Sweet potatoes served in a bowl with a fork in it.

If you have diabetes, is it okay to eat sweet potatoes? What Dietitians Say About It

Yes, is the response! This is the precise way to incorporate sweet potatoes into a diet that is blood sugar-friendly.

Nutrition of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes (not to be confused with yams!) come in hundreds of kinds, from North Carolina Orange to Japanese sweet potatoes. According to Mary Ellen Phipps, M.P.H., RDN, LD, author of The Easy Diabetes Cookbook, sweet potatoes are high in potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, B6, and C.

“Whereas purple sweet potatoes have more anthocyanins, orange sweet potatoes have more beta carotene.” Antioxidants that support health include beta carotene and anthocyanins, according to Phipps. A medium sweet potato boasts a remarkable vitamin and mineral profile, moderate starchy carbohydrate content, and is a decent source of fiber.

The following nutrients are found in one cooked medium sweet potato (114 grams, or around 4 ounces) with skin, according to the USDA:

  • 103 calories
  • 24 g of carbohydrates
  • 7 g of total sugars
  • 4 g of fiber
  • 2 g of protein
  • Zero grams of fat
  • 41 milligrams of sodium
  • 542 milligrams of potassium
  • 22 mg of vitamin C
  • 1,100 mcg of vitamin A RAE

A 2022 study published in Food Chemistry by Megan Huff, RD, LD, a cardiac ICU dietitian located in Atlanta, suggests boiling sweet potatoes rather than baking them since boiling will cause less starch to break down. “Eat sweet potatoes with a protein and fat to make a balanced meal and further slow the digestion and absorption of sugars,” she continues.

What Effects Do Sweet Potatoes Have on Blood Sugar?

Sweet potatoes can increase blood sugar levels, just like any other food that contains carbohydrates, according to Phipps. The amount of sweet potatoes you eat, how you cook them, and what you serve them with will all affect how much your blood sugar rises. 

However, experts concur that sweet potatoes’ carbohydrate content shouldn’t be the reason we eliminate them. According to the CDC, there is no one-size-fits-all amount of carbohydrates to consume; instead, it depends on your unique needs. Finding the ideal quantity for you may be aided by consulting with a dietitian or diabetes educator. 

Sweet potatoes naturally have less protein and fat and more carbohydrates than many other starchy foods. This indicates that consuming sweet potatoes by itself increases the risk of blood sugar rises. However, Carla Hernandez, nutrition and clinical program head at Twin Health, warns that eating them in combination with other foods high in fat and protein can significantly alter how they affect your blood sugar. 

Can Sugar Potatoes Be Eaten by People with Diabetes?

Huff says that even if you have diabetes, you can still eat sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes’ high fiber content, particularly when eaten skin-on, can help lessen blood sugar rises. Additionally, the degree to which your blood sugar rises might be lessened by the way you boil your sweet potatoes. Phipps suggests, for instance, that baked or roasted sweet potatoes have a higher glycemic index than boiled sweet potatoes. The rate at which food raises blood sugar levels is measured by the glycemic index. Foods with a lower glycemic index therefore typically affect blood sugar levels less.

How to Eat Sweet Potatoes in a Diabetes-Friendly Diet

According to Phipps, you should combine sweet potatoes with your preferred nonstarchy veggies and sources of protein. Because these foods take longer to digest, your blood sugar will fluctuate gradually and you will experience a “slow drip” of energy. 

According to Hernandez, other dishes that would go well with sweet potatoes are cheese, any kind of protein, like chicken, fish, or steak, and, of course, more fiber the better. “Fibre should ideally come from nonstarchy vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, leafy greens, or green beans. Additionally, she says, fat boosts the bioavailability of carotenoids and their conversion to the active form of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, in meals high in carotenoids. You might try Anthony Anderson’s Sweet Potato Home Fries with Cranberry-Hazelnut Crumble, No-Sugar-Added Sweet Potato Casserole, or some easy yet delectable Roasted Sweet Potatoes as some diabetes-friendly sweet potato dishes. 

In summary 

People with diabetes can better control blood sugar increases after meals by boiling sweet potatoes or serving them alongside dishes high in protein and fiber. Any food can be included in a balanced, diabetes-friendly diet—just in moderation. Whether or whether you have diabetes, a balanced plate should include a high-fiber carbohydrate like sweet potatoes, which are nutrient-dense and filled with nutrients.

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