Can people with diabetes eat potatoes? Here’s how the root vegetable can benefit your health  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
Melbourne: If you have diabetes, chances are you’ve been advised to avoid potatoes and other high glycemic index (GI) foods – because of the longstanding perception that these foods can raise blood sugar levels. Diabetics are generally asked to avoid or limit starchy vegetables such as potatoes, especially during the night when blood sugar tends to spike. That’s because starchy vegetables are rich in carbohydrates, which can raise a person’s blood sugar levels. However, for the first time, a rigorously controlled clinical study suggested that people with type 2 diabetes need not avoid eating potatoes based on GI.
People with type 2 diabetes can eat potatoes
According to the study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, diabetics can better maintain overnight glycemic control when they eat high GI like potatoes in an evening meal versus low GI carbohydrate food – basmati rice. The findings demonstrated that GI is not an accurate surrogate for a person’s glycemic response (GR) to a food consumed as part of an evening meal. The researchers found that participants had a better ‘nocturnal’ GR when they ate a mixed meal with skinless white potatoes compared to an isoenergetic and macronutrient-matched mixed meal that included a low GI basmati rice.
“These findings are contrary to that of observational research and traditional dietary guidance that has led some to believe potatoes are not an appropriate food choice for people with type-2 diabetes,” said corresponding author of the study Brooke Devlin from Australian Catholic University in Melbourne.
“Our study shows high GI foods, like potatoes, can be consumed as part of a healthy evening meal without negatively affecting GR, and while delivering key nutrients in relatively few calories, which is essential for people with type-2 diabetes.”
The study involved 24 adults with type-2 diabetes, who were given the same breakfast and lunch. However, the participants were randomly assigned to one of four dinners, each including either skinless white potatoes (test meal) prepared in three different ways (boiled, roasted, boiled then cooled then reheated) or basmati rice (control meal).
Participants repeated the experiment, with a nine-day break in between each trial, to cycle through all test meals and the control. Blood samples of the participants were collected regularly (both immediately after the meal and again every 30 minutes, for two hours). They also wore a continuous glucose monitor overnight to track changes in blood sugar levels while sleeping.
The findings showed there were no differences between meals in glucose response following the dinner that contained any of the potato dishes or basmati rice. In fact, participants’ overnight glycemic response was more favourable after eating the evening meal that included any of the potato side dishes compared to low basmati rice, said the study.
The researchers concluded that ‘potatoes are a vegetable that is sustainable, affordable and nutrient-dense, and thus, they can play an important role in modern diets irrespective of metabolic health status’.
However, the researchers noted a few limitations such as – study participants’ baseline GR was assessed for only one evening meal, and the potatoes’ impact on long-term glycemic control was not assessed. The researchers also cautioned that people with diabetes should continue to follow the diet suggested by their physician.
How can potatoes benefit your health?
Potatoes are a delicious food that’s packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants, which may improve your health in a number of ways. This root vegetable is relatively cheap, easy to grow and forms a staple food in many households. Whether mashed, baked, fried, boiled or steamed, potatoes are a versatile food that can be enjoyed by everyone as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Some of the health benefits of potatoes are:
- Potatoes contain antioxidants (flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids), which may reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
- They contain a special type of starch, called resistant starch, which may help reduce insulin resistance, thereby improving blood sugar control.
- The resistant starch in potatoes may improve digestive health.
- They contain iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, which can help you build and maintain strong bones.
- They are naturally gluten-free, making them an excellent choice for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
- They are incredibly filling, which may you regulate or lose weight.
The bottom line is, potatoes are a nutritious food that can be a great addition to your diet in moderation. You should limit portion sizes due to the high carb content. Additionally, make sure that you talk to your doctor, dietitian, or diabetes educator especially if you have diabetes are struggling to make healthier food choices to manage your blood sugar levels.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.