Potatoes are one of the most loved and widely popular vegetables in the US but they are equally controversial among the nutritionists over the past couple of decades because they have high levels of carbohydrates and very low amount of nutrients.
Potatoes are also avoided by the diabetics as they don’t want to worsen their condition. Luckily, limited amount of potato and cooking style makes it less harmful and even safe for diabetics.
Are potatoes good for diabetes?
Potatoes are known to have very high Glycemic Index value. Due to this reason, diabetics are very cautious when adding potatoes to their diet. Diabetics always need to consider GI value before choosing any food as it measures the impact of it on their blood glucose levels. Eating most of the foods with high level of GI gives huge spike in blood sugar which would cause significant rise in insulin levels and it takes several hours to bring back the blood sugar levels to normal.
Since diabetics have improper insulin level, if blood sugar levels remain high for extended period of time, it causes some of the common symptoms of diabetes, including constant urination unusual thirst, nerve problems, and fatigue.
Potatoes have GI ranging from 65 to 80 which is abnormally high. Sucrose or table sugar has GI of 63, whole-meal bread has 60, white bread has 71, and brown rice has 55.
The best thing is that cooking method and type of potato you consume affect the GI level of potatoes. As compared to older potatoes, newer versions have lower GI. Some of the waxy potatoes like Yellow Finn, Red Norland, and Red Pontiac come with lower GI values as compared to floury potatoes like Norgold Russet and Russet Burbank.
How cooking method works on the GI value of potatoes is published on a study in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2005. According to the study, boiled and mashed potatoes have highest GI of 85 to 90. Roasted, baked, or microwaved potatoes are found with moderate level of GI from 70 to 80, while refrigerated, boiling red potatoes and having them cold the same day results in only 56 GI.
How to Consume Potatoes?
Diabetics may also eat potatoes with skin on as they have twice the fiber as compared to the flesh itself. Fiber helps slow down the digestion of food and helps avoid the large spikes of blood sugar. In addition, potato skin can also avoid leeching of vital nutrients on the water while boiling, despite the fact that they are not vital source of nutrients.
To add more taste, you may add some avocados to the mashed potato rather than butter or margarine. Avocado will add a bit of greenish tinge to the potato without affecting the taste much. Avocado is very high in fiber with 13g of fiber in each avocado. Along with it, avocados are high in oleic acid associated to increased insulin sensitivity in studies.
French fries are actually the types of potatoes which should be eaten with care. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, one study was published in 2006 about the effects of French fries and potatoes on diabetes risk in women. According to the study, consuming both French fries and potatoes increase the risk of diabetes and French fries are found with huge impact.
Women had 21% of high risk of having diabetes due to French fries and women who consumed other types of potatoes had 14% risk of developing diabetes. According to the researchers, Trans-fat is present in frying oil which can cause additional risk of diabetes due to French fries.
Luckily, most of the leading fast food chains and reputed restaurants are switching to Trans-fat free oils for frying. So, it is better to stick to thick cut wedges or fries if you eat fries as these have lower oil to potato ratio.
All in all, diabetes should consume small servings of potatoes (i.e. 1 medium size potato or up to 150g) in their meals without any harmful effect. Be sure to cook the potatoes night before and reheat the next day or eat cold when potato skin is still on. When possible, prefer newer potatoes. For floury potatoes, consider waxy varieties. Always ask your doctor while adding any food to your diet.