You say “potato,” I say “weight loss?” Not so fast. If you lose a few pounds on the potato diet, you’ll probably gain them right back.

The potato diet (aka the potato hack) is precisely what it sounds like: a sketchy fad diet that claims to help you shed pounds fast. Yawn. Haven’t we been down this fad diet road before?

Forget the tater tots, chips, fries, or grandma’s au gratin. The potato diet has one item on the menu: plain white potatoes. No condiments, no seasoning, and not much evidence to back up its claims. What it does have is a bunch of potentially harmful downsides, so let’s get to the root of this root vegetable diet craze.

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Photography by Yulia Reznikov/Getty Images

The potato diet offers a simple game plan: eat nothing but cooked potatoes.

Your daily objective is to devour two to five pounds of potatoes without oils or condiments. Boil or bake them with the skin to preserve vital nutrients.

Here are some tips:

  • Stay hydrated with water, and if needed, sip some tea or black coffee.
  • Ease up on the exercise. Do some light movement or walking instead.
  • Take any meds as you usually would, but skip the supplements for the duration of the diet. (Def talk to your healthcare provider about this first, though.)

Here’s the ruse — If you eat two to five pounds of potatoes for three to five days, you’re consuming far fewer calories than you usually would. So, you’re going to drop weight by simply eating less.

Potatoes contain protease inhibitors, a group of chemicals that tell the body to release more hormones that make you feel full. But other than that, there’s no real science to support that eating potatoes specifically helps you lose weight fast.

For long-term weight loss results, a three to five-day potato diet is not the way to go. Though they’re cheap and packed with fiber, potatoes alone will not provide enough protein and essential nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy body.

As we mentioned, there’s not a lot of protein in potatoes. Some of the weight you lose while on the potato diet will likely be muscle mass. Studies show that eating enough protein is especially important when trying to lose weight because it helps preserve muscle. That’s not really the point of a diet, right?

Also, potatoes are low in many super important micronutrients like iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and vitamin E. The one-two punch of muscle loss and low micronutrient intake isn’t good for your overall health.

Also, potatoes have a high glycaemic index (GI). That means they cause your blood sugar to spike. And what comes after a spike? A good old blood sugar crash, haywire energy levels, and hangry cravings.

In the long run, crash diets like the potato diet might help you drop a few pounds in the short term, but you’ll probably gain all the weight back once you reintroduce other types of food. The best bet is to talk to your doctor to really figure out some long-term strategies for getting healthy and staying healthy.

PSA: Always consult your doctor before you make any major changes to your diet.

The potato diet is like a magic trick without the magic. If you eat nothing but plain white potatoes for three to five days, you might lose a few pounds in the short term, but you’ll also put your body at risk.

Your muscle mass will shrink, essential nutrients will go AWOL, and your blood sugar will go a little batty. For lasting health, consult a doctor to find a science-backed diet plan for your unique needs.