4

votes

Are tubers paleo?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 27, 2010 at 5:14 PM

Most of the arguments seem to be that they have antinutrients, so they aren't paleo. But that doesn't make much sense to me since nearly every plant contains antinutrients.

Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d

(12540)

on March 10, 2012
at 02:59 AM

+1 for yummy pictures!

5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

(1922)

on March 02, 2010
at 02:13 AM

Fair enough. However, one could say that potatoes are the most popular tuber. I subscribe to the PaNu version of Paleo, which is low-carb. Other tubers, such as sweet potatoes and yams, are still high-carb, although they aren't nightshades.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 02, 2010
at 01:55 AM

Low carb and paleo don't necessarily correlate. And potatoes aren't the only tuber.

Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on March 01, 2010
at 08:36 PM

Kurt Harris makes a good point (by way of Stephan at Whole Health Source if I am not mistaken) that the reason fruits or vegetables contain compounds that provide a benefit is often to protect said fruit/vegetable from its own poison. The context here was a discussion on antioxidants found in fruits containing a good deal of fructose.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on March 01, 2010
at 07:20 AM

ip-6 is more commonly known as phytic acid. I think the evidence for those without cancer to intentionally consume it for anti-cancer properties is extremely weak. Radiation inhibits cancer cells, but that doesn't mean it is otherwise healthy. Phytates seems much more likely to cause cancer by chelating minerals the body needs to function optimally.

C8debab64e0631590cb54b7db86f08e5

(296)

on March 01, 2010
at 12:25 AM

Yes, a very good summary paper here: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/133/11/3778S IP-6 is found in a variety of starchy foods, including grains, corn, and potatoes.

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on February 28, 2010
at 07:54 PM

Do you have references regarding properties of IP-6? Is it found specifically in potatoes or also in other foods?

Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on February 28, 2010
at 05:30 PM

Agreed...I simply mean that when one argues FOR the plant, they are often arguing FOR a toxin as well. While plant toxin x might not be all that harmful in the grand scheme, it can still be difficult to support its right to be at the dinner table over the beef liver in the freezer.

Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on February 28, 2010
at 05:22 PM

I was careful to say "many" as opposed to "most" or "almost all." I did say "almost any" in terms of consumption because, as I'm sure most well know, plants are going to put up some kind of fight in order to try and survive. I generally agree with Kurt Harris on this stuff. He likes to say "Nature is beautiful and its trying to kill you." Am I going to stop eating any and all plants? Certainly not. And I do think there are some with positive benefits...cayenne pepper works wonders on a cold, for instance. I just find it hard to argue FOR the plant.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 28, 2010
at 02:36 AM

I think sometimes we underestimate our body's capacity to detoxify plant crap.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 27, 2010
at 08:29 PM

picking a type of tuber may be nitpicking, but there are differences. For starters potatoes are a nightshade which some people react poorly to.

52cae90a114ca8f0404948e2b7ccb7ef

(1595)

on February 27, 2010
at 06:59 PM

I'm eating some hash browned potatoes right now. They help soak up the fat from my bacon and eggs so I don't have to lick the plate as much. Yum!

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8 Answers

best answer

10
5cd18bfcafadc56292971e59f2f1faf6

on February 27, 2010
at 07:03 PM

Great question.

The prevalence of the AMY1 gene in humans seems to suggest that tubers were an important part of our evolutionary past. AMY1 codes the amylase enzyme in saliva which is responsible for breaking starch down to simple sugars. There is some initial scientific evidence that humans have far more copies of AMY1 than chimps which suggests that we developed an adaption to consume starch, most likely in the form of tubers. If my reading of this is correct, having more AMY1 makes starches taste sweeter which implies an evolutionary encouragement to consume starches.

This study is a must read for anyone interested in this stuff:

Diet and the evolution of human amylase gene copy number variation

The science on this is early, but it's reasonable to speculate that additional evolutionary adaptions may have also occurred, perhaps to compensate for the carbs and toxins. Tubers would have been the major form of starch available to paleolithic humans so these adaptions would help with starch consumption in the form of tubers but not necessarily for wheat and other neolithic starches. This could explain why bread tastes so good but from a health standpoint is so bad. A potential mechanism for this is resistant starch which is much higher in potatoes versus bread. Resistant starch behaves similar to fiber in that it isn't easily broken down to glucose and thus doesn't have the blood glucose impact of normal starch.

The AMY1 evidence is interesting but I have to be a little skeptical of the overall implications at this point as it seems to be getting pushed by the anti-meat crowd. The evolution of the human brain can't be explained in the absence of a high meat diet and so the anti-meat crowd is desperate to find alternative explanations for how humans got the calories to support the brain. You have to be careful to filter out this bias in some of the stuff you'll find written about tubers.

For anyone consuming any carb content, I suggest checking your postprandial blood glucose levels with a blood glucose monitor. See this blog entry by Dr. Davis at The Heart Scan Blog for a good explanation of why this is important.

I've personally checked my blood glucose levels following meals containing tubers and the blood glucose increase is minor and short lived. Because of this, I feel comfortable including tubers as a regular but limited part of my diet. These are usually in the form of potatoes and sweet potatoes (it escapes me why people think sweet potatoes are Paleo but regular potatoes aren't?).

I think these are things that starting out are worth eliminating. Once you've established a base line for comparison in terms of mood, weight management, energy level, general sense of well-being, blood glucose level, etc., you can add things like this back and any major negative effects should be obvious.

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on February 27, 2010
at 08:29 PM

picking a type of tuber may be nitpicking, but there are differences. For starters potatoes are a nightshade which some people react poorly to.

3
Be4b60059db3511771303de1613ecb67

(1137)

on February 28, 2010
at 04:46 PM

What about the solanine in white potatoes?

Potatoes may spike blood sugar only temporarily, but even that temporary spike is enough to start that energy-exhaustion roller coaster ride that many of us who have acquired insulin resistance (from years of poor (SAD) diets) experience.

I adore tubers, but I unfortunately have had to eliminate them from my diet. I suppose that the lively discussion about whether they are Paleo or not will continue on, but as for me, they don't contribute in any way to my overall health, so they're out.

3
6b73f0c4b971e2dde7147920e329fe7f

(2041)

on February 27, 2010
at 05:33 PM

Instead of asking "is it paleo?" you should be asking "is it safe?" I don't think any plant food can ever be as safe as animals, but the cultivars of tuber that have been domesticated for human consumption seem to be reduced in toxins from their wild types.

1
Da3d4a6835c0f5256b2ef829b3ba3393

on March 10, 2012
at 02:08 AM

I like tubers and have them most days.

are-tubers-paleo?

Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d

(12540)

on March 10, 2012
at 02:59 AM

+1 for yummy pictures!

1
C8debab64e0631590cb54b7db86f08e5

(296)

on February 28, 2010
at 05:25 PM

Anti-nutrients are not bad, unless you eat them all the time with your only source of minerals - like most people do... :)

To the contrary, IP-6 (inositol hexaphosphate) might have amazing health benefits (cancer prevention anybody??), provided you don't consume it in such quantities and in such a manner as to prevent absorption of minerals. This isn't as big a risk as the paleo community thinks it is.

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on February 28, 2010
at 07:54 PM

Do you have references regarding properties of IP-6? Is it found specifically in potatoes or also in other foods?

Eae21abfabb19c4617b2630386994fd9

on March 01, 2010
at 07:20 AM

ip-6 is more commonly known as phytic acid. I think the evidence for those without cancer to intentionally consume it for anti-cancer properties is extremely weak. Radiation inhibits cancer cells, but that doesn't mean it is otherwise healthy. Phytates seems much more likely to cause cancer by chelating minerals the body needs to function optimally.

C8debab64e0631590cb54b7db86f08e5

(296)

on March 01, 2010
at 12:25 AM

Yes, a very good summary paper here: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/133/11/3778S IP-6 is found in a variety of starchy foods, including grains, corn, and potatoes.

Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on March 01, 2010
at 08:36 PM

Kurt Harris makes a good point (by way of Stephan at Whole Health Source if I am not mistaken) that the reason fruits or vegetables contain compounds that provide a benefit is often to protect said fruit/vegetable from its own poison. The context here was a discussion on antioxidants found in fruits containing a good deal of fructose.

1
03aeff8d87a3b53a449b5b8e9158da98

(3268)

on February 28, 2010
at 04:19 PM

Rick, when you say plant, you're including leafy greens, things like broccoli, etc? What kind of delicate preparations do those need?

Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on February 28, 2010
at 05:22 PM

I was careful to say "many" as opposed to "most" or "almost all." I did say "almost any" in terms of consumption because, as I'm sure most well know, plants are going to put up some kind of fight in order to try and survive. I generally agree with Kurt Harris on this stuff. He likes to say "Nature is beautiful and its trying to kill you." Am I going to stop eating any and all plants? Certainly not. And I do think there are some with positive benefits...cayenne pepper works wonders on a cold, for instance. I just find it hard to argue FOR the plant.

0
5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

on March 02, 2010
at 01:11 AM

IMO, the carb content alone of potatoes is much too high to be allowable in any quantity on Paleo.

In addition, potatoes are nightshades -- the same family as tobacco (and tomatoes, eggplant and peppers). And like tobacco, they contain nicotine.

Regardless of any potential health benefits from other aspects of potatoes, I prefer to keep toxins like nicotine out of my diet when I can.

5ebeec76e20738d0a17cd724d64b1e0f

(1922)

on March 02, 2010
at 02:13 AM

Fair enough. However, one could say that potatoes are the most popular tuber. I subscribe to the PaNu version of Paleo, which is low-carb. Other tubers, such as sweet potatoes and yams, are still high-carb, although they aren't nightshades.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 02, 2010
at 01:55 AM

Low carb and paleo don't necessarily correlate. And potatoes aren't the only tuber.

0
Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on February 28, 2010
at 02:34 AM

To answer this from a health standpoint instead of a paleo/not-paleo standpoint...Conventional wisdom says that the skin of the potato is where all of the good stuff is. So "paleo" wisdom would probably say that the skin of the potato is where the good stuff is not. And this makes sense. If a potato wants to avoid being eaten it is likely going to put up its defenses on its surface.

In general, I am finding it harder and harder to justify the consumption of almost any plant. In order to eat many of them, delicate preparations are necessary and this in itself seems a little absurd when there are so many things one could be eating that do wonders for the body.

Fcaeaac15cf6568f2825b230731d5a7d

(529)

on February 28, 2010
at 05:30 PM

Agreed...I simply mean that when one argues FOR the plant, they are often arguing FOR a toxin as well. While plant toxin x might not be all that harmful in the grand scheme, it can still be difficult to support its right to be at the dinner table over the beef liver in the freezer.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 28, 2010
at 02:36 AM

I think sometimes we underestimate our body's capacity to detoxify plant crap.

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