For those that have been following my (@stretch_rayner) Instagram story this week, you would have seen me posting about the potatoes diet.  What is the potato diet? What are the benefits? How does it work? Why did I do it?

What is the potato diet?

The potatoes diet is a 3-5day potatoes only-diet that can be done multiple times per month or year.  Believe it or not, potatoes are highly satiating when eaten by themselves with no oil or butter.  The patio diet is quite like fasting and can promote weight loss in those who have additional body fat to lose.

Potatoes are high in potassium and low in sodium.  Those who eat a typical western diet consume greater levels of sodium.  Potatoes also contain vitamin-C, vitamin B6, some protein, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and even trace amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.

White potatoes, when prepared correctly, have beneficial effects on gut health and can help the body reset gut function.  White potatoes are a good source of resistant starch - a prebiotic that feeds beneficial fora in the colon.  The bacteria in the gut then produces short-chain fatty acids, which can heal the gut lining and reduce inflammation. 

Did you know:

  • The highest volume of immune cells in the gut

  • The highest volume of bacteria is in the gut

  • The most inflammation in the body is typically in the gut

  • Research has shown that high resistance starch diets can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.  

What are the benefits of the potatoes diet?

The potato diet can:

  • Increase weight loss without hunger

  • Reduce inflammation in the gut and other parts of the body

  • Improve digestive function

  • Increase insulin sensitivity (how many people avoid carbs because they assume they cause insulin resistance?)

  • Balance blood sugar levels

  •  Restore health gut bacteria 

How does the potato diet work?

You eat plan cooked potatoes for 3-5days, and they must be potatoes, not sweet potatoes, tubas, or yams. You must peal the potatoes as the skin are an insoluble fibre that we don’t want in the diet.  You can boil, steam or roast the potatoes, or put them in a pressure cooker.  I found that boiling them was the easiest because you are not allowed to use any cooking fats.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART, you must allow the potatoes to cool down after cooking them for the first time.  It's best to allow a full 24hr to cool.  The cooling process changes the chemical structure of the potatoes into a resistance starch, and this is the main point of the diet.  Resistance starch is the key to restoring healthy gut bacteria and lowering blood sugar levels. If you do cook the potatoes and cook them in advance, you can still reheat them gently before you eat them. You do not have to eat cold potatoes. Actually, with each cycle of cooking and then recooling more resistant starch forms, so there is a benefit of doing that.

The aim is to eat 1-2kg of potatoes each day, depending on your appetite. Do not go hungry; always eat as many potatoes as you want to feel full. Do not restrict your intake or force feed past satiety. This is not a calorie-counting diet. It is not a diet where you are purposely restricting calories.  Ideally, not other foods are allowed while doing the diet.  This includes cheese, bacon and all the topping you could imagine putting on a potato.  A small amount of salt can be used to add some flavour and make the potatoes a little more palatable. You’re allowed to drink water, tea or black coffee, no milk. Exercise is only at low intensity, mobility, walking, yoga, light swim, biking, or something similar.

Some tips.

Cook enough potatoes to last for the full day or longer.  You need about an average of 1-2kg per day of potatoes. Choose organic potatoes and peel the skin to avoid pesticides. Cut out green or black spots on the potatoes to avoid the toxins. Cook the potatoes before you are hungry. Plan to complete the potatoes diet over 3-5 days that do not have any special events or commitments. All meals will need to be prepared at home as it will be impossible to order potatoes cooked and cooled when eating out. Cook a large pot of potatoes ahead of time and then store them in the refrigerator, so you have easy access. You do not have to cook them every time; you can eat them cold as a snack.

Why did I do the potatoes diet, and what did I modify?

Over the last few weeks, my stress levels have been a little higher than usual due to study, work, moving house and being ill.  I’m also planning a holiday to Western Australia, and for the first time in 7years, I will be off the grid and not available for my online clients.  I’ve been busy programming all of their training ahead of time to make sure they don’t slack off in my absence 😉

I decide to do the potatoes hack because my gut health was being impacted by stress; in turn, this was also affecting my sleep.  The cycle of stress, poor sleep, and more stress was harming my overall health, and I needed to simplify life and get back on track.

The potatoes diet is designed to improve gut health, which naturally leads to better sleep and therefore lower stress levels.  My goals were to feed my healthy gut bacteria, rest from training, focus on getting to bed early and spending more time of self-care (meditation, breathing, mobility and mindfulness).

I allowed myself to add homemade chicken bone broth to the diet as it is a liquid that is also great for gut health. This made the diet a little easier to follow, but I also felt the bone broth added to the gut healing.

After 3-days, I feel lighter, my stress levels have dropped, and my sleep has defiantly improved.  The first couple of days didn’t seem to have much of an impact, but by day 3, I felt good.  I’m keen to experiment with a 5-day potatoes diet when I return from holidays as I would like to know how this feels and to see if my sleep will improve even more.  I’ve always struggled with sleep since competing in endurance sports for multiple years, which I believe also caused many of my digestive issues due to the high volumes of training and the stress placed on the body. 

As always, this information is not designed to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any condition and is for information purposes only – please discuss any information in this post with your health care professional before making any changes to your current lifestyle.