How long could you eat a diet of only potatoes? I remember the first time I heard the phrase “Potato Cleanse.” I thought it was funny because potatoes don’t sound very “cleansing.” I’d think more of fruits, vegetables, and water when I think of a “cleanse.”
But a lot of people have tried some version of the potato cleanse at this point. It’s a real thing.
So, does the potato cleanse really work for weight loss? What other benefits are there? Is it safe? And what exactly do you eat? I’ll answer all of these questions below!
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Let’s start by looking at the results people are getting!
Potato Cleanse Weight-Loss Results
I’m about to show you dozens of people who have lost weight on some version of the potato cleanse. Success stories were not hard to find!
Perhaps the most dramatic weight loss case study was Andrew Taylor from Australia. He ate nothing but potatoes for the whole year of 2016, and he lost 114 pounds.
Andrew’s diet was pretty strict, only including small amounts of condiments, and not including other vegetables or anything. Here’s a video all about his journey:
Andrew still posts on YouTube, and he sometimes interviews others who have lost weight with potatoes. For example, Joe Jacob ate only potatoes in January 2020 (the SpudFit Challenge) and lost 10% of his body weight. His blood pressure also dropped from 160/100 to 120/70.
Another well-documented case study of the potato cleanse was High-Carb Hannah’s. She ate potato-based meals for 30 days, including non-starchy veggies and condiments. She lost 6 pounds and 2 inches off of her waist. And as you can see from the picture, she was already in decent shape:
Another high-profile example of the potato diet was the magician Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller). Penn started his diet with two weeks of only potatoes, during which he lost 18 pounds. Then he transitioned to a diet based on Joel Furhman’s Eat to Live program, which is also plant-based, and lost over 80 pounds more.
Penn tells the full story in his book Presto: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear (Amazon link). His book has inspired others to begin their weight-loss journeys the same way.
Brian and Jessica from Krocks in the Kitchen started their weight-loss journey following the same exact path as Penn Jillette. They did 2 weeks of only plain potatoes. Then they switched to the Nutritarian diet, just like Penn. Together, they had lost 220 pounds in the update I saw.
Jeannine Elder, author of Potato Reset, lost 8 pounds in one month of eating only potatoes. She then went on to lose over 30 more pounds in the next year of eating a “potato-based diet” with other whole plant foods added.
Yet another case study: Dana from Debt Free Dana lost 11 pounds in 28 days eating only potatoes. She saw a dramatic reduction in her waist measurement and was happy with her belly fat loss specifically.
Do you need more case studies? Here are a few more:
- Chris Voigt lost 21 pounds in 60 days eating only potatoes. (source)
- Matt Nomme lost 14 pounds in 2 weeks eating only potatoes. (source)
- Kristin from Kristin’s Life lost 29 pounds in 30 days eating only potatoes. (source)
- The “Super Spuddies” series by SpudFit shares more success stories.
I also kept seeing YouTube comments on the above videos from viewers who said they lost weight on their own potato diets. I made a list because I kept seeing these claims. People said they:
- lost 40 pounds in 1.5 months
- lost 11 pounds in 46 days
- lost 12 pounds in 2 weeks
- lost 13 pounds in 1 week
- lost 77 pounds in 8 months
- lost 18 pounds in 27 days
Anyway… I think I’ve shown that this diet works for weight loss. But many diets work for weight loss. What other benefits does a potato cleanse have?
Breaking Food Addiction and Emotional Eating Habits
A potato cleanse is boring. If you do the most strict versions, it’s painfully boring. And that’s why it can potentially change your whole relationship with food.
Many people who do a potato cleanse say that it got a lot easier after a couple of weeks because they stopped tying their emotions to food so much. Food had just become fuel.
This is partly why so many people do a short potato-only diet as a transition into a longer-term diet. It “resets” their taste buds and their relationship with food, supposedly making additional dieting easier afterward.
Improved Gut Health
Potatoes are high in resistant starch, which is a prebiotic that feeds your good gut bacteria. So if you’re eating lots of potatoes, it’s likely to benefit your gut. A potato cleanse also forces you to cut out some foods that are bad for gut health, like meat.
The blogger at Young Health and Fitness tried the “Potato Hack” diet (all potatoes) for 3 days for gut health. After just three days, he lost 1.5 pounds and saw improvements in gut health and sleep quality.
Saving Money on Food
If you want to save money on food, eating only potatoes is a sure way to cut your costs. Dana from one of the weight-loss results videos above mentioned this as another reason she did the potato diet for a month.
My dad actually knew someone back in college who would simply eat microwaved potatoes all the time to save money. If you’re comparing it to other cheap options, potatoes are a lot healthier than those microwaved ramen noodle packages!
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Potato Cleanse Rules
So, how do you actually do a potato cleanse?
The basic rule of the potato cleanse is to eat mostly or only potatoes. But the exact foods allowed, the timing and duration, and other details vary. There are several versions of the potato cleanse.
Personally, I was intrigued to find that many versions of this diet exist and have been advocated by independent sources. Even if their rules vary a bit, I think this adds independent verification that this diet has some merit.
The downside is that now you have to choose which exact version you want to try!
Different Versions of the Potato Cleanse
One way to categorize the different versions of the potato diet is in how strictly they limit you to only potatoes.
- The most strict version of the diet includes only potatoes. You don’t add vegetables, oil, or anything else, and seasonings are very limited. Just potatoes. It’s extremely boring on purpose. This is taught in the book The Potato Hack by Tim Steele (more on that below). It’s only typically done for 3-5 days at a time, especially as a “gut reset,” but Andrew Taylor did it for a full year with great results.
- Other versions allow more seasonings, condiments, and certain vegetables. When High-Carb Hannah did her 30-day potato cleanse (details below), she added veggies and sauces at many meals. The veggies were limited to non-starchy ones, mainly green vegetables, which are low in calories and just add nutrients. The Potato Reset and Mary’s Mini diets also allow some veggies and seasonings. This version could be done for 7 days to 30 days or longer.
- Some versions only limit you to potatoes for certain meals or days. I heard about this in an interview with Chris Kresser (video below). For people who want to lose significant weight on a longer-term potato diet, they can: Eat potatoes for 3 days a week, but eat normally for the other 4 days—or eat potatoes for breakfast and lunch, but have normal dinners. This makes it more sustainable while still causing lots of weight loss over a period of several months.
So, let’s look at some of the specific potato cleanse plans and what they specify:
The Potato Reset
The Potato Reset is an e-book by Jeannine Elder, whose weight-loss results were pictured above (42 pounds in 13 months). She was inspired by High-Carb Hannah’s 30-day potato cleanse and has been helping ohters follow the same path.
The Potato Reset plan allows unlimited potatoes and unlimited non-starchy vegetables. You just eat until you’re full.
Salt-free spices are allowed, including nutritional yeast. Salt can be added in small amounts if you’re not eating enough without it. Fat-free, dairy-free sauces are allowed, too: Ketchup, sriracha, mustard, and marinara sauce, for example.
For beverages, you’re limited to water, seltzer water, and decaf herbal tea. Plant-milk or low-sodium veggie broth can be used to make your mashed potatoes.
The Potato Hack
The Potato Hack is a book by Tim Steele (check it out on Amazon here). The potato diet emphasized in Tim Steele’s book is very short-term: 3-5 days. It’s more of a “reset” you can do once in a while, rather than a sustained “diet.”
Tim recommends eating 2 to 5 pounds of potatoes per day during your Potato Hack. He says this should cause about 1 pound of weight-loss per day, along with benefits for your gut health.
I haven’t read the whole book myself yet, so I don’t have all the details on condiment recommendations and the like.
The Spud Fit Challenge
I covered Andrew Taylor’s incredible 110+ pound weight-loss results above. This is his book explaining his approach in detail (Amazon link).
Andrew’s idea was to “quit food,” as he knew he had an addiction to it and was incapable of practicing moderation. (Years of failed dieting had proven that.) Obviously, you can’t fully “quit food”—we must eat to live. So switching to one simple food—potatoes—was the best he could do.
Andrew’s approach to the potato diet allowed a little soymilk to make mashed potatoes, and it allowed small amounts of condiments. But he didn’t include any other vegetables or anything.
This one is not strictly a potato cleanse—but it’s close enough. Basically on a “Mary’s Mini” diet, you pick one starch (could be potatoes), and you eat it with non-starchy vegetables at every meal.
Here’s the background: Dr. John McDougall, author of The Starch Solution, teaches a low-fat plant-based diet that is based around starches. His normal diet includes reasonable variety. But in his June 2006 newsletter, he shared a simplified version of the diet created by his wife Mary.
It’s called “Mary’s Mini-McDougall Diet.” Or just “Mary’s Mini.”
You’re allowed to switch up the vegetable component between breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And you can include fruit at some meals. So it could look like this:
- Breakfast: Potatoes and fruit.
- Lunch: Potatoes and carrots.
- Dinner: Potatoes and greens.
Like the other potato cleanses listed here, this is not meant to be a life-long diet. You’re meant to follow this diet for a week or two, see amazing results, and then transition to a more balanced starch-based McDougall Diet.
I actually tried a version of the Mary’s Mini a few years ago. I ate brown rice and brussel sprouts at every meal for about a week. I can attest: It made meals boring, and I naturally ate less. It also taught me how emotionally dependent I am on food. Very interesting experience.
In the Chris Kresser interview I included above, he mentioned a similar point: You can get a similar kind of effect as in the potato diet by just limiting yourself to one healthy meal per day, whatever it is. Just eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll be less tempted to over-eat, for sure.
What to Eat on a Potato Cleanse
Here are some of the staple meals you will probably be eating a lot on a potato cleanse:
- Baked potatoes
- Boiled potatoes
- Mashed potatoes
- Baked fries
- Hash browns
- Potato pancakes
- Potentially more—potato soup, home fries, etc—but the point is to keep the diet boring, so don’t get too creative!
Keep in mind that a potato cleanse requires you to make these dishes without oil or dairy products. It’s okay to use a little plant-based milk to make your mashed potatoes, but avoid high-calorie ingredients like oil and butter.
Also remember: Some versions of the potato cleanse allow more condiments, seasonings, sauces, or other vegetables to be added into these dishes, but other versions of the diet do not.
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Is the Potato Diet Safe?
The potato cleanse has its critics. Healthline rated it a 1.08 on a scale of 0 to 5—harsh! Why did they rate it so poorly?
- It doesn’t include much healthy fat or protein.
- If you don’t eat enough, it could lead to muscle loss.
- It’s extremely restrictive, which the writer believes could lead to unhealthy eating habits, like bingeing and regaining weight when you get off the diet.
Even within the vegan community, there are some big critics of the potato cleanse. Unnatural Vegan made two videos explaining why she believes High-Carb Hannah’s potato cleanse was unhealthy (and bad for veganism).
But proponents of the potato cleanse have their arguments, too.
- Dr. John McDougall in this video explains the research and history behind eating an all-potato diet. (It’s not a brand new thing!)
- High-Carb Hannah in this video tracked all her nutrients on Cronometer during a day of her 30-day potato cleanse.
- Andrew Taylor got a blood test 8 months into his all-potato diet, and the results and feedback from his physician were encouraging. Here’s that video:
Personally, I’d only approach a long-term, all-potato diet with some caution. I’d want to work with a physician to monitor how it’s affecting everything. More realistically, I’d probably just choose a shorter or less restrictive version of the diet to be on the safe side.
Potato Diet Community Groups
If you’re thinking of trying a potato cleanse, I’d recommend connecting to a community of others experienced with the diet. The Potato Reset Facebook group, run by Jeannine Elder, has thousands of members and may be a good place to start.
The Spud Club is another community where you can interact with Andrew Taylor, who lost 110+ pounds in his full year of eating only potatoes.
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