The paleolithic, or paleo, diet works to feed the human body with organic foods only found in the Paleolithic era, dating back to 2 million years ago.
No, people on this diet don’t dress like cavemen – instead, the paleo diet promotes good health due to the fact our anatomies haven’t changed much since the Paleolithic era. If we don’t need to rely on processed foods, then why do we?
The types of foods allowed in the paleo diet are whole and unprocessed foods, such as anything that could be hunted or gathered like fish, meat, and berries. Dairy, sugar, salt, grains, and legumes are all off the table. Some rules can be bent, for example some people will use maple syrup in paleo cakes as maple trees existed long before agriculture.
So, what about sweet potatoes?
It’s no secret that most weight-loss diets strictly ban carbohydrates such as potatoes. As sweet potatoes are a complex carbohydrate, however, does that mean they are allowed in the paleo diet?
If you’re starting to plan meals for your paleo diet, here is everything you need to know about whether sweet potatoes are paleo!
Are sweet potatoes paleo?
The short answer is: yes, sweet potatoes are paleo.
The long answer is slightly more complicated, because not everyone will agree that sweet potatoes are paleo.
Before we go into that, here is the list of nutritional requirements that a food item must meet in order for it to be considered paleo:
- High in protein
- Low in carbs
- High in fiber
- Low on the glycemic index (sugar)
- Low in sodium
- Moderate to high fat content
- High in potassium
- High in vitamins and minerals
- Net dietary alkaline mode
As sweet potatoes are still fairly high in carbohydrates, it can seem quite confusing as to why they can be considered paleo. This is because sweet potatoes are high in fiber, potassium, vitamins A and beta carotene, minerals, and they are low in sodium.
Sweet potatoes are also complex carbohydrates, which digests slowly and provides the body with a steady supply of energy for a few hours. This is why a lot of energy-based diets will allow sweet potatoes to be eaten – not to mention how tasty they are.
So, while sweet potatoes have a fairly high carbohydrate content, their nutritional benefits outweigh the cons. While sweet potatoes do contain sugar, they are low on the glycemic index, which means that the sugar will only affect the blood sugar levels slowly.
If you’re going to eat sweet potatoes while on a paleo diet, you’ve got to consider how to cook them. Paleo diets are notoriously flavorless (especially with the lack of salt). While sweet potatoes have a distinctively tasty and sweet flavor, you might want to stay away from oils and other fatty seasonings like salt.
Who says that sweet potatoes aren’t paleo?
The wonderful thing about all diets is that every single diet can be individualized. In the grand scheme of things, it won’t matter if you eat the occasional sweet potato (or even some white potatoes, but we won’t tell anyone!). However, some people will argue that sweet potatoes are not on the paleo list of approved foods.
While sweet potatoes are an unprocessed vegetable, some people will argue that the high carbohydrate content deems them unsuitable for a weight-loss-based paleo diet.
Here’s the thing – not everyone will stick to a paleo diet for the same reasons. Some will use a paleo diet to lose weight, while others will use the paleo diet to detox their body from unprocessed foods, sugars, and salts. For those who use the paleo diet for weight loss, sweet potatoes are not considered paleo.
It’s all a bit confusing, because some people who use the paleo diet will eat sweet potatoes for their energy-boosting content.
Sweet potatoes are a complex carbohydrate that won’t burn off quickly (contributing to weight gain). Instead, they digest slowly and steadily throughout the body over the course of a couple of hours, meaning they supply the body with a steady stream of nutrients and vitamins.
Some paleo critics will argue that any tuberous, starchy vegetable cannot be deemed paleo because of the sugar content. This goes for sweet potatoes, beets, white potatoes, carrots, acorn squash, radishes, and butternut squash.
Even the slightest disturbance to sugar levels might not be worth the change in the paleo diet, in the eyes of some extreme paleo dieters.
So, can I eat sweet potatoes on a paleo diet?
The answer to this question is completely up to you!
It doesn’t matter whether you choose to eat sweet potatoes while on your paleo diet. Everyone is on a specific diet for different reasons – whether it’s for weight loss, to aid an eating disorder, to cleanse the body, or for weight gain.
Sweet potatoes are a highly beneficial vegetable for anybody to eat, regardless of whether you’re on a diet or not. Sure, the carbohydrate content is still high in the starchy vegetable, but the nutritional benefits vastly outweigh the cons.
These vegetables aren’t likely to make you bloated or fat within the next hour – instead, they burn slowly in the body as they digest over several hours, which provides a substantial amount of energy in the meantime.
A lot of people on weight loss diets will eat sweet potatoes before they work out so they don’t finish their exercise while still hungry.
You cannot deny that sweet potatoes, as the name and taste suggests, have a high sugar content compared to other vegetables.
While these vegetables are unprocessed and do not contain any artificial sweeteners, this does mean that there will be a slight spike in your blood sugar levels. However, like with the carb content, this will be a steady increase of the levels that will provide more energy than anything else.
To conclude, yes – sweet potatoes are paleo! There will be some paleo critics who will strictly avoid eating anything starchy, but the final word is that sweet potatoes come under the requirements for the paleolithic diet, making them part of the paleo diet.