Can Diabetics Eat Sweet Potatoes? (Are They Healthy?)

can diabetics eat sweet potato

If you have diabetes, it’s important to be able to manage your diet. There are some foods that you might choose to eat less frequently to make sure that you can keep your blood sugars in check. Is the sweet potato one of these foods? 

People with diabetes can eat sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes contain fiber, protein, antioxidants and other healthful nutrients. The GI (glycemic index) is also relatively low at 46 when boiled. It is considered a superfood, provides several health benefits, and can be eaten in moderation by diabetics.

The sweet potato is a great option for people with diabetes; however, it is higher in carbohydrates so it is important to monitor your portion sizes.

What Is In A Sweet Potato?

One medium sweet potato (1 cup cubes) contains 114 calories, 27 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams protein, 4 grams fiber, and no fat. One half cup sweet potato is considered 1 carb choice, if you are counting carb choices.

The sweet potato is considered a superfood due to its many health benefits. Continue reading to learn more about this fabulous root vegetable.

Eating Sweet Potatoes Tips For Diabetics

First, it’s important to make sure that you keep an eye on how much you serve up. Like all carbohydrates, these foods have the potential to raise your blood sugar levels. However, this should be a problem as long as you limit your portion size.

How Much Sweet Potato Should A Diabetic Eat?

A standard serving size is one half cup. This is roughly half of a medium sweet potato.

It’s a good idea to treat the sweet potato as the main starch for the meal. Try to make the rest of the foods relatively low GI (glycemic index). This will help ensure that you don’t have issues with your blood sugar levels with unwanted spikes.

Don’t Add Sugar

The next thing that you might want to consider is the way that the food is prepared. In most cases, you will be adding more sugar. For example, many people use butter when creating a mash. In some cases, recipes call for marshmallows or brown sugar.

If you have diabetes, you will want to shy away from these types of practices. Instead, focus on recipes that don’t include any added sugar or sweeteners.

This will make it easier to keep your blood sugar levels under control. This doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice flavor. For example, you might want to check out this recipe for delicious baked sweet potato fries.

How can you Lower the GI of Sweet Potato? 

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how much any given food will raise your blood sugar. It scores food on a scale of 0-100, where a low score is 55 or less, a medium score is 56-69, and a high score is 70 or greater.

The way that you cook sweet potatoes will determine the GI levels. The best way to lower the GI level is by boiling them. Boiling them lowers the GI level by almost half versus baking.

Boiling also helps break down the starches, making it easier for your body to absorb them. The longer that you boil them, the more the starches will break down. After 30 minutes, they will have a GI of around 45. This is classed as low. (source)

If you have diabetes, it’s best to try to lower the Glycemic Index (GI) value of your food. The higher the GI, the more likely that you’ll have a spike in your sugar levels. 

In this case, you’ll need to think about the way you are cooking it and how long you’re cooking it for. The highest GI occurs when you bake sweet potatoes. Assuming you have them in the oven for 45 minutes, the GI could be 94. This is classed as high and is the same rating given to foods like instant cook rice. 

You might also want to avoid frying or roasting. These will also produce a higher GI. If you want to cook this way, it’s best to pair them with low GI foods. This will help you manage your blood sugar levels. 

What are the Health Benefits of Sweet Potato? 

The sweet potato, often mistakingly called a yam, is considered a superfood because of it’s many health benefits.

There are several nutrients provided by the sweet potato, including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, protein, fiber, and 448 mg potassium per cup. This can lead to everything from better eyesight to improved muscle development. 

Sweet Potato Health Benefits

  • Relatively low GI. This will make it easier for people with diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels. However, there are several other health benefits that you’ll be able to receive. 
  • Valuable source of Vitamin A. This can be a good way to improve your eyesight. It will also be able to reduce the appearance of acne and help you maintain a strong immune system.
  • Rich in beta carotene. This functions as a powerful antioxidant, which can fight off dangerous agents, such as cancer cells.
  • Contains Vitamin C. This can improve your immune system. It can also help you maintain healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin C also help your body absorb more iron.
  • Source of iron. Iron helps with muscle development. It’s also important for the creation of red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body.
  • Protein (A plant-based source). Proteins are complex at the molecular level. They make up your hair, nails, bones, and muscles. Protein gives organs and tissues their shape, and help them function. They provide a sensation of satiety, or fullness, which helps you eat less when you are trying to lose weight.
  • Fiber. Dietary fiber is best known for it’s ability to relieve or prevent constipation. Fiber also helps with maintaining a healthful weight, lowering your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. It can help suppress the appetite, making it easier to stick to your meal plan.

What are the Best Types of Sweet Potatoes for Diabetes? 

Amazingly, there are more than 400 varieties of sweet potatoes around the world. While all foods can fit into your diabetic meal plan, certain sweet potatoes have more benefits than others. 

One of the most common types of sweet potatoes is the Orange variety. As the name suggests, the peel is orange while the inside is reddish-brown. This sweet potato has a fairly low the GI is fairly low GI especially if you boil it. 

Another variety that you might want to consider is Purple sweet potato. These contain a high level of Anthocyanins. Some studies have shown that these might be able to help those with Type 2 diabetes. These might be able to improve insulin resistance. 

Third, you might want to try Japanese sweet potatoes, also known as Satsuma Imo. This variety contains caiapo. According to some studies, this species might be able to reduce the two-hour postprandial glucose levels. Because of this, some people have speculated that eating foods that have high levels of caiapo might be able to prevent diabetes. While further research will be needed, there aren’t any serious side effects. 

Final Thoughts

If you have diabetes, you’ll need to be careful about the type of foods you consume. Normally, this would mean avoiding starches, as they can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. However, this isn’t the case when it comes to sweet potatoes. They tend to be very low GI, especially when you boil them. They also contain a lot of valuable nutrients, providing a lot of health benefits. So, if you’re a diabetic, add some sweet potatoes to your diet. 

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