Should People With Diabetes Avoid Potatoes?

Baked Potato & Salad

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!

Facts:

    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, non-organic butter, cheeses and cream, or marshmallows.

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 grams of a carbohydrate source at a snack, 15 to 30 grams at a meal for women and 30 to 45 grams at a meal for men, 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 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.

 

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13 Comments

  1. LoknathBardhan on March 11, 2014 at 10:51 am

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

    • DiabeteStepsRx on 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.

  2. Al Johnston on August 9, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Hi, what about canned potatoes?

    • DiabeteStepsRx on 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.

  3. Aminu Usman on February 8, 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 April 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 March 18, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    But why would I eat potatoes rather than broccoli?

    • DiabeteStepsRx on April 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 April 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 April 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.
    Danyell

  7. melvin spinoza on June 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 June 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.

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