Ask Us Anything: Can you survive on a single food forever?

‘Can’ is one thing, ‘should’ is another entirely.
The Ask Us Anything logo with an illustrated heap of potatoes.

Could you survive on just potatoes for the rest of your days? Katie Belloff/Popular Science

Is your head constantly spinning with outlandish, mind-burning questions? If you’ve ever wondered what the universe is made of, what would happen if you fell into a black hole, or even why not everyone can touch their toes, then you should be sure to listen and subscribe to Ask Us Anything, a brand new podcast from the editors of Popular Science. Ask Us Anything hits Apple, Anchor, Spotify, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts every Tuesday and Thursday. Each episode takes a deep dive into a single query we know you’ll want to stick around for.

This week, we investigated whether you can survive by eating a single type of food. While we wouldn’t recommend this as part of a healthy diet—and why would you when there are so many delicious foods out there—we made sure to answer the question accurately and scientifically. While you’ll have to listen to the entire episode for proper context, I will say that it’s not easy and it would take a lot of that single food item. We’re talking dozens and dozens of potatoes. 

The main reason this would be so hard is that there are many micronutrients, including various vitamins and minerals, that we need to survive. All foods have more of some and less of others, so relying on just one form of sustenance for all our nutritional needs is really challenging. There’s a reason that the U.S. dietary guidelines recommend eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and cheeses.

Perhaps taking a deep dive into one food item is the easiest way to show that a varied diet is really the best thing you can do for your body. So if you want to know how many potatoes you’d need to eat to survive, be sure to tune in to this week’s episode of Ask Us Anything. Tune in here, and read the article that inspired this episode here.