Should People With Diabetes Avoid Potatoes?

Should People With Diabetes Avoid Potatoes?

by DiabeteStepsRx on August 18, 2012

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 with diabetes.  This couldn’t be further from the truth!


    The 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, 16 mg of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.
  • 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).

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.  In addition, 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.

With the amazing quality nutrient content of both regular and sweet 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.  However, 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.  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, butter, cream, marshmallows, or cheese.

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 of a carbohydrate source at a snack, 30 to 45 grams at a meal for women and 45 to 60 grams at a meal for men, but these are only estimates.  Your needs will vary.  So, even though one carbohydrate choice of a potato is ½ cup, based on your individual needs, you may be able to consume up to 1 cup to 1 ½ cups of potatoes at a meal.

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 several times 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.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

LoknathBardhan March 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 March 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.


Al Johnston August 9, 2014 at 6:19 am

Hi, what about canned potatoes?


DiabeteStepsRx August 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.


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