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Are Sweet Potatoes Good for Diabetics?

by Aglaee Jacob

Sweet potatoes are a better option than white potatoes for diabetics.
Being diagnosed with diabetes often means eliminating or limiting many of your favorite foods. Foods with a high carbohydrate content, such as many desserts, large amounts of pasta, breads, sugary breakfast cereals and soft drinks, can make your blood sugar levels skyrocket within a few minutes after eating. Over time, this can damage your small blood vessels and lead to heart diseases, blindness, kidney diseases, stroke and even amputations. Diabetics can include a variety of carbohydrates that are digested more slowly, such as the ones found in non-starchy vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts and sweet potatoes to stay healthier with their condition.

Glycemic Index
White potatoes, whether you have them mashed, baked, as french fries or potato chips, have a high glycemic index, which means that their carbohydrates are quickly turned into sugar, which elevates your blood sugar levels after your meal. The glycemic index of sweet potatoes is a lot lower, which is better for diabetes control, according to a 2002 article in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." Eating sweet potatoes in moderate amounts will help you keep your blood sugar levels in the healthy range even if you have diabetes.

Carbohydrate Content
A medium sweet potato contains 26 grams of carbohydrates, of which 3.8 grams are dietary fiber, while a cup of mashed sweet potatoes has 58 grams of carbohydrates and 8.2 grams of fiber. Fiber, which is part of the total carbohydrate content, does not elevate blood sugar levels and can be subtracted from the total grams of carbohydrates to have a better idea of the blood sugar-rising potential of a food. In the case of a baked sweet potatoes, subtract the 3.8 grams of fiber from the 26 grams of carbohydrates to determine that they contain only 22.2 grams of available carbs per serving. With mashed, sweet potatoes, subtracting the 8.2 grams of fiber from the 58 grams of carbs gives you a total of 49.8 grams of available carbs per cup. If you are carb counting to control your diabetes, use available carbs to be more accurate.

Serving Size
The American Diabetes Association recommends that you consume no more than 45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal, which means that you can easily include sweet potatoes as part of your diabetic meal plan. For example, you could have a medium sweet potato, providing 22.2 grams of available carbs along with other foods that are free of carbohydrates like chicken or salmon, broccoli and butter. Add a serving of plain yogurt and berries to get a total of up to 45 to 60 grams for your meal.

Meal Ideas
Sweet potatoes are a good carbohydrate choice for diabetics. Bake them in the oven until they are soft and serve them with a little bit of sour cream, plain yogurt or butter for extra flavor. Sweet potato fries are also a healthy alternative to take-out or frozen french fries. Cut your sweet potatoes into fries, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and bake them in the oven until cooked. Mashed sweet potatoes with cream and butter also make a tasty side dish that, despite its sweet taste, won't be a problem for your blood sugar levels if consumed in controlled amount. You can even reduce the carb content of your mashed sweet potatoes by mixing them with equal amounts of mashed cauliflower. Make sure you accompany your sweet potatoes with a bit of fat from butter, olive oil or avocado and protein from meat, poultry or fish to get a balanced meal.