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Should People With Type 2 Diabetes Eat Potatoes?

Potatoes are a staple food in the United States. Most people cannot conceive of eating their heaviest meal without potatoes or some type of carbohydrate. But for diabetics struggling to keep their numbers within normal range, deciding on whether to eat potatoes or not can be a major source of worry.

According to the American Diabetes Association, your body needs carbohydrates, since they play an important role in providing the fuel that keeps you going throughout the day. However, the amount and type of carbohydrates you consume should depend on your individual needs determined by your size and activity level. So before you begin meal planning, let us look at potatoes, a food rich in carbohydrates and see whether they are good for people with type 2 diabetics.

Image by Holger Langmaier from Pixabay

Nutritional value of potatoes

There are many varieties of potatoes — russet, red, sweet, yellow, and purple — all of which are easy to digest and prepare. Since potatoes digest so quickly, converting carbohydrates into glucose, they can spike your blood sugar pretty quickly. For this reason, the amount of potatoes you consume should depend on your size and activity level. A medium white potato with skin contains about 30 grams of carbohydrates.

Glycemic index

The other factor to consider when deciding if you should eat potatoes is the glycemic index (GI). This is the measure of how much the level of blood glucose rises after eating a specific carbohydrate — in this case potatoes —as compared with eating the same amount of sugar or white bread. The glycemic index of a boiled potato is 78 and for an instant -cooked one it is 87. Any GI score above 70 is considered high, so now you can see why potatoes, despite their nutritional value are considered a bad food for people with diabetes.

Should people with type 2 diabetes eat potatoes?

Experts believe that the key to deciding whether to include potatoes in your diet or not is to eat a balanced diet, taking your nutritional needs into account. Therefore, the verdict for people with type 2 diabetes is that they can eat potatoes in moderation. There are also strategies you can employ to keep potatoes from raising your glucose levels too much, as you will see later on in this article.

Can you lower the glycemic index of a food?

According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), there are 3 ways this can be done:

  1. By increasing dietary fiber intake — adding fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds — and decreasing their overall carbohydrate consumption. The higher fiber content can help to lower the GI of a food.
  2. Adding fat — Some studies show that adding fat to your carbs can help stabilize glucose levels and reduce the glycemic response (GR) — the effect that food has on glucose levels. For example, adding cheddar cheese to potatoes showed a reduction in the GR.
  3. Increasing protein in the diet of healthy people as well as those with diabetes showed a reduction in the GR of carbohydrate-rich foods. For example, a high-protein breakfast lowers glucose levels 180 min after eating and even throughout the day.
  4. Adding vinegar — In a study with people with T2 diabetes, it was observed that adding vinegar to foods with a high GI resulted in a lower glucose response. It was also observed that the vinegar combined with olive oil and water in the form of a vinaigrette dressing resulted in a reduction in the GI.

It was also interesting to note that even consuming vinegar (15-20 ml/day) before or in combination with high GI foods showed an improvement in GR and insulin sensitivity. Using pickles also showed a similar result.

The best way to cook potatoes

The NIH recommends shorter cooking times and less water to produce a lower GR. The best cooking methods are boiling and steaming, with microwaving being the best form of cooking.

In addition to cooking methods, researchers have also found that the order in which you eat your food can have an impact on GR. They found that consuming protein, fat, and fiber from vegetables before eating starchy foods reduced postprandial (after your meal) numbers by as much as 73%. In other words, eat your potatoes last.

A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can send your life into a tailspin. It can leave you feeling alone and overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to. Join my type 2 diabetes network group and get the help and support you need.