Potatoes are starchy vegetables that are a staple food for many people around the world. However, when it comes to low carb diets, potatoes get a bad reputation.
The basics of low carb diets
Low carb diets like the keto diet restrict carbohydrate intake to help promote fat loss. They typically recommend limiting carbs to less than 50 grams per day.
On a low carb diet, dietary carbohydrates are reduced and replaced with fat. This forces the body to burn fats rather than carbs for fuel.
Low carb diets cause the body to go into a metabolic state called ketosis. When in ketosis, the body becomes incredibly efficient at burning fat for energy.
Some of the most commonly restricted carb sources on low carb diets include:
- Grains like wheat, rice, and oats
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas, and corn
- Fruit, except for small portions of berries
- Beans and legumes
- Root vegetables like carrots and parsnips
- Sugary foods like candy, baked goods, ice cream, and sugar-sweetened beverages
Are potatoes low carb?
No, potatoes are not low carb. One medium boiled or baked potato with skin on contains:
- 37 grams of total carbs
- 4 grams of fiber
- 33 grams of digestible carbs
That’s over half of the daily carb allowance on a standard ketogenic diet.
Potatoes are one of the highest carb sources you can eat. They contain a high amount of starch, with minimal fiber and nutrients.
Boiled potatoes have a glycemic index (GI) of 78–111, which is considered high (1).
Foods with a high GI cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels when eaten. In comparison, low GI foods cause a slower, smaller rise in blood sugar.
Despite being nutritious vegetables, potatoes don’t qualify as a low carb food.
Potatoes and the keto diet
The ketogenic diet restricts carb intake to 20–50 grams per day, mainly from vegetables.
On keto, potatoes are restricted along with other starchy veggies like peas, corn, winter squash, carrots, and beets.
Eating potatoes regularly will prevent you from entering ketosis and achieving the fat burning benefits of keto.
Occasionally including small portions may be possible, but you’ll need to carefully account for the carbs.
Reasons to avoid potatoes on keto
Here are some reasons potatoes may need to be avoided on keto:
- High in carbs and starch
- Low in fat, fiber, and protein
- Cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin
- Easy to overeat since they are low in nutrients and fiber
- Prevent ketosis due to high carb content
Low carb potato alternatives
If you miss potatoes, there are several great low carb substitutes to include instead:
- Daikon radish
- Zucchini or other summer squash
- Hearts of palm
These can be mashed, fried into fries, or roasted to mimic potato dishes.
Potatoes and Atkins
The Atkins diet is another popular low carb diet.
On Atkins, potatoes are restricted for the first phase of the diet called Induction.
During Induction, carb intake is limited to under 20 grams per day. This means potatoes are off limits.
Later phases of Atkins allow small portions of potatoes along with other starchy veggies.
The quantity allowed depends on your carb tolerance. Tracking your weight and ketone levels help determine how many carbs you can eat while maintaining ketosis.
Potatoes and paleo
The paleo diet is not technically a low carb diet.
However, it eliminates grains, dairy products, beans, peanuts, refined sugars, processed oils, and potatoes.
Paleo focuses on meat, fish, eggs, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils.
Potatoes are excluded on paleo because they’re a cultivated, starchy vegetable not commonly eaten by our paleolithic ancestors.
Occasionally including potatoes may be possible, but sweet potatoes are favored as a starchy vegetable on paleo due to their higher nutrient content.
Nutrients in potatoes
Although they’re high in carbs, potatoes do contain some beneficial nutrients. One medium potato (148g) contains (2):
- 161 calories
- 0 grams fat
- 4 grams protein
- 37 grams carbs
- 3 grams fiber
- 24% DV potassium
- 3% DV manganese
- 3% DV vitamin C
- 3% DV vitamin B6
- 2% DV magnesium
- 2% DV phosphorus
They provide a modest amount of vitamin C, B6, potassium, and manganese.
However, potatoes are still relatively low in nutrients compared to other veggies.
Healthier ways to eat potatoes
If you do eat potatoes occasionally, there are some simple ways to make them healthier:
- Leave the skin on. Most of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals are found in the skin.
- Choose small or medium size potatoes which have fewer carbs.
- Stick to boiled, baked, or roasted. Fry them as little as possible.
- Avoid added fat from oils, butter, bacon, cheese, etc.
- Load them up with veggies, Greek yogurt, and fresh herbs instead of high fat toppings.
Potatoes are one of the highest carb sources you can eat. They contain minimal fat and protein.
Because of their carb content, potatoes do not fit into low carb, ketogenic, or paleo meal plans.
Occasional small portions may work for some people on more flexible low carb diets like Atkins.
It’s best to stick to low carb veggies instead of potatoes if you want to stay in ketosis and reap the benefits of low carb or keto.
If you really miss them, there are great low carb replacements like cauliflower, turnips, and squash that can stand in for potatoes.
Overall, potatoes are not a good choice for low carb diets due to being very high in carbs.
Frequently asked questions
Can you eat potatoes on the keto diet?
No, potatoes are too high carb to include regularly on the keto diet. A typical medium potato contains over 30 grams of net carbs, which is more than allowed for an entire day on keto.
Are potatoes low glycemic?
No, potatoes have a high glycemic index of 78-111. They cause a rapid spike in blood sugar and insulin compared to low glycemic foods.
Are potatoes anti-inflammatory?
Potatoes contain some anti-inflammatory nutrients, but may also promote inflammation in certain people due to lectins, nightshades, and high carb content.
Can you eat sweet potatoes on keto?
Only in small amounts. Sweet potatoes have slightly fewer carbs than regular potatoes, with about 20 net carbs in a medium spud. Occasional small portions can fit into keto, but they should not be a staple carb source.
What can you substitute for potatoes on keto?
Great potato substitutes for keto include cauliflower, radishes, turnips, rutabagas, daikon radish, jicama, eggplant, zucchini, celeriac, and hearts of palm. These can be used to make keto mashed potatoes, fries, and potato salad.
Are carrots keto friendly?
No, carrots contain too many net carbs to be keto friendly. One medium carrot has 8 grams of net carbs, which can quickly add up. Carrots, parsnips, and other root veggies should be avoided on keto.
Can you eat corn on keto?
No, corn is very high in carbs and sugar so it is restricted on keto. One ear of corn has about 27 grams of net carbs, which is more than the daily amount for keto.
The bottom line
Potatoes are very high in carbs, so they are not suitable for low carb or ketogenic diets. Replacing them with low carb veggies allows you to follow the diet successfully.