Should People With Diabetes Avoid Potatoes?

should people with diabetes avoid potatoes

Should People with Diabetes Avoid Potatoes? 

Should people with diabetes avoid potatoes? Myths about foods people with diabetes should eat or not eat are numerous.  Potatoes are one of these foods that have gotten a very bad wrap, and because potatoes are known to be a “starchy” vegetable (and break down into sugar), it is believed by many misinformed people that they should be completely avoided in those people having diabetes.  This couldn’t be further from the truth!  Please, allow me to bust this myth and properly answer the question:  “Should People with Diabetes Avoid Potatoes?”

First of all, let me present the facts about potatoes:

    The White Potato 

  • The potato is fat-free, cholesterol-free, high in vitamin C, and high in potassium, and a good source of vitamin B6 and dietary fiber.
  • An average 5.3 oz potato with the skin contains 45% of the daily value for vitamin C, 620 mg potassium (comparable to bananas, spinach and broccoli), trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and zinc.  This nutrient power-house contains only 110 calories, no fat or cholesterol, 116 mg of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.
  • When white potatoes are boiled and cooled to room temperature, they form a resistant starch.  This resistant starch feeds the good bacteria, which are responsible for butyrate production.  Butyrate is crucial because it is the prime energy source of our colonic cells.  Resistant starch also improves insulin sensitivity and improves the integrity and function of the gut. For more about keeping your gut healthy, go here.
  • A ½ cup serving of potatoes is considered one carbohydrate choice (15 grams) in the diabetes meal-planning world.  Think of a “computer-mouse” as one-serving size of a whole baked potato (1/4 of a large potato).  Restaurants enjoy serving you potatoes the size of your “shoe.”  Be sure to only eat about 1/4 of what is served at a restaurant!
  • So, what do you think so far?  Should People with Diabetes Avoid Potatoes?

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The Sweet Potato

  • The sweet potato is rich in beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A).  The body converts the beta-carotene in one serving of sweet potatoes to more than twice the daily requirement of vitamin A.
  • Beta-carotene is a powerful cancer fighter that also reduces blood cholesterol.
  • In plants, beta-carotene serves to protect leaves and stems from the ravages of sunlight and other environmental threats.  In humans, these same compounds help block cancer formation, and also protect against arthritis and other degenerative diseases.
  • Sweet potatoes provide nearly as much vitamin E as do fatty nuts and seeds, and provide a nice dose of vitamin C and iron.
  • An average 5.3 oz baked sweet potato with the skin contains 135 calories, no fat or cholesterol, 54 mg of sodium, 5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.
  • A ½ cup serving of sweet potatoes is considered one carbohydrate choice (15 grams) in the diabetes meal-planning world.
  • So, what do you think so far?  Should People with Diabetes Avoid Potatoes?

The Purple Potato

  • Haven’t heard about purple potatoes?  I know, they are hard to find in most grocery stores.  When you do find them, I definitely recommend you try them.  The are amazing!
  • Purple potatoes are very similar in nutritional value to the Russet potato, but instead they have 4 times as much antioxidants.
  • The extra antioxidants in purple potatoes make them even better than Russet potatoes for helping to regulate blood pressure, due to their high potassium content.  They are also lower on the glycemic scale, therefore, blood sugar regulation is significantly better!
  • Check out my separate blog post on the purple potato here and also get a great recipe idea!
  • So, what do you think so far?  Should People with Diabetes Avoid Potatoes?

With the amazing quality nutrient content of white, sweet and purple potatoes, does this sound like food that should be avoided in people with diabetes or in anyone for that matter?  Absolutely not!  Potatoes are nutrient power-houses.  They are complex carbohydrates that provide a sustained source of energy, which people with diabetes require just like everyone else. Plus they provide fuel for the good bacteria in our gut and no amount of words can explain the importance of a healthy gut for diabetes and for everyone.  (Be sure to check out our “Get That Gut in Gear” Comprehensive GI Stool Profile Package).

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What Should Be Avoided in People with Diabetes?

What should be avoided in people with diabetes or in people who want to avoid becoming overweight or obese or developing diabetes, is excess amounts and excess ingredients added to the potatoes (especially if these ingredients are from processed foods and not organic).  Potatoes only become unhealthy when they are eaten in too large of a quantity, are fried, or are bathed in other unhealthy foods like margarine, non-organic butter, cheeses and cream, or marshmallows.

How Can Potatoes Better Be Included in a Healthy Meal Plan for People with Diabetes?

Potatoes can easily fit into a diabetes meal plan, but the amount depends on your individual carbohydrate allowance.  It’s very important that you consult with your healthcare provider and your registered dietitian to determine just what your individual carbohydrate requirements are at each meal or snack.  Generally, a good rule of thumb is no more than 15 to 30 grams at a meal, but these are only estimates.  Your needs will vary.

The amount of carbohydrates you eat will also depend on the other components of your meal.  You may even consider extending a dish, such as creamed or mashed potatotes, with another great vegetable, steamed cauliflower.  This will cut the carbohydrate content even more and allow you a greater serving without sacrificing taste.  Try it—it is really delicious, as well as nutritious.

Like all foods eaten by people with diabetes, it’s important to see how individually you react to different foods and meals.  It is desired that people with diabetes test their blood glucose with a glucometer once or twice a day.  Two hours after a meal, it is desired that the blood glucose be less than 140 mg/dL.  If it is greater than this, you should contact your healthcare provider and/or registered dietitian, to find out how you can get better glucose control through improved meal planning, increased activity, and/or adjustments in your diabetes medications.

However, saying that, don’t get too overly concerned if you see your blood sugar getting too high after eating a certain food.  Remember, that an elevated blood sugar is a SYMPTOM, that is temporary.  It’s great that you are monitoring your blood sugar, but take that information and use it to make necessary adjustments.  For example, don’t give up eating potatoes occasionally, since they have so many other health benefits that can actually help you better manage your blood sugar, as described above. 

What Else Can You Do to Prevent or Reduce the Rise in Blood Sugar after Eating Potatoes?

When you do eat potatoes, make sure you are eating them in combination with a good protein and healthy fat source to reduce the glycemic load.  Also, keep the skin on.  This provides fiber and also reduces the glycemic load.   Like any other food, don’t eat them everyday.  In addition, since potatoes are part of the “dirty dozen,” always purchase organic potatoes if you can, since pesticide residue can lead to inflammation (and elevated blood sugar).

Also, go for a walk after you eat a meal, containing potatoes (or any carbohydrate).  This will also help blunt the rise in blood sugar.  Another suggestion is to drink this beverage before eating a food that you know will raise your blood sugar.  Try it…it really works.  Remember, everyone’s blood sugar rises after eating potatoes.  That’s just how it works!  

So, to finally answer the question and put this myth to rest, “Should People with Diabetes Avoid Potatoes?” Simply put:  NO!!!

If you want more information on how to manage your blood sugar, consider having micronutrient testing done.  This may uncover other deficiencies that are leaving you with elevated blood sugars.  All the diabetes medication in the world won’t fix this—in fact…diabetes medications may only be making things worse.  We can also provide you with other recommendations to help naturally reduce your blood sugar.

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  1. LoknathBardhan on 03/11/2014 at 10:51 AM

    Can i eat potato, though i am diabets since 20years insuline dependant for last3 it advisable to eat potato if yes what wl be the qantity?

    • DiabeteStepsRx on 03/17/2014 at 7:13 AM

      Like most things we eat, moderation is the key. If you are on insulin, I hope you know what your insulin:carbohydrate ratio (ICR) is. If you do not, then see your healthcare provider. The ICR is the amount of insulin you will take based on the amount of carbohydrate foods you are consuming. Potatoes are a carbohydrate and they will raise your blood sugar. In general, you should probably limit your carbohydrate amount to 30-45 grams per meal, or less. Remember, if you eat potatoes, there is less blood glucose rise after the meal, when combined with healthy proteins and fats that are also in the meal. Eating the potato with the skin on, is also healthier, as the fiber will also tend to slow down the absorption of the potato, causing less of a blood glucose rise. I would limit your potato intake to one small baked potato (about the size of a computer mouse), or a 1/2 cup serving. Avoid frying and loading it up with unhealthy fats. Good Luck.

  2. Al Johnston on 08/09/2014 at 6:19 AM

    Hi, what about canned potatoes?

    • DiabeteStepsRx on 08/10/2014 at 10:42 AM

      Hi Al: I am not a fan of most canned products, due to increased sodium levels and often more refinement. If possible, always stick to fresh. This usually isn’t a problem for potatoes, but one thing I failed to mention in this article is that potatoes are part of the “dirty dozen,” meaning that ideally you should purchase “organically-grown” potatoes due to their significant pesticide residue.

  3. Aminu Usman on 02/08/2016 at 11:15 AM

    Hi Al. I am diabetic for past 18 years and I am now 52 years old. I am on tablets taking daily twice a day but not insulin dependent. Problem is I like potatoes very much and I take a lot of it both fried and boiled. Kindly advise me as to what I should do. Here in Nigeria most foods are carbohydrate based and limits ones options. Best regards.

    • DiabeteStepsRx on 04/19/2016 at 9:47 PM

      Be sure to eat any carbohydrate food with a protein source to blunt the blood sugar rise from the carbohydrates. Also, eat them with good healthy oils and keep the skin on. It’s best to limit the amount of carbohydrates, as you know. Add additional other colorful vegetables, as well. I would choose baking over frying, if possible. If frying, use oils with high smoke points to reduce the oxidative effects of the oils, which causes inflammation (and eventual high blood sugar). Oven-frying is a good alternative. Add lots of herbs and spices to also reduce inflammation and glycation effects. Thanks for writing and best of health to you.

  4. David on 03/18/2016 at 4:21 PM

    But why would I eat potatoes rather than broccoli?

    • DiabeteStepsRx on 04/19/2016 at 9:32 PM

      David, great point! Eat them both!!! God gave us all these beautiful colorful vegetables to choose from. Broccoli certainly is one of the most nutritious ones we have. Choose a variety of vegetables from the rainbow to beautify your plate and nourish your soul!

  5. Kat Rayne on 04/11/2016 at 11:16 PM

    When you speak of sweet potatoes does that include yams, because you don’t have a separate description of them and their benefits? I prefer yams and I bet most people would too if they gave him a chance. It seems that most advice advice is your geared toward sweet potatoes and people may not try yams if they don’t like sweet potatoes which I don’t. I am having a problem with gaining weight so I look at potatoes differently and want to know about all the nutrients such as magnesium that I believe I and 80% of Americans are deficient him; I have all the classic signs with my nails and muscle problems. I also have problems with insomnia but it appears I have a lot happening to my body as a result of my loss of appetite that came out of nowhere. So if you have any insights please share them with me thanks Kat

  6. Danyell on 04/23/2016 at 6:10 AM

    Thank you soooo much for clearing up my potato scandal!! I was so confused about why I was giving up potatoes. I alternated between carrots, cauliflower, and sweet lifestyles as alternatives but one day went on a nutritional website and realized that they had less carbs than the sweeter versions that had been hyped up as healthier!! Imagine mine and my daughter’s shock as we thought we were being “good.” I know moderation is key, but with an A1C of 8, desperate times have been resisting desperate and extreme measures.
    Anyway, all of the above was stated to give my complete thanks.

  7. melvin spinoza on 06/21/2016 at 2:55 PM

    I am happy you allow my comment.White potatoes for me(an 86 year old man)is TOTALLY devastating and makes my heart palpitate like I am going to pass out unless I lie down for hours. Then I go on the web and find TOTALLY arbitrary opinions trying to justify eating white potatoes by diabetics.TOTAL BS. I can conclude that the spike in sugar after eating white potatoes has to be devastating for diabetics or anyone for that matter. Then you get those that say anything in moderation.More BS.Is a little arsenic in moderation O’K,forinstance;as another answer to those that love to use the word moderation.

    • DiabeteStepsRx on 06/21/2016 at 8:52 PM

      Mr. Melvin: Thank you for your post. I can understand your confusion and contradictions from what you read all over the web. Every case of diabetes is going to be different. Every person is going to digest and absorb foods differently. There are so many factors involved, including what other foods are consumed with the potatoes and how they are prepared. It is really hard to say that everything works for everyone. If you have problems with potatoes, than please avoid them. I make suggestions in my article about different types of potatoes and mixing them with cauliflower to reduce the glycemic load. I would also suggest you consider the use of certain herbs, antioxidants that can be taken in conjunction with certain foods to also reduce the glycemic load, and consider the use of enzymes with your meals. As I said, there are many factors involved that might be worth exploring. I wish you the best.

  8. Barbara on 06/25/2016 at 6:23 PM

    So confused. So this article is saying yes to potato. I’ve been basically avoiding anything white since diagnosis.

    • DiabeteStepsRx on 07/24/2016 at 12:38 PM

      Hi Barbara: I definitely understand your confusion over potatoes. You are not alone. Most things “white” should be avoided by not just people with diabetes, but EVERYONE for a variety of reasons! When I mean “white,” I am referring to “refined” or “processed” foods that contain “white” flour. This is the real danger. White potatoes have so many other nutrients and benefits that are beneficial for blood sugar control and they are “God-Made” not “Man-Made.” It is the man-made products that are white that are the problem. Yes, bread is man-made! I have updated this blog post, so please reread it. Remember, everything is in moderation…even healthy foods!

  9. Stiofain Gael Mac Geough on 07/09/2016 at 2:24 PM

    When talking 1/2 cup of rice (persumely cooked) or potato is that for once daily meal (supper) or only 3 or 4 times week. In other words rice OR potatoes 7 days a wee?. What about pasta? A big bowl of spigtt 🙂

    • DiabeteStepsRx on 07/24/2016 at 12:49 PM

      Hi Stiofain: Actually, it is not necessary to have a serving of carbohydrate at every meal. I would mostly stick to two large servings of a non-starchy vegetable at every meal. If you are needing to make a choice between having rice, pasta, or potato, I would go with the potato, since it has so many other nutritional benefits that are not found in rice or pasta. I have several pasta and rice alternative meals on my website. If you are on diabetes medications that lower your blood sugar, such as insulin or sulfonylureas, you may be able to reduce or eliminate these medications by making better carbohydrate choices, and improving your nutritional status, in general. Keep this in mind: pasta is man-made with wheat flour that has been stripped of nutrients and replaced with synthetic nutrients that are now known to be harmful. (Another story). Rice has also been refined and stripped of it’s natural nutrients. Certain areas that grow rice are also contaminated with arsenic. We are being over exposed to arsenic. Is that the cause of elevated blood sugar when eating rice? Hmmmm? I have updated by blog post here, so please reread it for more suggestions!

  10. Vivek narain on 09/11/2016 at 12:50 AM

    Potatoes are staple for me,i have them with skin and mixed with beans and tomatoes to make a gravy.I want to know the protein efficiency and sufficiency of potatoes when mixed with beans.

    • DiabeteStepsRx on 09/13/2016 at 8:46 AM

      Interesting question. Not sure I can answer it to your satisfaction. Regardless of how healthy any food is, no food should be a “staple,” especially one that is a carbohydrate, e.g. potatoes, for a person battling erratic blood sugars. But, for anyone, eating the same food(s) all the time can lead to food sensitivities and potentially autoimmune conditions, so it is always a good idea to eat a “varied” diet and rotate your foods, not eating the same thing everyday. Most vegetables have 2-3 grams of protein per serving (approximately 1/2 cup). If you are vegetarian, it is possible to get your total days need for protein, but it would be wise to limit “starchy” vegetables, e.g. beans and potatoes because of their high carbohydrate content. You would have to eat too much of them to meet your protein needs.

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