Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD

Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD

Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD, the founder of Milk & Honey Nutrition, is a diabetes dietitian (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) renowned for combining her knowledge of diabetes and culinary expertise into easy-to-follow recipes and articles!

Overview

Are Sweet Potatoes Good For Diabetes?

Article Overview

are sweet potatoes good for diabetes?

Have you ever wondered “are sweet potatoes good for diabetes?” Here is my dietitian insight and key things to consider.

There’s a lot of confusion around sweet potatoes and if they can be included in a diabetes-friendly diet. So, let’s take a look and determine, “Are sweet potatoes good for diabetes?”

Can people with diabetes eat sweet potatoes?

Yes! Just like most other foods, people with diabetes can eat sweet potatoes. But, because they are higher in carbohydrate than other vegetables, enjoying them without a blood sugar spike can often require a little more planning and thinking ahead. 

We’ll cover the many different ways sweet potatoes can be enjoyed while living with diabetes below. My favorite simple way to enjoy them (as someone living with diabetes myself) is from the microwave actually. They come out super soft. I pair it with a non-starchy veggie and some air fried salmon!

microwave sweet potato with salmon and green beans are sweet potatoes good for diabetes?

Nutrition benefits of sweet potatoes

When you hear the words “sweet potato”, most people think of the beautiful orange colored potatoes we all know and love. But, did you know they can also come in white, yellow, red/purple, and dark purple colors too?

Sweet potatoes are actually an edible root. (Unlike white potatoes which are edible tubers.) They are rich in:

  • Vitamin A (beta carotene)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • potassium
  • fiber

Orange sweet potatoes contain more beta carotene, while purple sweet potatoes contain more anthocyanins. Both beta carotene and anthocyanins, are health promoting antioxidants

How many carbs are in a sweet potato?

Are sweet potatoes high in carbs? Honestly, the answer is yes and no. It depends on the size of the sweet potato. A small sweet potato (about 5in long) or 1 cup of cubed sweet potato contains about 26g carbohydrate.

How much sugar is in a sweet potato?

Within the carbohydrates mentioned above, sweet potatoes contain 6g sugar and 4g fiber.

sweet potato nutrition label

Can sweet potatoes increase blood sugar? 

Yes, just like other foods that contain carbohydrates, sweet potatoes can raise blood sugar levels. How quickly and how much they can raise blood sugar levels will depend on the amount eaten. 

Sweet potato glycemic index

The glycemic index tells us how quickly a food can raise blood glucose levels. (It does not take into account how much carbohydrate is in a food.) The glycemic index of sweet potatoes varies depending on how they are prepared though. This is because of the preservation (or not) of resistant starch depending on the cooking method. Sweet potatoes can be a low, moderate, or high glycemic index food.

Low glycemic food0-55
Medium glycemic food56-70
High glycemic food>70
Cooking method for sweet potatoesGlycemic Index valueGlycemic Index category
Boiled 8 minutes61Moderate
Boiled 30 minutes46Low
Roasted and peeled82High
Baked 45 minutes (peeled)94High
Fried76High
Source

Sweet potato glycemic load

The glycemic load, however, can be a more accurate picture of how much and how quickly a food may raise blood sugar levels. The glycemic load considers both how quickly a food can raise blood sugar levels and how much carbohydrate is in the food. This tells us how much of an impact a food can potentially have on blood sugar levels. The glycemic load of sweet potatoes is 11.1.

Low glycemic load0-10
Moderate glycemic load11-19
High glycemic load20+

Sweet potatoes are considered a moderate glycemic load food. Low and moderate glycemic load foods are considered more beneficial for people looking to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Is sweet potato good for diabetes?

Are sweet potatoes bad for diabetes? Are they good for diabetes? While no food or part of nutrition is ever as black and white as being good or bad, just remember that if you like sweet potatoes, you can absolutely enjoy them while living with diabetes. The most important parts if enjoying them to pay attention to are the serving size, overall carb count, and what you’re eating them with.

Is sweet potato good for type 2 diabetes?

Yes, whether you’re managing type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes, sweet potatoes can be a good blood sugar friendly addition to your meals. 

How to cook potatoes for diabetes

As we’ve mentioned above, there are many different ways you can cook a sweet potato. But, it seems that boiling sweet potatoes with the skin on is the best option for maintaining nutrient content. This includes beta carotene, vitamin C and resistant starch

And, because microwave cooking is considered a “wet” cooking method, we can assume that when we cook a sweet potato in the microwave, nutrient retention would be more similar to boiling than roasting.

What to eat with sweet potatoes

I recommend pairing sweet potatoes with your favorite non-starchy vegetables and protein sources. These types of foods can help reduce the potential impact on blood sugar levels as well as possible blood sugar spikes. 

Creamy Sweet Potato Kefir Smoothie

This recipe uses the lowest glycemic form of cooked sweet potatoes: boiled sweet potatoes!

two sweet potato smoothies in mason jars with gold metal straws smoothies for diabetes

Creamy Sweet Potato Kefir Smoothie 

This Creamy Sweet Potato Kefir Smoothie tastes just like sweet potato pie and packs 18g of protein in each smoothie, with no protein powder!
View Recipe

Sweet Potato Blueberry Sausage Frittata

This recipe adds in other sources of fiber and protein for a balanced sweet potato loving meal!

Sweet Potato Blueberry Sausage Frittata slide of frittata on white plate

Sweet Potato Blueberry Sausage Frittata

View Recipe

Sweet Potato Overnight Breakfast Bake

This casserole is one of my favorite make ahead breakfast options!

Caramelized Onion, Apple, and Sweet Potato Overnight Breakfast Bake in a white pan

Caramelized Onion, Apple, and Sweet Potato Overnight Breakfast Bake

View Recipe

Sweet potatoes and diabetes: The final word

Sweet potatoes can be a delicious part of a diabetes-friendly diet. Yes, they do contain natural sugar and carbohydrates, but they also contain fiber and health promoting antioxidants. Prepare them with the skin on and be mindful of your serving size. You can enjoy them on their own or added to your favorite dishes!

What other foods are good for diabetes?

are sweet potatoes good for diabetes

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