Q&A: Are Sweet Potatoes Paleo?

We receive this question a lot, so it was time for a post dedicated to it…

Screen-Shot-2012-07-11-at-1.57.07-PM1-300x222.pngQ: According to recipes and also on your forum you include sweet potatoes in some recipes. I have been lead to believe that sweet potatoes are NOT part of the Paleo Plan. Is this correct or not?

Looking forward to your reply.
Many thanks.

Margaret

A:

Hi Margaret,

The idea that sweet potatoes are not part of the Paleo diet is a common misconception. Loren Cordain in his first book, The Paleo Diet, said that they were to be eaten in moderation, but that regular potatoes were not to be consumed. Cordain said that potatoes have a much higher glycemic index than sweet potatoes, but that’s not actually true. What is true is that potatoes contain anti-nutrients like saponins that can be harmful, while sweet potatoes don’t contain those substances. Here’s a page from Loren Cordain’s website about sweet potatoes that discusses what I’ve said above.

All the Paleo advocates that I follow are totally ok with including sweet potatoes in your Paleo diet, but there is one note of caution. If you’re trying to lose weight, often restricting carbohydrates can be helpful (but not always), and if you’re not active then it’s definitely a good idea to restrict carbs. Sweet potatoes contain quite a few carbs – 24 grams in a medium baked sweet potato. If you’re trying to follow Mark Sisson’s carb curve for weight loss and stay under 100 grams for “effortless” weight loss, it’s totally possible to eat a sweet potato per day. But if you’re trying to follow his carb curve and stay under 50 grams of carbs for “ketosis and accelerated fat burning”, a sweet potato a day can restrict a lot of other veggies and fruits you could be consuming.

So all in all, sweet potatoes ARE Paleo. In fact, there are many hunter gatherer groups who eat root vegetables, such as the Kitavans of Papua New Guinea who regularly eat yams, sweet potaotes, taro, and cassava (tapioca) and the Mbuti Pygmies of Africa who eat yams and other roots. I think a lot of Paleolithic people would have been hard pressed to survive without their root veggies.

It’s just that some Westerners who’ve had more than our fair share of sugar and carbs our whole lives need to be careful with carbs in general, even on a Paleo diet. So in the end, it’s up to your particular body and situation to determine whether sweet potatoes should be a part of your diet.

Kindly,
Neely