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Can Potatoes Help Treat Your Depression?

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In 2016, like so many people, Andrew Taylor made a New Year's resolution to lose weight and get fit. But that's where the Aussie broke with the status quo and decided to do something, well, a little bit crazy: He decided to eat only potatoes. For an entire year he'd follow a "mono diet," vowing no food besides spuds would cross his lips. It now almost 2017 and he says he stuck with his plan. So how did he fare?

Unsurprisingly, eating only one food did help Taylor shed the extra weight, to the tune of 50 kilograms (110 pounds). "I tried a lot of things... Things were not working well for me, but things turned around really when I started eating potatoes," he said in his YouTube diary. "I've struggled with weight all my life. I'm trying to deal with my [food] addiction. I wanted to go cold-turkey but unfortunately you can't do that with food. My next thought was to try to get as close as possible to quitting food." (Note: While Taylor's commitment is admirable, his solution to his food addiction is pretty drastic.. Quitting food, or getting as close to it as possible, can be a dangerous mindset and potentially put you at risk for an eating disorder.)

But weight loss aside, that wasn't the only benefit he got from his unusual diet. He says it also cured his insomnia and depression, allowing him to go off his antidepressant medication for the first time in years. Wait—potatoes instead of pills? Can the humble tuber really work that way? Indeed it can, says Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D., a specialist in addictive nutrition and author of the book (oh yes) Potatoes not Prozac. Potatoes affect the neurotransmitters in your brain responsible for managing your mood, the same ones targeted by medication, she explains. But she doesn't recommend a diet of just potatoes. According to her book, eating three meals a day containing protein and complex carbohydrates, along with eating one plain potato before bed, can help your body self-regulate your moods and emotions. This is especially true, she adds, for people who are caught on the roller coaster of sugar addiction, as potatoes can help break the sugar craving cycle by naturally boosting serotonin and dopamine, helping you better avoid temptation.

Potatoes often get a bad rap in the diet world. But even though they are high in carbohydrates, you don't need to fear them. They're packed with fiber, potassium, and other vital nutrients, making them a healthy choice. That doesn't mean they'll fill all your nutritional needs, however. Most dietitians are not fans of the type of mono diet Taylor followed.

"We need to eat a variety of foods because they each provide different nutrients essential to the functioning of our bodies," Manuel Villacorta, R.D., author of Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss, told us about mono diets, adding that it "can create a massive nutrient deficiency."

Today's lesson? Potatoes can be part of a healthy diet—and may even help boost your mood—but they probably shouldn't be the only thing you eat. And, as always, be sure to talk to your doctor before stopping or making changes to your medications, especially antidepressants!

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