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Are sweet potatoes Paleo?

by (3509)
Updated about 12 hours ago
Created December 16, 2010 at 5:56 PM

I wonder if sweet potatoes are just "tolerated" or actually encouraged in the Paleo Diet. While humans evolved eating tubers for perhaps 500.000 years, the actual tubers consumed should have been African varieties. Sweet potatoes originate from South America (current territories of Colombia and Venezuela) and most anthropologist date the human presence in South America to some 15.000 years. Anyway it is clear that humans did evolve out of Africa and therefore did not evolve eating sweet potatoes. On the other hand this vegetable is the main staple in the traditional diet of Okinawa, one of the most successful diets in terms of longevity.

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1816 · September 08, 2011 at 10:12 PM

I generally will eat the skins if the sweet potatoes are organic.

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9647 · June 11, 2011 at 7:59 AM

Ha ha, I'm crossposting too! In addition to my comment to your comment on that answer we just colonized (http://paleohacks.com/questions/43755/healthy-neolithic-foods/43795#43795) I would also suggest having a look at the "other" sweet potato thread, with some cool info from Stephen-Aegis et al. and good anecdotal stuff also. http://paleohacks.com/questions/18825/why-are-sweet-potatoes-better-than-regular-potatoes/

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3509 · December 17, 2010 at 1:59 AM

Thanks Ambimorph I do not know that much about sweet potatoes, but I know there still exists today, en enormous variety of potatoes in their native homeland of Peru and Bolivia. Actually hundreds of different types are cultivated there.

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3509 · December 17, 2010 at 1:56 AM

Hi Eva thanks for your answer and the interesting reference to the Kitavan. I agree with you that we must choose the best available option. Anyway since a strong base of the paleo-diet is an evolutionary argument, it makes sense to wonder about those foods like sweet potatoes that (presumably) were not part of the environment in which humans evolved.

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3509 · December 17, 2010 at 1:50 AM

Hi Ben actually I do both, sometimes with the skin, sometimes without. It depends on how tasty was the preparation, the more tasty it, the more I eat of it...

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15976 · December 17, 2010 at 12:01 AM

just wondering: most people eating their sweet potatoes with skins on or off? Ive always done the whole bugger, with the skin. But thinking about lectin idea and white potatoes where apparently some of the burden can be lessened by removing the skin..thanks.

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9647 · December 16, 2010 at 8:18 PM

Whoa, Stephen, you don't buy the recent departure from Africa thesis? I thought that was pretty well established. You have something we could read on this?

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22913 · December 16, 2010 at 7:15 PM

A. I have yet to see proof we came from solely Africa. B. It's about metabolic advantage/reaction not recreationism. Enjoy your tubers!

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3 Answers

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20787 · December 16, 2010 at 6:25 PM

Depends on your situation. If you have blood sugar issues, then steer clear. If you are trying to loss weight, keep intake to a minimum. If you are of good weight with healthy blood sugar control, IMO, they are fine. If you are of good weight with healthy blood sugar control and are very active with glycogen depleting exercises, or are trying to gain weight/muscle, or are trying to stop losing weight, some find they need to actively make an effort to eat lots of potatoes.

Potatoes are probably the most favored starch source in the paleo community for several reasons. One is that heavy tuber consumption is known to support several healthy tribal communities like the Kitavan. Another is because potatoes have a decent level of nutrition to them, unlike many other starch sources. The third is because, as you said, tuber consumption seems to have been prevalent as an ancient food source going way way back and so we are most likely well adapted to tuber consumption. And since sweet potatoes, unlike regular potatoes, are not a member of the nightshade family, they are safe for those who have problems with nightshade consumption.

While your point is correct that we may have eaten other tubers instead of sweet potatoes, since most of what we did eat back then, as far as all kinds of foods, is no longer available, most of the time we have to end up just looking at the biology, nutrition, science, and first hand experiences with each food in order to pick out likely biologically equivalent food sources to those we once ate. Plus the issue of regional variances is also going to make it unlikely that we can eat exactly as we once did. My ancestors came from Europe but I am living in America. Not only do I not know specifically what my ancestors once ate, but I am far from that land so even if I did know, I probably could not get it. So instead I endeavor to eat healthy biologically equivalent foods.

Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd
3509 · December 17, 2010 at 1:56 AM

Hi Eva thanks for your answer and the interesting reference to the Kitavan. I agree with you that we must choose the best available option. Anyway since a strong base of the paleo-diet is an evolutionary argument, it makes sense to wonder about those foods like sweet potatoes that (presumably) were not part of the environment in which humans evolved.

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18671 · December 16, 2010 at 8:09 PM

I don't think much of anything we evolved on is the same today, except maybe some wild game. All of our foodstuff has been domesticated and bred. So I think the only good heuristic is if it is plausibly biochemically similar. For instance, there was probably nothing remotely like a modern apple, but few argue that apples aren't paleo. (Kurt Harris and I might.) Kurt Harris makes a similar flavour of argument that butter is paleo: not by re-enactment, but by biochemistry. So my answer would depend on what kind of compounds are in it, especially defensive ones, and how much it differs from wild tubers, if it's possible to answer that.

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3509 · December 17, 2010 at 1:59 AM

Thanks Ambimorph I do not know that much about sweet potatoes, but I know there still exists today, en enormous variety of potatoes in their native homeland of Peru and Bolivia. Actually hundreds of different types are cultivated there.

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720 · June 11, 2011 at 7:18 AM

crossposting: "Im thinking of getting off sweet potato due to its Neolithic status and trypsin inhibiters, its just not safe to eat raw... I mean I might as well start eating some grains if I thought potent anti-nutrients were acceptable?"

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9647 · June 11, 2011 at 7:59 AM

Ha ha, I'm crossposting too! In addition to my comment to your comment on that answer we just colonized (http://paleohacks.com/questions/43755/healthy-neolithic-foods/43795#43795) I would also suggest having a look at the "other" sweet potato thread, with some cool info from Stephen-Aegis et al. and good anecdotal stuff also. http://paleohacks.com/questions/18825/why-are-sweet-potatoes-better-than-regular-potatoes/

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