Sweet potato also known as “Shakarkandi” has been added to the diabetic diet by American Diabetes Association. Since everyone knows that “potatoes” should be avoided in a diabetic diet, many people find it difficult to accept those sweet potatoes are truly good for diabetics.
The main thought that comes to mind is how it is included on a diabetic diet if it is also a potato?
The answer is simple: Sweet potatoes belong to separate families and have different compositions, despite the fact that they have the same names and look. Potatoes are members of the Solanaceae family, while sweet potatoes are members of the Convolvulaceae family.
Sweet potatoes are abundant in B-vitamins and beta-carotenoids. As a result, sweet potatoes can be a healthier alternative to potatoes, especially for diabetics.
In this article, we will discuss why sweet potatoes are considered beneficial and we will also provide some healthy recipes of sweet potatoes for diabetes.
What is the nutritional value of a sweet potato?
Sweet potatoes are abundant in fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients. In addition to these, sweet potatoes contain several properties that are actually very beneficial for diabetics.
Some micronutrients present in sweet potatoes include:
- Lutein and zeaxanthin
- B vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Glycemic Index of Sweet Potato
The main reason that adds sweet potato to the diabetic diet is its medium to low glycemic index. The Glycemic Index of a food refers to the amount of blood sugar level that is raised after consumption of a food product.
The glycemic index of sweet potato depends on type and variety, but generally, it falls into the medium or low GI foods category.
Varieties of Sweet potatoes:
Sweet potatoes exist in various varieties and each one has a different composition. Some common varieties of sweet potatoes are:
Purple Sweet Potato:
These lavender-colored sweet potatoes are often called Stokes Purple or Okinawan potatoes. They generally have a low glycemic index (54) but it’s high as compared to other types. These are rich in anthocyanins, which have been proved to reduce carbohydrate breakdown in the gut.
One study suggests that purple sweet potatoes contain hydroxycinnamic acid and anthocyanins which reduce postprandial blood glucose levels. This study concluded that sweet potato consumption after a high carbohydrate meal, induced hypoglycemia in 17 healthy subjects. [Ref]
This is the most common type of sweet potato. It contains vitamin C, vitamin B6, and a plenty of soluble fiber. The orange color is a clear indicator that these are high in beta-carotene.
They have a low glycemic index, but this varies upon the cooking method. If you boil them, the glycemic index is 44 but if these are baked, the GI is raised to 94. So, to maintain your blood sugar levels you need to consume boiled sweet potatoes.
White Sweet Potato
These are also called Japanese sweet potatoes, they are white or yellow from the inside, this type is commonly available in Pakistan. These also have a low glycemic index of about 46 when consumed after boiling.
One study suggests that “Caiapo” found in white sweet potato can treat type 2 diabetes mellitus. The study concluded that as compared to placebo caiapo had a favorable effect on plasma glucose levels and cholesterol levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. [Ref]
Another study conducted on animal subjects suggests that white sweet potatoes can be used to treat hyperglycemia. [Ref]
Glycemic Index of sweet potato according to Cooking Methods
As we have discussed above, the glycemic index varies according to cooking methods. People often think that the glycemic index of food remains the same regardless of the cooking method.
Well, for some food products it might actually be the same but for others, it varies greatly. And for diabetics, the main thing that matters about food is the glycemic index.
Boiled sweet potato for diabetes:
Boiling the sweet potato is supposed to change its chemical structure, allowing the starch to be more easily absorbed by your body’s enzymes, reducing blood sugar spikes.
The glycemic index of boiled sweet potatoes is low to medium, with a longer boiling time lowering the GI.
They’re also thought to retain more resistant starch, a form of fiber that resists digestion and has a modest influence on blood sugar levels when they’re cooked. [Ref]
Sweet potatoes, for example, have a low glycemic index of roughly 46 when boiled for 30 minutes, but a medium glycemic index of 61 when boiled for only 8 minutes.
Baked sweet potato for diabetes:
Baked sweet potatoes have a far higher glycemic index than any other type of sweet potato.
Sweet potatoes, for example, have a GI of 94 after being peeled and cooked for 45 minutes, making them a high-GI item.
This puts them on an equal level with items like white rice, baguettes, and quick mashed potatoes, which all have a high GI.
Roasted sweet potato for diabetes:
Because resistant starch is destroyed during the roasting and baking procedures, roasted or baked sweet potatoes have a substantially higher glycemic index. Sweet potatoes with peeled and roasted skins have a glycemic index of 82, which is considered high. [Ref]
Fried sweet potato for diabetes:
Due to the presence of fat, fried sweet potatoes have a somewhat lower glycemic index than roasted or baked variants. This is because fat slows the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream by delaying stomach emptying. Even so, they have a somewhat high GI when fried.[Ref]
Sweet potatoes that have been peeled and cooked in vegetable oil normally have a GI of around 76, though this might vary.
Healthy Recipes of Sweet Potato for Diabetes:
Some healthy recipes for diabetic are:
- Mashed sweet potatoes
- Boiled and cubed sweet potatoes with lemon
- Sweet potato in vegetable salad
- Sweet potato and peanut butter toast
Sweet potatoes can be a perfect snack for diabetics but only when in boiled forms, they are very beneficial as they are rich in antioxidants which might have hypoglycemic properties. But they might raise plasma glucose levels if consumed in roasted, baked, or fired forms.