If you have diabetes, you may be scratching your head over sweet potatoes. You’re wondering whether or not sweet potatoes are safe for you to eat, the answer is, yes… sort of.
You might not know it after a trip to the supermarket, but there are over 400 varieties of sweet potatoes available around the world. Some of these are better for people with diabetes to eat than others.
Your portion size and cooking method are important.
Knowing the glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) for the sweet potato variety you choose are also important factors.
GI is a ranking system for foods containing carbohydrates. The ranking, or number, assigned to a food indicates its effect on blood sugar levels.
GL is also a ranking system. The GL ranking takes into account a food’s GI as well as the portion size, or grams per serving.
In this article, we’ll break down everything a person with diabetes needs to know about eating sweet potatoes. This information can help you enjoy them without worry. We’ll even provide some recipes you might like.
The scientific name for sweet potatoes is Ipomoea batatas. Sweet potatoes of all kinds are good alternatives to white potatoes. They’re higher in fiber and nutrients, such as beta carotene.
They also have a lower GL. Like white potatoes, sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrates. Even so, people with diabetes can eat them in moderation.
There are certain types of sweet potatoes that have been shown to have benefits for people who are concerned about blood sugar and obesity. We’ll discuss varieties of sweet potatoes and their benefits in the next section.
In addition to their nutritional value, sweet potatoes contain properties that may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Some of the nutrients found in sweet potatoes are:
- vitamin A in the form of beta carotene
- vitamin C
- vitamin B-6
- vitamin K
Orange sweet potatoes
Orange sweet potatoes are the most common type found in U.S. supermarkets. They’re reddish-brown on the outside and orange on the inside.
When compared to regular white potatoes, orange sweet potatoes have a higher fiber content. This gives them a lower GI and makes them a healthier option for people with diabetes.
Purple sweet potatoes
Purple sweet potatoes are lavender-colored on the inside and outside. They are sometimes marketed under the names Stokes Purple and Okinawan potatoes.
Purple sweet potatoes have a lower GL than orange sweet potatoes. In addition to nutrients, purple sweet potatoes also contain anthocyanins.
A review of studies found that anthocyanins work in the body via multiple mechanisms, including reduction of carbohydrate digestion in the gut.
Japanese sweet potatoes
Japanese sweet potatoes (Satsuma Imo) are sometimes referred to as white sweet potatoes, even though they’re purple on the outside and yellow on the inside. This strain of sweet potato contains caiapo.
A study found that caiapo extract was able to significantly reduce fasting and two-hour blood glucose levels in subjects when compared with placebo. Caiapo was also shown to reduce cholesterol.
Since sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrates, they can spike blood sugar levels. Their fiber content helps to slow down this process.
Orange sweet potatoes have a higher GI. This can increase your blood sugar level, compared to other sweet potato varieties.
No matter which type of sweet potato you choose, limit your quantity and opt to boil or steam instead of bake.
When eaten in moderation, all kinds of sweet potatoes are healthy. They’re very high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and can safely be included in a diabetes-friendly diet.
Here are some diabetes-friendly recipes you can try:
- Avocado and sweet potato salad
- Sweet potato casserole cups
- Baked sweet potato fries
- Crispy oven roasted purple sweet potato fries
- Broccoli-stuffed sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a better nutritional option than white potatoes. Even so, they should be enjoyed only in moderation, or they may negatively affect blood glucose levels.
Some sweet potatoes are very large in size, making it easier to eat too much. Always opt for a medium-sized potato and make sure to include other healthy foods in your meal plan on a daily basis.
When eaten in moderation, sweet potatoes can be part of a healthy food plan when you’re living with diabetes. Some types of sweet potatoes may even provide benefits to help you manage your condition.
These include Japanese sweet potatoes and purple sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are nutrient-dense but also contain carbohydrates. Keeping your portions small and boiling instead of baking will help ensure a lower GL.