or 3-hour window.

          It’s very hard to actually build lean muscle mass without taking in carbs. But it’s very possible to MAINTAIN muscle mass on an ultra-low-carb diet, particularly one like Carb Nite (a cyclic ketogenic diet) that uses one-day-a-week carb refeedings.

      • Shameer M. says

        Hi Matt,

        Great article but I have one question. I just started Crossfit and go 3X per week. On the days that I don’t exercise, should I still eat starchy carbs or should I only eat starchy carbs on the days that I crossfit?


        • Matt Lentzner says

          Ideally you would eat them after your workout. Since your glycogen reserves are depleted your body has a place to put them (other than fat). I personally don’t do this as I seem to tolerate starch well. I do eat more starches than usual after my workouts, but I will eat moderate amounts any day – usually for dinner.

          I used to have terrible recovery from CrossFit workouts which I solved by eating more carbs and doing way less CrossFit. Now I recover from my metcons in minutes as opposed to hours or days.

  4. says

    Amen to this! Yes, I am metabolically deranged… a T1 diabetic. That said, I still can have a bit of rice and tubers. I don’t make them the whole meal is all.
    Greg, my question is this: I have been doing low level cardio (walks with the dog in the morning for an hour at a brisk pace) and a program called convict conditioning. Given my sugar spikes about 80 to 100 points with more than 30 grams of carbs, when is the best time for me to account for the carbs, before or after my workout? I am afraid of going low during my long walks, but with the bodyweight exercises I am finding my levels rising from the glucogen expending.

    • Sean Knox says

      Hey Jason, kudos for trying to figure this out, as it can be tricky, and the interplay between food and insulin in diabetics can be quite a personal and unique thing. I’ll share what I’ve learned about eating, exercise, and insulin as a T1 diabetic who’s done a fair share of endurance sports. BIG CAVEAT: this is personal to my body and metabolism. It may be different for you. I highly, highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook by Sheri Colberg. Check out the reviews on Amazon and you’ll see that it’s legit.

      As to when to account for your carb consumption relative to when you hit your cardio, it largely depends on how intense your workout is and for how long. Short, intense cardio can actually raise blood glucose while longer durations may let you take advantage of GLUT-4, opening the gates in your muscle cells to use glucose in the muscle as opposed to adipose (fat) tissue. This is especially important to you as a diabetic since it can greatly affect your insulin sensitivity. Immediately following a very intense workout, I might need 50% (or less) insulin than I would normally use. Additionally insulin action (how long it takes for the insulin to start working) is affected. Whereas w/o exercise it takes about 30-45 minutes before the insulin starts taking effect, it could start working a lot sooner right after exercise.

      In my experience as a bike rider, it takes about 30-45 minutes of moderate to intense riding to trigger GLUT-4 and other changes that increase my insulin sensitivity. Fifteen minutes at a good clip doesn’t seem to do it–I need the same insulin-carb ratio as I’d use without exercise. Lower level cardio (e.g. a brisk walk for an hour) does seem to improve insulin sensitivity after an hour for me. To give you a more extreme example: when I’m riding for more than 30 minutes, I turn my basal insulin down to almost nothing, and eat 20g of fast acting carb sources (Gu, bars, etc) without taking any insulin. Normally I use a unit of insulin for every 15g of carbs. That’s GLUT-4 in action.

      My advice is that you perform some tests to figure out how you respond to exercise in terms of insulin uptake and carb consumption. Some things to test:
      1. Take a walk without any intention to immediately eat afterward; this will help you start to figure how your walk affects your blood glucose and glucose/insulin interplay. Don’t eat 2-3 hours before going on your walk. Measure your blood sugar before walk and when you get home. Measure your BG again 30-45 minutes later. Remember, food and insulin will dramatically affect your results, so try to leave any boluses or food out a few hours before you start to reduce the chance they’re a factor.
      2. Try eating a meal with a small amount of carbs immediately following your walk and try a reduced bolus. Because you may be more insulin-sensitive after your walk, this will be a step to try to account for that. Try to eat 30g or less of starchy carbs (yams, sweet potatoes, or rice) and that’s it. You’ll need to figure out the timing of your insulin dose immediately following your walk. The window to take advantage of the GLUT4 mechanism isn’t very long–the food probably needs to be in your stomach within 30 minutes of finishing your exercise. Make your 30g meal in advance of coming home or make sure it’s something you can prep quickly (a sweet potato in the microwave for 5 minutes will do the trick). Measure your blood sugar 30m, 60m, 2h, and 3h after you eat. You gotta do this to see a) if you had the right size bolus dose and b) how well you timed your dose. It’s no good if your blood sugar is 50 mg/dL three hours later.

      Something else to consider is the time of day you do your exercise matters. A lot of diabetics experience a “dawn phenomenon” where they are extremely insulin resistent as compared to later in the day. Take that in to account when you start your tests.

      While not mandatory, a continuous glucose monitor has been invaluable for me as an athlete. I use the DexCom 7. It’s not perfect but is pretty damn useful for establishing baselines, and was in fact a crucial piece of gear on longer rides and events (I did a Half-Ironman this summer and it was invaluable). If you have decent health insurance that will cover it I’d say grab one.

      I hope this helps!

      • Sean Knox says

        Point of clarification:

        “When I’m riding for more than 30 minutes, I turn my basal insulin down to almost nothing, and eat 20g of fast acting carb sources (Gu, bars, etc) without taking any insulin. Normally I use a unit of insulin for every 15g of carbs.”

        That’s 20g of carbs every 30-45 minutes.

  5. John Harris says

    Now if we could only find some evidence that my body needs a good amount of alcohol every afternoon we’ll have the trifecta that I’m looking for.

  6. Eamon says

    “They can and did form the backbone of many hunter/gatherer diets.” Would you mind citing evidence for this claim? Thank you.

  7. B. Knight says

    Man, I gotta keep dropping the weight so I can enjoy beef stew again… Just isn’t the same without a lump of taters smother in butter, salt and pepper. Nom nom nom.

  8. says

    You write: “We have good fats (saturated and omega-3’s) and bad fats (omega-6’s), good carbs (starch) and bad carbs (fructose), good proteins (meat) and bad proteins (gluten). It’s the quality of the macronutrient, not it’s classification, that makes it good or bad.”

    Just a quibble … I know what you meant, but judging omega-6s and fructose “bad” is not that dissimilar from judging macronutrients as a whole. One of the omega-6s is an essential fatty acid after all, and fructose as found in nature is generally not problemtatic.

    So it’s not just quality, it’s context. Yes, it’s easy to eat excess omega 6s and fructose in a Western diet, but excess starch and saturated fat is not good either (perhaps just harder to do).

    • Matt Lentzner says

      True. The subtext was in the context of a Western diet. I plan to write in more detail about omega-6 oils and fructose in the future.

  9. says

    Meat & potatoes… one of the world’s greatest combination. Sweet, white, russet, redskin, yukon gold… they are all awesome.

    I remember being “afraid” of potatoes last year even though I was at an ideal weight! It goes to show you that we must all listen to ourselves. Read, read, read… educate, educate, educate… then experiment on yourself!

    If you are following what Hurley is saying but you feel like shit then do something about it. Don’t keep doing the same ole stuff!

    Meat & potatoes… love it!

  10. Guillaume Ponce says

    I cannot do anything about the Big Mac, but maybe I can help for fries.
    In northern France and in Belgium, fries are traditionnaly fried not in vegetable oil, but in beef fat (it’s named “blanc de boeuf”).

    As the perfect fries should be soft inside and crusty outside, they are traditionnaly fried twice:

    1. First at 120 celsius to keep them soft inside.

    2. Then at 190 celsius to get them crusty outside.

    I’m not from northern France (I’m from eastern France), but I gave it a try.
    Insteed of frying them twice I first steam them and them fry them directly at 190 celsius.
    The result is wonderful, I couldn’t stand industrial fries anymore.

    Maybe there is such things as “healthy fries” after all…

    • Matt Lentzner says

      I absolutely agree that healthy fries exist, but not in 99% of all restaurants in the USA. It’s a sad fact that any time you eat out you’re going to get a whack of rancid omega-6 oil. Anything deep fried means a double-whack (or more).

      I’ve also made my own fries. I fry them in a cast iron pan and I’ve tried coconut oil, tallow, and bacon grease. With a light coating of kosher salt, all have been delicious and my kids inhale them. I will definitely try pre-cooking them. Thanks for the tip.

    • Jason says

      I cook up some potato fries once or twice a month for my kids. Here’s my method:

      1. The day before (you want a whole, cold, cooked potato) bake the potato or potatoes as you would for a baked potato. When at room temp, toss it in the fridge.
      2. Carefully peel the potato with your hands and a butter knife. Try to keep the potato intact.
      3. Cut the potato into medallions. You can also try cutting into medallions first, then peel off the skin.
      4. Heat up your saturated fat on a medium heat, enough to cover the bottom. Should be up on the sides of the potatoes when they’re all in. I use duck fat. They taste awesome in duck fat.
      5. Fry once until they start lightly browning, turn them over and brown, again. Then remove and let them cool. The potato medallions should all have one side fully touching the bottom of the pan. I use a 12″ stainless steel skillet.
      6. replenish oil if needed. Then carefully place the potatoes back in and brown and turn again. Eat right away. Salt if you prefer.

      I’ve also conserved on my duck fat by doing coconut oil for the first dip, then duck fat for the second.

      • brandon says

        I make baked fries. Cut up the fries and dip in beaten egg whites, add salt and bake on cookie sheet 375-400 for 15 to 20 minutes. The egg whites crisp on the out side. They are awsome I got the recipe from a Muscle and Fitness mag back in the 80’S.

  11. Ulrik says

    Nice article, but there seems to be a typo here: “… and your aerobic capacity will suffer without sufficient glucose…”

    I’m sure you mean *anaerobic capacity*. Aerobic capacity is actually a little better in a very low carb, ketoadapted state (as we know from Dr Phinney’s research, and it makes sense: fat burning is aerobic, and fat is always readily available unless you’re severely starved). It’s the anaerobic activity that needs glucose (and it will suffer somewhat on a low carb diet).

    • Matt Lentzner says

      Not a typo (not this time, at least :) )

      Glucose is accessed both aerobically and anaerobically. If a person cannot access their fat reserves then they are reliant on glycogen stores. But it is not true that someone with good fat adaptation is not using glucose as well. They benefit from both energy pathways being available.

      It is generally believed that activity after 4 minutes is aerobic, but it’s a sliding scale. Activity near the 4 minute mark is predominantly glucose fueled while sitting on your butt and watching TV can be (if you’re adapted) almost fully fat-fueled (ketosis). In spite of the rhetoric otherwise, CrossFit, as commonly practiced, is well into the aerobic zone although very glycolytic. Crossfitters (a large part of the audience here) will do much better with some carbs.

      • Ulrik says

        It’s true that glucose can be accessed aerobically, too, just not as efficiently as fat and ketones (in adapted individuals). And whatever glucose is used is recycled, so you’re not dependent on large glycogen stores in this situation, for aerobic activity.

        I think the research is quite clear, keto-adapted individuals have better aerobic capacity, so I still think there’s a type; especially since adding “an-” (so we’re talking about anaerobic activity) makes the sentence true! :-)

        I don’t know enough about CrossFit, but I’ll take your word for it that it induces conditions where mixed fat/glucose adaptation is preferable. Has there been a study comparing CrossFit performance of keto-adapted versus glucose-adapted individuals (preferably a crossover study with at least six weeks adaptation time before performance measurement)?

        • Gabriel says

          Okay, so how many elite level marathon runners eat VLC diets? Prove it. Studies don’t mean anything to me unless there are competitive athletes practicing what the lab coats preach.

          And rest assured if any kind of diet manipulation adds an edge for elite athletes they will adopt it. The level of competition is so fierce they would eat placenta if that’s what the winners were doing.

          • Ulrik says

            I have no idea how many elite endurance athletes do ketogenic diets. As to why they wouldn’t, my guess would be that most real sports include some amount of anaerobic activity, like the final sprint to the finish line or whatever, and the impairments for these anaerobic bursts may outweigh any benefits during the aerobic phase. And even Dr Phinney does not claim you get a big edge in aerobic activity; a small edge perhaps and certainly no impairment.

            So chill out, I just thought I’d point out what I perceived to be a typo! :-)

          • Sean Knox says

            This summer I did a half-Ironman with a reasonable time on paleo. As a diabetic. Was eating “VLC” compared to what most athletes of any sport eat.

            On a typical training day, I would eat between 3000-4000 calories, 50-75g of that being carbs.

            On race day, breakfast was 60g worth of sweet potato w/loads of ghee and almond butter, and a 12oz steak. I ate 20g of carbs in Gu and bars every 30 minutes of the event. Didn’t bonk for the entire event.

            These days I’m in sloth mode comparatively, eating about 10-30g of carbs per day and primarily chowing down on lean meats and veggies, typically 1800-2000 calories a day. I do yoga a couple times a week, maybe some weights. I’m being pretty lazy. And I’ve put on no additional fat, and continue to keep slimming down. Actually now my problem is keeping muscle on, so I’ll need to get back into the gym soon.

            A paleo diet template for endurance athletes works really, really well. Hell, it’s like they even wrote a book about it…

  12. says

    I keep a crock of rendered tallow at all times and it’s the fat of choice when we fry potatoes, shallots, onions, etc. But now I’m going to start calling it “blanc de boeuf”…sounds way better. :-)

  13. Patrick says

    I’ve recently added back in small amounts of potatoes now and again in my diet and I wanted to point out that eating potatoes does not necessarily mean you are not eating low (well lowish) carb.

    I’ve frequently added a medium potato, peeled, chopped up and sauteed in some coconut oil in post-workout meals. Even with the potato, my total carbs (including fiber) run 50g to 75g. Still pretty low I think. I haven’t noticed any disruption of my appetite control because of it and it hasn’t caused any weight gain.

  14. says

    Using the Kitavans in the context of a paleo diet is somewhat misleading.

    1. They don’t represent “hunter-gatherers” in the way likely to represent an ancestral population relevant to all humans. Rather, they live in fixed villages (read: sedentary) as part-time farmers.

    2. From the evolutionary perspective, island populations are particularly subject to adaptation (mentioning “Darwin’s finches” should suffice here). It’s anthropocentric (however implied) to assume Westerners have all of the “good” adaptations to diet (such as adult lactose metabolism), while assuming other populations haven’t evolved similar adaptations their respective diets.

    Do these points mean we can learn nothing from the diet of the Kitavans? Certainly not. But the “Kitavans eat lots of carbs, so there” (paraphrasing) argument is weak (generally, this piece isn’t the only one using it).

    Are they really “pesky Kitavans”, or are those using them as a supposed debunking argument simply ignoring the “pesky fact” that they’re a bad example that require anthropological gymnastics to fit into the paleo framework?

    Meat and potatoes is probably the most paleo of all meals.”

    Apparently we’re using different meanings for “probably”. Potatoes are in no way representative of all tubers. This isn’t a macronutrient statement; it’s chemistry. Equating things of the same category is simply a logical fallacy. Also, potatoes are indigenous to South America. This makes them available to native Americans for ~15,000 years (less for most), and the rest of the world for less than 400 years. The probability of them being the “most paleo” tuber is exactly zero. That pesky math… so open to interpretation.

    “But… but… I love potatoes!” No you don’t. Go eat a plain boiled white potato (which would be sooooo paleo) and tell us that again with a straight face.

    Potatoes, the most rationalized food in paleo.™

    • Matt Lentzner says

      You’re taking my argument too literally. When I say “potato” I mean all edible tubers, potatoes included.

      With respect to the Kitavans, they are just the most well known example. Stephan Guyenet has documented other potato eating cultures that have thrived. No, they weren’t hunter-gatherers either, but neither are the Masai. It seems shortsighted to ignore other cultures that are able to live without the diseases of civilization regardless of their means of food acquisition. Bigger data set means better conclusions.

      • says

        Am I taking it too literally, or are you employing literary devices to liberally?

        White potatoes (S. tuberosum) are phylogenetically, taxonomically, biochemichally, and {lotsofotherthings}ically different from sweet potatoes (I. batatas), and other tubers in significant ways. Equating them is misleading… literally.

        As far as I can tell, Stephan Guyenet is not a proponent of the paleo framework. Appealing to his authority wouldn’t speak to the paleoness of any of the above even if he was. Sure, using bigger data sets has its place, but every data point in that set isn’t going to be representative of the paleo framework.

        By your reasoning, epidemiological data showing that certain populations seam to be healthy eating large quantities of oats would make oats paleo. That doesn’t work. The paleo framework predicts that epidemiological studies will miss subtle effects of evolutionarily novel comestibles.

        • Gabriel says

          You have said a whole lot of…nothing.

          This blog post has inaccuracies, yes, but so does your blog.

          You insinuate that there exists foods that are paleo, and foods that are not paleo. As if ‘Paleo’ is some sort of exact, precise science that will never experience revision.

          You are no authority on what is or is not paleo, and have yet to prove that paleo is the only diet to attain health, or that all agriculture is imperialism (while other forms of industrialization aren’t?).

          • RatherRipped says

            This is true Gabriel, however potatoes and tubers are not really the same when it comes to Paleo. There is also the consideration of Gluten content. This should also factor into the equation. But, I am no expert as to what tubers are gluten free, if any.

          • says

            Whether you think it’s important or not, paleo is largely based on anthropology — paleoanthropology in particular. Getting the anthropology right isn’t nothing.

            Case in point: we now have a bunch of veg*ns running around saying the paleo diet was basically a vegetarian diet thanks to an anthropologist’s article on NPR.

            Your comments about proving paleo and the imperialism of agriculture are irrelevant regarding the Kitavans and potatoes. I’m happy to address them another place/time.

          • Gabriel says

            Andrew, ‘paleo dietetics’ does have its own field of science. Again you are no authority on what is and is not ‘paleo’. Scientists usually don’t even speak in terms of ‘what is’ and ‘is not’.

        • Xtremum says

          I’ve seen you engaging in this type of hair-splitting on several different blogs recently. I’m unsure of the point. It the most recent 2 instances, including this one, you seem to be missing the point and just come off as a know-it-all. Here is no different. The author wasn’t making a scientific argument, he is offering a basic overview of the current paleo scene. It seems you don’t agree with it. That’s fine, but why not offer up a blog post on it. I found your blog on this topic to be a bit of a tease, parsing a bad study, but not offering other arguments which you stated exist. I go to your blog for specific nuanced posts, but think these type of responses to generalist articles to be missing the point.

          • says

            Okay, okay… Some people don’t care about getting the science right, and are fine with casually using anthropology wrong to make rhetorical points. Message received.

            I feel like I’ve stumbled into a support group for The Potato Eaters Anonymous. I don’t like the vibe of that Van Goghian nightmare.

    • JMH says

      I love potatoes. Plan, boiled white potatoes. No fat, a little salt.
      I don’t understand the hate-on for potatoes. I know the whole nightshades can be problematic thing, but everyone else has little trouble bringing back tomatoes and peppers. Why *not* potatoes, if you seem to function well on them?

      • says

        I don’t hate potatoes. Personally, I find them to be a nutritionally bankrupt waste of time (that happen to be poisonous raw and have been shown to alter gene expression in humans). What I’m disenchanted by is this endless stream of articles using bad arguments to justify calling them paleo.

        I eat ice cream sometimes. I like it and it doesn’t seem to give me serious problems so I sometimes indulge. But… I don’t need anyone to write an article saying ice cream is paleo to give me permission. I know it ain’t paleo before, during, and after; I take that into consideration and choose accordingly.

        This article strikes me as a rationalization based on bad anthropology so people can have permission to eat what they want to eat and not feel bad about it… because it’s “paleo”. To me, that’s a diluted framework that provides a bad way to get good answers to everyday questions.

        • Amy Kubal says

          Paleo is not a religion – what works for some does not work for all. It is a fact that today our lives look nothing like that of our paleolithic ancestors. Grocery stores, clothing (as we think , electricity, year round access to vegetables, among MANY other things were not options to them. If you are active, healthy, are incorporating starchy vegetable based carbohydrates like potatoes in the post workout refueling window and it’s working for you – more power to you. You are doing much better than you would be if you grabbed a bagel or a powerbar. Again, what works for some does not work for all, but there is no Paleo “God”. What others do is up to them – and as long as it is working for them and not making them sick or taking them farther from their goals then let’s leave them alone. The “Paleo Framework” is set up based on what works for most – and although the original version does not include potatoes, for some people they can fit. Let’s put our energy into helping people and not into arguing about what is or isn’t “Paleo”. None of us were there with our ancestors all those years ago and we cannot be sure as to what they did and/or didn’t eat. We make assumptions based on the facts we do have. So let’s move on and further promote real food and health! We all win that way!

        • says

          Andrew, I couldn’t agree with you more, here. We are all adults, we all need to operate within our own n=1 parameters…getting permission from anyone else to eat what we want by delusion, is ludicrous. It’s time for everyone to grow up & take responsibility for your own choices. You want to eat a potato, so be it but don’t eat it because Matt Lentzner said you could, that’s just a cop out. Now if you seriously are unsure of a food’s origins & “Paleoness”, ask around, get informed guidance, do your own research & take personal responsibility for the answer…guidance is one thing but looking for a scapegoat is quite another.

          • bioremedia says

            @Andrew and Dana: Agreed! Delusion is not a starting point for good science. People can justify anything if they start there.

    • JJ says

      Why the need to post such a self serving comment? Rather than nitpicking the scientific lingo, why not just take the essence of the article, which was obviously posted for the diverse community on Robb’s site. Cool, you’re smarter than us. It doesn’t make what Matt said less applicable or appropriate for a lot of us.

    • laurie gillies says

      Geez Andrew,

      It seems your way of eating has made you argumentative. May I suggest you revert back to the SAD way of eating??

  15. Gabriel says

    I eat plain potatoes, boiled or baked, and I enjoy them. true, I usually add salt at least, but I still like them without salt.

    The kalahari bushmen ate tubers too, except they spat out all the fiber. They’d just chew it until their saliva broke down the sugars then spit out the cellulose.

    The Kitavans are a spectacular example of traditional diets. They’re healthy right?

    Go try and run a marathon in ketosis, see how far you get.

    • raydawg says

      Terrible advice. The guy for whom the Marathon was named after dropped dead. Plenty of modern day Marathon runners do so as well. It’s sad to read those articles, they almost all state in disbelief “But he was so healthy” before he dropped dead at 25.

      If your litmus test is running a marathon to somehow prove that you should carbo-load you’re absolutely starting in the wrong place.

      Chronic cardio like that depletes our stem cells very quickly and shortens our teleomeres. If you want to die young, that’s one path to get there.

  16. Duncan says

    Great post Matt.

    I never completely removed potato, rice or corn from my diet, but keep the serving sizes VERY small, and alternate between carb sources.

    Meat & 1/2 a medium potato one day, curry w/ a little rice the next, chili w/ a corn tortilla the next..and so on. Never caused me any problems, but any legumes or gluten and i get bloated and feel like crap for a couple of days.

    However, i work in a very physically demanding job, so i probably need the extra carbs. This may not work so well for a desk jockey! :)

  17. Jess Chung says

    “It’s a pretty comical situation, really. Meat and potatoes used to be the basic chow of every American – at a time when Americans were the healthiest and tallest people in the world.”

    Hmmm…I assume you’re referring to “Americans” who come from a Western European background?

    I don’t take issue with your post as a whole, but I would suggest you remember that the term “Americans” applies to many different people with various food cultures.

    • raydawg says

      Um, potatoes are a new world plant brought from the Americas to Europe at various points. We do know that Native Americans hunted Bison and ate potatoes and sweet potatoes.

      So the line about meat and potatoes being an American dish is not inherently incorrect.

  18. says

    Literally as I’m reading this, I’m eating slow-cooker stew with some potatoes that had been unloved due to their high carb content. They were actually sprouting, but when I cut off the sprouts and cut them in half, they were still good, so in they went! Tonight I did three hours of jujutsu, so I’ve earned my carbs!

    Originally I was doing the strict low-carb Paleo diet, and now that I have a baseline I’m re-introducing things like cheese and small amounts of carbs. It’s different for everyone, and getting the baseline first is the only way to be certain of what works for someone or not.

  19. RatherRipped says

    I’d like to suggest that it is very important to keep a handle on the carbs. (Though I am not qualified to do so.) Low-ish carb is still where it’s at. (stated as a question.)

  20. ben says

    While I think this is timely and mostly well-done post I would not agree with your simple labeling of fructose as bad – especially in light of the tone of the article and its aim to not over-categorize macros, etc.

    Great point with “Not because there is anything unhealthy about potatoes, but a lot of people cannot process dense carb sources in a healthy way.” Finally the food is not the culprit but the person’s messed up body that can’t handle a particular food! Amen.

    Again though I think you’re focusing a little too much on “earning the carbs”. Yes this simply phrasing is not the worst rule of thumb but even if you’re a desk jockey, just NOT a metabolically damaged one, you can thrive on high carb. As long as the person’s caloric-intake is appropriate, the macros that make up that caloric-intake do not have to be earned.

  21. Heather says

    I think it really does come down to knowing your body. I have avid (and I mean AVID) crossfitters in my family, and they can tolerate some potatoes, rice, and cheese. My daughter is a three sport Varsity athlete and is usually practicing for at least two sports every day (yes, a bit of overkill), and she MUST have an abundance of good carbs (potatoes included) or she cannot function. I, on the other hand, have just recently begun the journey to get healthy again, so my menu is more strictly controlled. Paleo has been a huge lifestyle change and I’m thankful for it… I’ve lost 60 pounds, and have quite a few yet to go, but even now I am in ridiculously better condition than I ever was when I was “skinny.”

    I, personally, stay away from white potatoes because I know once I start eating them, I seem to lose control. So, we make sweet potato fries once a week or so, and if I’m craving starch really, really badly, I cut up some plantains and fry them in either coconut or grapeseed oil. We use either a bit of sea salt, or for a dessert treat, douse them with cinnamon and drizzle a little blue agave nectar over them.

    Our commercially-grown, traditional foods have often been “engineered” to the point where the nutrition content now is significantly different from the nutrition content of yesteryear… so, take some time to get to know what works for you and make it happen :)

    Overall, a good article… thanks, Matt!

  22. Stephanie says

    So, what about the thing where eating carbs is supposed to raise your triglycerides and raise your HDL? Is that not true if you are actually using the carbs to fuel your workouts?

    • Matt Lentzner says

      I think you meant lower your HDL. High HDL is a good thing.

      Addressing your main point: There’s nothing inherently wrong with triglycerides. They are a normal part of human biology – just like body fat. You need some body fat and tri’s for normal function, but people often have way too much of both. High fasting triglycerides is a sign of metabolic derangement. You body has this fat and can’t clear it from the blood.

      Also, when we talk about a carb-fueled workout we are talking about glycogen. Glycogen is basically the animal analogue of starch. When it is mobilized during exercise it is broken back down into glucose and released into the blood. We’re eating carbs to replenish these stores. It’s only when the glycogen stores are full that the liver starts bundling up these excess carbs as triglycerides for fat storage. When that happens you’re overdoing it.

      • Stephanie says

        Doh, I always forget which is “good” and “bad”. Thanks! So, does eating carbs to fuel your workouts then bypass whatever pathway “normally” causes carbs to lower your good cholesterol and raise your fasting tri’s? That’s what I’m curious about.

  23. says

    Great article Matt! You summed up a ton of stuff that I always wondered. It always seemed strange to me that most paleo “experts” forbade white potatoes. I always figured it was simply because of how Americans normally associate potatoes with french fries, and all of the other fast food that accompanies them. But I’ve always thought it made perfect since that cavemen ate them because like you said, they knew about the tubers and their underground storage parts.

    After a year of paleo, I don’t think I could eat a white potato now if I had too. I’ve tolerated switching to yams. It seems like everywhere you go anymore, you can get sweet potato fries with your meal, and even Wendy’s serves Sweet Potatoes now!
    Thanks Again!

    • Matt Lentzner says

      I would take it easy on the sweet potato fries. You should think of them as a stick of omega-6 fat held together in a sweet potato matrix. All restaurants should be assumed to be using omega-6 oils unless proven otherwise. That means anything deep fried is off the menu unless you made it yourself using a saturated fat based oil. There’s lots of comments here already on how to make fries at home. I’ve fried up white potatoes and sweet potatoes and both are delicious.

  24. GuyJeb says

    “If you have metabolic issues (read: abdominal fat) then you need to get that sorted out first since you are not processing carbs correctly. It ends up being shuttled to the fat tissue instead of being available as energy.”

    In the above section, it says Read: Abdominal Fat. is there an Article this could be linking to? Doing a simple search on it on this website, comes up with nothing.

    Any ideas? I’m interested in learning more.


    • Matt Lentzner says

      Sorry that my literary device confused you. There’s no book called “Abdominal Fat” that I was referring to. I just meant that if you have abdominal fat then you are metabolically broken. If you have no abdominal fat then you aren’t necessarily in the clear – hypoglycemia is another sign. High fasting triglycerides (obese blood) is probably the best indicator, but you wouldn’t know without a blood test.

      • Sean T says

        So if I do have have abdominal fat (have always tended to carry fat there as opposed to other areas), should we just follow the paleo lifestyle+low carb until the problem is rectified?

        just for note I’m about 155-160 stand at 5’6” and last got measured at ~11.5 body fat. However I look much fatter since my legs are pretty damn lean while my abs are pretty non-existent. Also, I’m decently strong so there’s some muscle in there as well.

        I get great sleep, and have only recently started paleo a week ago (no grass-fed meat at my disposal, but I’m avoiding grains and such like the plague). Any help would be appreciated!

  25. says


    WHAT ABOUT LECTINS & SAPONINS (potentially harmful to your GI-tract => intestinal permeability) OR THE PROTEASE INHIBITORS (messing with pancreas activity & digestion)?!

    Maybe I missed something (modern potatoes now might have just a tiny amount of those anti-nutrients?!), but wasn’t THAT the point to avoid potatoes in the Paleo Diet?

    I really would appreciate some feedback, thanks & take care!

    • Janis says

      Thanks Hanjo! That’s what I’ve been saying to myself all along, what about the lectins and saponins, and was wondering why this wasn’t even mentioned. I learned that from Loren Cordain’s book. I also mentioned this same thing in regards to a recent podcast giving the go ahead to eat white potatoes, if you had no metabolic issues. Also, I just recently read from the Protein Power Life Plan book that one medium potato contains a little over 50 grams of starch and other carbohydrates. When you eat a potato, your digestive tract breaks the complex carbohydrate starch into its sugar molecules, which you can then absorb. The 50 + grams of carbohydrate becomes 50 + grams of sugar, or a little more than a quarter of a cup! So, I hear you Hanjo and I’d like to hear more about the lectins, saponins, leaky gut and autoimmunity issues and why this wasn’t mentioned. Thank you!

      • Janis says

        Hi Matt, I was wondering if you could touch on the issues that Hanjo and I were referring to with the lectins, saponins, leaky gut and autoimmunity issues, per Loren Cordain’s stance in regards to the white potato? Thank you!

  26. pjnoir says

    this is so well written, I need to reference this on my blog. I’ve been so tired of preaching to the deaf about Paleo and against SAD, but this may get me going again. Perfect, concise, accurate. Nice job. Thank you.


  27. pjnoir says

    I make Sweet potato fries at home. I’m lucky to be able to get grass fed Lard from a wonderful farm, here in NJ. add my saved Duck fat from cooking and these fries are a nice side with lamb or duck. White turnips, cauliflower and white skinned sweet potatoes make a nice Mash with lots of good farm butter. Learn to cook and reduce those nasty omega sixes.

  28. Scott says

    Great to read this. I am a 100m track sprinter who has been suffering lots of calf cramps and cramps in general during training and racing since going full Paleo. I was kinda guessing the cramps were coming from a lack of glycogen stores from starchy carbs – since I usually eat meat + 3 veg for most meals. All my blood work, salts etc are all fine, so I can only guess I am lacking carbs for my sprint and weights training? I am an elite level former national champion, 84kg, 5% – 8% body fat, 6 feet tall. My cramps usually occur about 30 minutes into my sessions, or if I have a short break during my session. Usually confined to my calves and feet, though in bad situations move to my quads and upper body. Maybe adding back in some potatoes will help?

  29. says

    Since it was Halloween recently, I thought I would include this important bit of Zombie-related nutritional info I came across while shopping at the mall with my wife yesterday. Posted it to my Goolge+ account.

    You never know when you might need something like this, especially when you’re at the mall which is where most zombie outbreaks usually start.

    So remember kids, eat your meat..and of course some potatoes for you hi-velocity power-zombies.

  30. says

    I train (crossfit) in the morning so I include potatoes in almost all of my morning meals. It has worked very well for me. As stated in the article I think potatoes are essential if you are very active and can be very beneficial if eaten around your workouts.

  31. FabricatorGeneral says

    I don’t understand. Omega 6 is a “bad fat”? Isn’t it an essential fat? Yes too much of it can be bad. But it is not a bad fat. Without it we could not function properly. And fructose is a “bad carb”? I don’t think so sir. I think it might have been more appropriate to say too much omega 6 can be bad. And too much fructose can be bad. The paleo diet is not just about quality of food, it IS also about quantity. Why else do we consider the Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio? That is a quantity issue that the paleo diet considers. It might be more appropriate to say fructose consumed from fruit in proper amounts is okay, but supplemental amounts consumed in HFCS are bad. And Omega 6 consumed naturally in a paleo diet is okay, but supplemental amounts consumed in seed oils are bad.

    Don’t get me wrong. I generally like what you are getting at here, and I hope that I did not misunderstand you. But with an audience that spans from the performance athlete to the metabolically deranged couch potato, I think it is important to be clear and accurate in your statements. And yes, this will make your article longer and more complicated. But it will also make it more accurate and less confusing for those of us who follow the paleo diet. Thanks for your time writing and sharing this article and your time in answering peoples comments.

  32. Paleoslayer says

    Ok let’s turn paleo into a religion:
    concerning potatoes let us refer to the paleo bible Robb 3:16
    “and Robb said unto the gathering thou shalt not covet thy neighbours potato
    but if he asks for yours you shall give it to him
    or in Matt 1:5
    and Satan promised to Robb all the potatoes and starchy carbs
    in the world could be his but Robb said “I will eat only post workout
    and only enough to replenish my glycogen and on the sabbath I
    shall rest and eat no potatoes”

  33. Natalie says

    Kitavans don’t eat white potatoes. Don’t equate them with other tubers that have been usually ok even in the low carb community.

  34. jakey says

    carbs in paleo… so hot right now.

    well i’m still flying the olde skool, low carb paleo flag!

    i’m active as hell. i don’t crossfit, it doesn’t comport with my idea of safe physical fitness. but i’m an avid hiker, i lift weights and i’m in great shape. i eat a low carb (generally less than 50g per day, but i don’t count), and it’s no problem.

    i routinely take 10 mile hikes, 3000 feet of elevation gain… usually each weekend. i hit the gym the next day. no carbs, no problem. you can run quite nicely on fat.

    i’m not an endurance athlete. i don’t believe in lifting weights daily. but i do believe you can do this thing – life- with a low carb diet.

      • Janis says

        Hi Matt, I’m not giving up! I’m still trying to find out your stance regarding the white potato and saponins, lectins and the leaky gut/autoimmunity connection per Loren Cordain. My issue about the potato is that it’s more than just about the carbs for the people with autoimmune diseases. Can either you or Robb explain this to the paleo community, if they have autoimmune issues, and if this is still the case to avoid certain lectin and saponin containing foods in order to prevent a leaky gut and autoimmune diseases? I mean, who wants a leaky gut? Inquiring minds want to know! Thank you for all that you do for us! Happy Veteran’s Day!

        • Matt Lentzner says

          The post wasn’t really about white potatoes specifically. It was about roots and tubers and how active people need to eat some starch.

          If you are concerned about white potatoes then don’t eat them. There are plenty of other choices. I am aware of the potential issues with nightshades. If a person has an autoimmunity problem then I think avoiding nightshades is probably a good idea. If some particular food is bad for you then don’t eat it.

          Please realize that ALL plants have chemical defenses to discourage their organs from being eaten. And ALL animals that eat them have ways of dealing with these defenses. If you’re looking for the perfect plant that has no potential health issues – I don’t think such a thing exists. The problem with gluten in particular is that most of us are exposed to it daily. It’s like second hand smoke. That’s bad for you, but if you’ve been exposed once or twice then the health impact is zero. If you grew up in a smoking household then it is an issue.

          A typical hunter gatherer would have a highly varied diet so doesn’t suffer from high exposure to any one particular toxin although they are certainly exposed to them. Wild plants will tend to be much more toxin laden than domestics (Domesticated plants are bred to minimize toxins since that makes them taste better). Yet these HGs manage to be quite healthy.

          • Janis says

            Thanks Matt for your response. Yes, of course we should be eating roots and tubers and a whole variety of veggies. Thank you for your article. I just wanted to make sure that the paleo folks who have autoimmune diseases or people with high glucose levels should have a heads up on the statement “potatoes are on the menu again,” which seemed to give everyone a go ahead, but I’m sure they have already educated themselves on the autoimmunity or pre-diabetic protocol. Plus, I suppose I wanted to hear if something that was written in a book a while ago, may not be accurate today as things change quite often. Then I guess clarification was what I needed. I suppose at the end of your article perhaps you could have thrown in the “but, if you have an autoimmunity problem, or other issues, then you might want to avoid the nightshade vegetables, or white potatoes, kind of sentence to cover it all in case some don’t know about that. I guess that’s what I’m saying. I realize the article wasn’t just about the white potato, but I suppose that’s the one we think of when we see, “meat and potatoes are on the menu again.” Anyway, sorry for bugging you, I was just looking out for the folks! Not my job, I know! Everyone can make their own decisions!

            It is truly amazing about the chemical defenses that plants have! We do eat a variety of veggies and with our huge garden it’s hard not to grow those yummy nightshade plants! How can you not have a juicy tomato in the summer? Potatoes too……We all do our best! Thanks again Matt.

  35. says

    Not totally sold on the potatoes. I do eat quite a bit of sweet potato, turnip, rutabaga, beets, ground nut (Apios Americana not pea nuts), sun chokes, parsnips and other tubers. There is absolutely no doubt what so ever that early man ate a lot of tubers, the concept of him eating a lot of modern white potato though isn’t even close to accurate.

    Even where the potato is native and cultivated in traditional ways, there are thousands of varieties. Many colors blues, purples, reds, yellow, etc. Each taking in different macro and micro nutrients and minerals, etc. The modern potato isn’t evil mind you just something I eat in extreme moderation.

    The stew stuff though is damn well one of those times. Here is the difference I used to do classic stew, celery, carrot, potato and meat. Now I do that plus turnips, parsnips and sweet potato. By the time you add that even for a huge dutch oven one regular potato is plenty in the mix. So when you have that big steaming bowl you have like two or three chunks of potato. That is more than enough. Break it up and suck up the gravy, YUM.

    So I am pretty keen on roots but not so much white potato. Besides white potato fails me, could I happily eat it raw test.

  36. says

    Beef stew is one I thoroughly enjoy with this combo. There are a lot of ethnic cuisines that use this combination too.. really something that crosses countries.

  37. Uncle Roscoe says

    When I eat potatoes I get headaches with the same opiate drugged feeling I get from wheat. Potatoes have solanine and other nightshade peptides, including a particularly nasty lectin.

    To be fair, I’m likely one of the celiac types who keeps releasing zonulin. I have a constantly leaky gut, meaning I do not break up nightshade proteins before they enter my bloodstream.

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