Sweet potatoes are a popular vegetable choice.
But if you have diabetes, you may be wondering whether you can even eat sweet potatoes in the first place!
I’m sure you know that controlling blood sugar is a vital health piece for you.
This begs the question – how does sweet potato impact blood sugar?
Nutrition of sweet potato
Sweet potatoes have high nutritional value. They are high in the following nutrients:
- Vitamin A (beta carotene)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin K
100 grams or 3.5 ounces of raw sweet potato contain the following:
- 86 calories
- 77 percent water content
- 1.6 grams of protein
- 20.1 grams of carbs
- 4.2 grams of sugar
- 3 grams of fiber
- 0.1 grams of fat
Sweet potatoes are medium to high on the glycemic index. The different types of sweet potato in the glycemic index range from 44 to 96. The glycemic index is a value given to foods based on how quickly they turn into glucose in the blood.
Studies show that sweet potatoes are a feasible option to address vitamin A deficiency (3).
Sweet potatoes are especially high in compounds called beta carotene and anthocyanins. Although we tend to eat the flesh of sweet potatoes, studies show that the leaves and roots of sweet potatoes can also provide nutrition (1). Up to 27 percent of the leaves and roots are protein content.
The main component of sweet potatoes’ carb content is starch. Starches make up 53 percent of the carb content.
Sweet potatoes contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber like pectin can help to increase your feeling of fullness. This can then help to decrease your overall food intake. It can also reduce your blood sugar spikes by slowing the digestion of sugars and starches.
Insoluble fiber intake can help lower your risk of diabetes and improve your gut health.
Sweet potatoes do not have much in the way of protein. However, sweet potatoes do contain sporamins. These are unique proteins.
Sweet potatoes contain vitamin C, which can improve skin health and help boost the immune system to fight the common cold and other infections.
Sweet potatoes are a source of potassium. This nutrient is important to control blood pressure. It can therefore help to decrease your risk of developing heart disease.
Sweet potatoes can provide manganese. This may be a trace mineral, but it can help with important functions such as growth, development, and metabolism.
Can you eat sweet potato if you have diabetes?
The short answer here is yes. However, it does depend on the type of sweet potato.
Certain types of sweet potato are better for your diabetes than others. The glycemic index and glycemic load vary from one kind of sweet potato to the next.
The portion size and cooking method also matter here. A person with diabetes can safely eat sweet potatoes in moderation.
How sweet potato impacts blood sugar
Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic load than white potatoes. Overall though, sweet potatoes are what we consider high in carbs.
However, sweet potatoes do contain properties that can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Although sweet potatoes can spike your blood sugar levels, their fiber content does help to slow down this whole process.
Orange sweet potatoes are higher on the glycemic index. This means that they can increase your blood sugar levels more dramatically than other varieties of sweet potatoes.
Whichever type of sweet potato you eat, be sure to limit your quantity. And boil or steam your sweet potatoes instead of baking them.
How much sweet potato should a diabetic eat?
A typical serving size of sweet potato is half a cup. Half a medium size sweet potato is a good amount for someone with diabetes to have. This is because half a medium size sweet potato is the equivalent of 15 grams of carbs.
Large amounts of sweet potato in a single meal may be unsuitable for someone with type 2 diabetes. The cooking method matters, too. Boiling your sweet potatoes can lead to a lower glycemic index value than baking, frying, or roasting.
Can diabetics eat sweet potato daily?
Sweet potatoes are a better nutritional option than white potatoes. However, this doesn’t mean you should go crazy with your sweet potato intake.
Consume your sweet potatoes in moderation, or they could negatively impact your blood glucose levels.
Also, keep in mind that some sweet potatoes are very large, making it easier to overeat sweet potato portions. Go for a medium size sweet potato. And be sure to include other vegetables and healthy foods in your meal plan, too.
Benefits of eating sweet potatoes
Studies show that eating sweet potatoes can have the following health benefits:
So there you have it. The answer to whether you can eat sweet potatoes if you have diabetes is, “it depends.”
I know how frustrating that can be! But you can safely eat sweet potatoes as long as you manage your portion sizes and are mindful of how you cook them.
If you eat sweet potatoes this way, you can still get lots of great nutrition from them. You can even get some great health benefits, such as anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-aging.
As always, speak to your health care provider first to make sure that eating sweet potatoes is the right move for you, especially if you have diabetes.