The debate regarding starchy tubers rages on… a well known point of contention among Paleo dieters, the inclusion or exclusion of high carb starchy tubers like potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams has been the subject of much controversy… So are yams allowed on the paleo diet?
While in the most orthodox of Paleo circles, their consumption is condemned outright, the moderate followers of the diet permit some consumption but it is a restricted approach. Then there is the group of athletes whose performance is monitored by following a strict Paleo diet and this group needs foods that have a high glycemic index. And let us not forget those who embark on the Paleo way of eating to lose some of that unwanted weight. In order to determine the stance of eating yams on the Paleo diet, let us tackle these four distinct groups individually:
Strict Followers of the Paleo Diet
First and foremost the strict Paleo adherents lay the ground rules by saying that any foods which need the process of cooking in order to become edible are stricken off the list. Since most tubers need to be cooked in some form or the other, yams along with its close relative the potato, are not given the go ahead. Besides, potatoes have toxins in very high concentration when they are raw.
Moderate Followers of the Paleo Diet
The moderate Paleo dieters have a slightly different take on the consumption of yams. This group of followers practices interesting and innovative recipes to keep adding variety to the diet and are more flexible in their choices of Paleo foods. The focus is still on lean meats and healthy starches from natural sources but since foods that can be subjected to the cooking process without the addition of any artificial additives are allowed by this group, yams are considered Paleo. The variety prevents the diet from getting boring and once again it is recommended to consume these foods in moderation.
In comparison to their more consumed counterparts, the potato, yams are lower on the glycemic index and are considered a better alternative to satisfy those carb cravings. This group also takes into account the health benefits of tubers like yams which provide good supplies of certain vitamins and many minerals.
Athletes on the Paleo Diet
The athletic circle has a varying view point. These professionals practice a very different lifestyle and as such their nutritional requirements also vary from those of the average person. For athletes a lot more physical strength is needed and must be maintained along with a proper diet.
As such, an athlete’s version of the Paleo diet is slightly modified. Starchy tubers serve as a good post intense workout food source for athletes on the Paleo diet due to their high carb content. Since athletes exercise and engage their bodies physically more than the general population, it becomes necessary for them to restore their glycogen stores as soon as possible. Their diet allows some otherwise forbidden foods for rapid recovery after much intense exercise. This includes modern sports nutrition drinks as well as a higher use of whole foods such as yams and fruit that are high in carbs and can replenish muscle glycogen much faster than other starchy foods which take longer to digest.
Eating Paleo for Losing Weight
For those who pursue the Paleo diet in order to lose weight, yams and other tubers will stall their progress. The carb content is one to watch out for and is not recommended if weight loss is your ultimate goal. Those who follow Loren Cordain’s version are also on the borderline due to the increased content of carbs and starch in this tuber along with its high glycemic index.
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So, if you are on the diet with a view to losing weight then yams are definitely not on the menu because of their high calorie and carb content. Athletes will beg to differ as it is a mandatory requirement for them to stay fit and monitor their intense training needs.
As such the addition or subtraction of yams in the diet depends on your goals for eating Paleo. However, should you choose to incorporate this starchy tuber into your meal planning, it should be done in moderation.