Sweet potato diabetes recipes

7 New Ways to Make Sweet Potatoes Part of Your Diabetes Diet

Sweet potatoes are one of the most popular foods for diabetes on EverdayHealth.com, and with good reason.

The root vegetable is higher in fiber than its regular-potato cousin. Fiber cannot be digested by the human body, so it provides bulk without adding calories and helps keep you fuller for longer. “Sweet potatoes have many health benefits,” notes Sylvia White, RD, CDE, a dietitian in private practice in Memphis, Tennessee. “They are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidants that help prevent diseases. This includes heart disease, the number one cause of death in people with diabetes.”

Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin A. “This vitamin may help improve the function of our pancreatic beta cells,” says Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, the creator of the online training program For the Love of Diabetes, based in Manhattan Beach, California. This is significant because beta cells produce, store, and release insulin, according to the British diabetes association Diabetes.co.uk.

When it comes to preparing sweet potatoes, you may want to opt for boiled when you can, suggests a small study published in September 2011 in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. In the study, volunteers ate sweet potatoes that were roasted, baked, fried, or boiled. Boiled sweet potatoes have the lowest glycemic index value, meaning they won’t quickly spike your blood sugar. Baked and roasted sweet potatoes have the highest glycemic index values.

7 Tips and Tricks for Preparing Sweet Potatoes if You Have Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you can eat sweet potatoes daily — as long as you factor in the vegetable’s carbohydrate count in your meal planning. “Sweet potatoes are a source of carbohydrates, which raise blood sugars,” says White. “People with diabetes can eat carbs but need to watch portions of foods with carbs.” What this means: Limit portions to half a sweet potato per meal or snack. Then pair that portion with a protein source, such as chicken breast or eggs, to further stabilize blood glucose levels, advises Zanini.

Now go ahead and try these ideas for preparing sweet potatoes, from culinary dietitians around the country.

Add sweet potatoes to a smoothie. “I add cooked sweet-potato pieces to a smoothie with ½ of a small banana for sweetness, yogurt for a boost of protein, and a sprinkle of cinnamon and ginger or pumpkin spice for an added aromatic flavor,” says Tracee Yablon Brenner, RDN, a certified holistic health counselor, the culinary director at Triad to Wellness in Warren, New Jersey, and the author of Simple Foods for Busy Families.

Top it with nut butter and fruit. This is a go-to for Marisa Moore, RDN, a culinary dietitian in Atlanta. Just heat up half a baked sweet potato in the toaster oven or microwave, then add a dollop of peanut butter and a few sliced fresh grapes, she suggests. If you’re having this for breakfast, serve with a side of scrambled eggs for extra protein.

Make sweet-potato toast. “I love cutting sweet potatoes into thin slices and toasting them to make sweet potato toast, says Abbey Sharp, RD, a culinary dietitian in Toronto, Ontario. “You can then top them with any of your favorite healthy high-protein toppings.” Try cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt, or eggs.

Eat a baked potato side. Flavor half a baked sweet potato with chipotle pepper for sweet and spicy flair, suggests Moore. Or roll baked sweet ’tater pieces in nuts and seeds. Try a mixture of chopped pecans, walnuts, hemp seeds, and cinnamon, suggests Yablon Brenner.

Mash ’em. To cut down on added sugar, Yablon Brenner suggests mashing cooked sweet potatoes with diabetes-friendly seasonings like cinnamon and ginger. “The cinnamon brings out the sweetness in the sweet potatoes,” she says. “Mashed sweet potatoes are a delicious side, as well as a breakfast dish when combined with yogurt, nuts, or nut butter.”

Create a sweet potato bowl. Cube half a cooked sweet potato, then add it to a bowl with black beans, ½ cup of cooked quinoa, and sautéed spinach, suggests Toby Amidor, RD, of New York City, the author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook.

Add ’em to soup. “Soups are nourishing, and sweet potatoes add a creamy texture and sweetness to soup,” says Yablon Brenner, whose favorite sweet potato soup is made with red lentils, carrots, onions, and a variety of spices and herbs.

This post may contain affiliate links, see my Affiliates Disclosure.


Sweet potato casserole cups with all the flavor and less sugar is the perfect make ahead diabetes friendly side dish. Bake in muffin cups for easy portion control.

This recipe originally posted December 2018 and updated with all new photos, step by step instructions and expert tips.

Sweet potato casserole is a Thanksgiving side-dish that can contain many extra carbs. In order to bring carbs back into line, I made these cups without any added sugar. The addition of a little extra cinnamon really brings out the natural flavor of the sweet potatoes. Be sure to make these in muffin liners to help make cleanup easier.

Can diabetics eat sweet potatoes?

Sweet potatoes contain vitamins and minerals and also contain carbohydrate, so be sure to use portion control to keep your carb intake in check. A 1/2 cup serving of plain sweet potatoes usually contains 15 gm carb.

What is sweet potato casserole?

Sweet potato casserole is a combination of eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices mixed with sweet potatoes. Usually has a topping of brown sugar, butter and pecans. A serving may contain 40gm carb or more. This version keeps all the flavors with less calories and carbs.

Looking for more sweet potato ideas? Check out these recipes!

Sweet Potato Breakfast Casserole Cups

Skillet Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Tot Breakfast Casserole

Sweet Potato Hash

Sweet Potato Cheesecake Cups

Why this recipe works:

  • Uses fresh sweet potatoes for delicious flavor.
  • Extra cinnamon to bring out flavor with less sugar.
  • Brown sugar substitute used in place of regular brown sugar.
  • A crunchy topping is added to offset the soft moist sweet potatoes.
  • Cooked in a muffin tin for portion control.

The main ingredients:

  1. Sweet potatoes– use fresh if available otherwise choose canned with no added sugar.
  2. Cinnamon– check the date of your cinnamon for freshness.
  3. Topping ingredients include ground flaxseed and coconut for crunch.
  4. Pecans are used in the topping but may be substituted with walnuts if desired.

How to make this recipe:

  1. Begin by boiling the sweet potatoes in a pan of water until fully cooked. (Photo 1)
  2. Mash sweet potatoes and add ingredients. Stir well. (Photo 2)
  3. Prepare topping by mixing ingredients. (Photo 3)
  4. Fill muffin cups with sweet potato casserole then sprinkle with topping. (Photo 4)

Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 4 Photo 3

Expert tips for making Sweet Potato Casserole Cups-Reduced Sugar

  1. Try to use smaller size sweet potatoes if available. They will cook quicker. If using small sweet potatoes, you may need 3-4.
  2. Use a fork or a potato masher to break up the sweet potatoes. You may also use a mixer if desired.
  3. Use pecans or walnuts either will work in the topping recipe.

Frequently asked questions

  1. How many carbs in this recipe? These sweet potato casserole cups contain approx 25 carbs/serving ( 1 muffin)
  2. How to store leftovers? Cover leftovers and store in refrigerator up to 3 days. Re-heat in microwave or oven.
  3. Can this be frozen? Yes. Allow to thaw then heat in oven or microwave.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave your star rating and comment below!

Sweet Potato Casserole Cups – Reduced Sugar

Sweet potato casserole with all the flavor and less sugar makes a great make ahead diabetes friendly side dish. Bake in muffin cups for easy portion control. 3.89 from 9 votes Pin Course: Side Dish Cuisine: American Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 50 minutes Total Time: 1 hour Servings: 9 Calories: 196kcal Author: Easyhealth Living


  • 28 oz sweet potatoes approx 3-4 medium
  • 2 Tablespoons butter melted
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar substitute
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Topping:
  • 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons butter softened
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar substitute


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Wash and lightly scrub sweet potatoes, then cut in half if potatoes are large.
  • Add to a medium size pot and cover with water. Simmer 25-30 minutes or until soft when pierced with a fork.
  • Drain sweet potatoes, peel and remove skin, then place in a large bowl and mash.
  • Add all remaining ingredients (except topping ingredients) and stir well.
  • Line a muffin tin with 9 muffin liners and spray with non-stick spray.
  • Divide batter evenly between liners (about 1/2 cup in each).
  • Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly between muffin cups.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until set and lightly browned. (May cover with foil if topping browns too quickly.)


Expert tips for making Sweet Potato Casserole Cups-Reduced Sugar

  1. Try to use smaller size sweet potatoes if available. They will cook quicker. If using small sweet potatoes, you may need 3-4.
  2. Use a fork or a potato masher to break up the sweet potatoes. You may also use a mixer if desired.
  3. Use pecans or walnuts either will work in the topping recipe.


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Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes are the perfect side dish when you want a little change from the basic sweet potato fare.

Baked to perfection and then combined with a few simple ingredients you most likely have on hand make for an irresistibly decadent creamy sweet potato! Top with chopped pecans if desired and you will be in love! No need for the sugary sweet potato dishes that most often are presented at the Thanksgiving table. These will leave you fully satisfied and happy.

Sweet potatoes are easy to love and there’s really not just one way I don’t enjoy eating them. Baked, roasted, pureed, and now twice baked have become a regular way to enjoy them in our house. Even my children loved this recipe. My little man has a nut allergy so can’t have it with the pecans but even standing alone without them, it’s a pretty dish to present during the upcoming holiday feasting.

Here are some other sweet potato recipes you might enjoy:

  • Easy Baked Sweet Potatoes
  • Easy Crock Pot Stuffed Sweet Potatoes by Jeanette’s Healthy Living
  • Sweet Potatoes & Apples with Honey Glaze
  • Roasted Sweet Potato with Feta by Kalyn’s Kitchen
  • Pomegranate & Sweet Potato Quinoa

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Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes {No Sugar Added}

Prep Time 5 minutes Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes Servings 6 Calories 256 kcal Author Brenda Bennett

  • 3 sweet potatoes about 12 ounces each
  • 2 tablespoons butter room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • optional: 1/3 cup pecans chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  3. Place sweet potatoes on tray and cook until soft enough to pierce center with a knife, about 60-75min. Allow to cool.
  4. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop flesh. Leave enough on base and sides to hold shape.
  5. Add potato flesh and the remaining ingredients to a food processor. Puree or pulse to desired consistency.
  6. Fill potatoes by piping or spooning mixture and top with pecans if desired.
  7. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 7*

Nutrition Facts Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes {No Sugar Added} Amount Per Serving (1 half stuffed potato) Calories 256 Calories from Fat 91 % Daily Value* Fat 10.1g16% Cholesterol 34mg11% Sodium 370mg16% Carbohydrates 38.6g13% Fiber 5.9g25% Sugar 12.3g14% Protein 5g10% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Blessings, Brenda


Glycemic index of sweet potato as affected by cooking methods

Author: Allen, Jonathan C., Corbitt, Alexis D., Maloney, Katherine P., Butt, Masood S., Truong, Van-Den Source: The open nutrition journal 2012 v.6 ISSN: 1874-2882 Subject: amylopectin, amylose, ash content, baking, blood glucose, cooked foods, cooking quality, cortex, dietary fiber, drying, glucose, glycemic index, insulin, lipid content, microwave cooking, nutrient availability, potatoes, protein content, proximate composition, starch granules, steaming, sweet potatoes, water content Abstract: Understanding the effect of cooking on glucose availability will aid in the recommendation for including sweet potatoes as a regular component in American diets. Heating breaks down starch granules to allow amylopectin and amylose to be more readily digested by pancreatic amylase, which theoretically should increase the glycemic index of sweet potato. Twelve volunteers consumed 25 g of available carbohydrate from Beauregard sweet potato skin and flesh separately that were subjected to conventional cooking methods: baking at 163ºC for 1 hour; microwaving for five minutes in a 1000 watt microwave; dehydrating at 60ºC for 16 hours; and steaming at 100ºC for 45 minutes. Available carbohydrate was determined by difference from proximate analysis of protein, lipid, total dietary fiber, moisture, and ash. Fasted participants measured blood glucose levels at 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes after consuming 25 g of carbohydrate from test foods or glucose. Glycemic indices calculated from these methods for steamed, baked and microwaved sweet potato flesh were 63 ± 3.6, 64 ± 4.3 and 66 ± 5.7, respectively, indicative of a moderate glycemic index food. However, dehydrated and raw sweet potato flesh had a low glycemic index (41 ± 4.0 and 32 ± 3.0, respectively). Steamed skin, baked skin, and dehydrated flesh did not have a statistically different glycemic index (P > 0.05) from that of raw sweet potatoes. A second experiment confirmed the low glycemic index of raw sweet potato, especially the skin, and showed that a commercial extract of the sweet potato cortex, Caiapo, tended to lower the glycemic index of white potato to a level that was not different from the raw sweet potato peel. The physiological mechanism for the lower glycemic index was not due to a greater release or a greater clearance of insulin during the glycemic response. Depending on cooking methods, “Beauregard” sweet potato flesh and skin may be considered low and medium glycemic index foods, which may prove beneficial for diabetic or insulin-resistant consumers. Agid: 54010 Handle: 10113/54010

This Season’s Nutrition Spotlight: Sweet Potatoes!

The mere mention of sweet potatoes brings memories of a Thanksgiving table to mind. These nutritional tuberous all-stars have found their way onto everyday menus and, in some cases, have even bumped the traditional white potato out of our kitchens. What makes the sweet potato nutritionally different than their relegated white potato cousin? Are they really the better choice? Rated as one of the best vegetables you could eat, the sweet potato has versatility and some rather impressive nutritional benefits (1).

Nutritional Breakdown

A medium sweet potato (5 inches long, 2 inches in diameter, 130 g) based on the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference has the following nutritional breakdown:
Calories: 112
Protein: 2 g
Fat: 0.06 g
Carbs: 26 g
(Sugar/Fiber: 5/4 g)

They are also high in vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, manganese, potassium and antioxidants.

White potatoes are also a good source of potassium, but are also higher overall in calories and total carbs.

A yam is a sweet potato but a sweet potato is not a yam.

Glycemic Index: Why Potatoes Got Their Bad Reputation

The Glycemic Index (GI) classifies foods on a scale of zero to 100 on their potential to raise blood glucose levels. Foods with a higher GI trigger a sharp surge and then a quick decline in blood glucose, while a low GI food has a slower climb and more modest changes (2). A low glycemic index is considered 55 or less, medium from 56-69, and high is 70 or more. Focusing diets on lower GI foods may decrease the risk for developing type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease(2). White potatoes got their bad reputation with a high GI score of 84, while a sweet potato (baked) has only a medium GI score of 64. A recent study by Allen, Corbitt, Maloney, Butt, & Truong (2012), evaluated how cooking and preparation techniques could potentially impact the GI score of sweet potatoes. They found that steaming, baking, and microwaving produced average GI scores of 63, 64, and 66, respectively. When dehydrated or raw, these dropped to low GI scores of 40 and 28, respectively. What was even more interesting in this study was the effect caiapo, a commercial extract from the sweet potato cortex, had on lowering the glycemic index of the white potato to the same level as the raw sweet potato peel (3). (For more on the glycemic index.)

Preparation Methods

Now that you’ve learned the sweet potato’s nutritional details, are you ready to bite into one? Here are some sweet potato preparation tips taken from SweetPotatoUSA.org to get you started on your own healthy creations.

First thing you’ll want to do is scrub the skins, trim the ends, and cut out any bruised spots. Use a stainless steel knife to prevent the sweet potato from darkening.

Bake: Prick the potato several times with a fork and bake at 400° F for 40 to 50 minutes or until tender.

Microwave: Prick the potato several times and microwave on high power for 4 to 6 minutes or until tender. Turn halfway through cooking time.

Steam: Bring 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil. Place whole, unpeeled sweet potatoes in steamer basket, cover and steam for 40 to 50 minutes or until tender.

Boil: Place whole sweet potatoes in boiling water and cook until tender, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Sauté: Peel and cut into 1/4- to 1/2- inch thick slices or 1- inch cubes. Place pieces and 2 tablespoons butter or oil in a large skillet and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until tender.

Grill: Slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place on grill. Turn once. Remove when tender.

Fresh: Peel and cut into sticks and serve with your favorite dip. Immediately rinse and place cut sweet potatoes in ice water or in a plastic bag with ice and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Even though they taste fantastic, don’t be swayed into thinking that sweet potato fries are really a healthier alternative to traditional fries!

My publisher wants a glycemic index (GI) chart for our upcoming book on smart glucose monitoring. I’m looking into GI and its sister, glycemic load (GL), but so many things can change GI and GL. How do you use these tools?


As Jacquie Craig, MS, RD, LD, CDE explained in an article on this site,
GI ranks carbohydrates from 0–100, based on how much and how fast they affect blood glucose levels. A higher number means the food has a larger impact on blood glucose levels. Glucose itself has a ranking of 100.

GI is important for people with Type 2 diabetes, because they often have a delayed insulin response. If glucose goes up fast, the body does not respond quickly enough, and glucose levels can get way too high after meals. So we want low-GI foods.

GI doesn’t tell you how much glucose will eventually get into your system, just how much of a blood glucose spike the food creates. To improve the GI, Dr. Walter Willett at Harvard helped develop the concept of glycemic load (GL). GL combines the GI with a measure of how much carbohydrate there is in a food.

So in theory, GL can tell you a given food’s total impact on your blood glucose levels, which should help in meal planning, insulin dosing, and food choices. But the reality of GI and GL is much more complicated.

How Are GI and GL Determined?
You can’t tell the GI or GL of a food by analyzing it in a lab. That’s because different people’s digestive systems handle different carbs differently. We also absorb and break down the same carbs into glucose differently at different times, depending on what other nutrients are being consumed.

For example, a plain pizza with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese has very high GI, around 80. But a super-deluxe pizza with all the fixings has a low GI of 36. The GI is lower because the protein and fats in the toppings slow down the absorption of carbs and slows their turning into glucose.

Since you can’t tell GI or GL in a test tube, glycemic index values are determined by feeding 8 to 10 people a fixed portion of the food (after an overnight fast). Then samples of their blood are taken every 15–30 minutes and their glucose levels are measured. The GI values that the foods register in the participants are averaged to give a GI number.

The GL is calculated from the GI using the formula GL = (GI × Net Carbs) ÷ 100. (Net carbs are equal to the total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber.)

So if a plain pizza has a GI of 80, and 27 grams (about one ounce) of net carbs in 100 grams, its GL would be 80 multiplied by 27, divided by 100, for a total of 22. For GL, 20 and over is considered high, and 10 or below is considered low. Levels in the range of 11–19 are considered medium.

For GI, anything below 55 is low, and anything over 70 is considered high. Numbers from 55–69 are medium.

The same foods can have a very different GI and GL depending on how they are prepared. A boiled sweet potato has a low GI of 44 and a medium GL of 11. But if baked for 45 minutes, the same sweet potato has a GI of 94 and a GL of 42, both extremely high. Baking has essentially turned the sweet potato into candy.

White potatoes also have a higher GI and GL when baked. Microwaving often raises GI and GL. Have you ever noticed how sweet beets taste after baking or microwaving? That’s because much of their carbohydrate content has been converted into glucose.

Even the same cooking method can give different results. Spaghetti cooked al dente (boiled for 8 minutes) has a much lower GI and GL than soft (boiled for 20 minutes) spaghetti.

Different brands or varieties of the same food can have very different GI and GLs. Professor Jennie Brand-Miller of the University of Sydney, Australia, has created a list of thousands of foods based on her tests and the published results of others. Her list includes two types of rice milk, one with a GI of 92, another of 79. Sweet corn from New Zealand has a GI of roughly 37, while South African sweet corn gets about a 62.

This is really a wonderful, if confusing, list, and it can be seen at Mendosa.com and an updated list is available at GlycemicIndex.com.

Different People, Different GI/GL
Even if you could find the published GI or GL of a specific food, you couldn’t be sure of that food’s effect on your personal glucose numbers. People vary significantly in their response to foods. And in real life, foods are rarely consumed one at a time. We have drinks and other foods with them, which can affect their glucose response in the body.

It seems the only way to be sure about a particular food’s effect on you is to check your glucose after eating it. Preferably check before, too, so you can record how much change there has been.

Do you look at GI and GL numbers or think about them in meal planning or insulin dosing? What information sources do you use, and how do you use that information? Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

By: Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, RNs

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

If you have diabetes, in many ways your diet is your medicine. As diabetes educators, we help patients understand what food and beverage choices are best to avoid. When foods are high in carbohydrates, fat and sodium, they increase your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight gain, heart disease and uncontrolled sugar.

Top 10 offenders

  1. Sweetened drinks. These include regular pop/soda, fruit punches and iced teas. These are loaded with sugar and calories, and they usually have little or no nutritional value. Instead, try infusing plain water with different berries and fruits so you can enjoy the natural sweetness.
  2. “Designer” or specialty coffee drinks – including frappuccinos or cappuccinos. That “once a day special treat” can add up to lots of extra sugar, calories and saturated fat. Instead, go for straight java, either black, with artificial sweetener or a small splash of skim milk.
  3. Whole milk. It has too much fat, which can lead to weight gain. Switch to 2 percent, 1 percent – or even better: skim milk. Keep in mind that one cup of skim milk has 12 grams of carbohydrates. If you don’t like milk or are lactose intolerant, you can drink almond milk, rice milk or soy milk instead—but remember to get the low sugar varieties.
  4. Hot dogs. These grilled little favorites are still high in saturated fat and sodium—yes, that even includes turkey dogs! Try to avoid them or eat them only occasionally.
  5. Packaged lunch meats. These are also high in saturated fat and sodium. Check your deli for low sodium meats—or better yet use sliced meat that you’ve roasted at home to make your sandwiches. Also remember that sandwich toppings can be very unhealthy too (think high-fat mayonnaise). Instead add flavor to your sandwiches with mustard, veggies and/or a little bit of hummus.
  6. Sweetened cereals. These are high in carbohydrates because of the added sugar. Go for the plain cereals and add a little fruit or artificial sweetener.
  7. Regular pancake syrup. It’s very high in carbohydrates. Light or low-calorie syrup usually contains at least half the carbs of regular. And with these lighter syrups, remember that the serving size is small, and generally only one Take a look at the food label and use sparingly.
  8. Sherbet. Many people believe sherbet is a good alternative to ice cream, but a half cup of sherbet has almost double the carbohydrates of a half cup of ice cream.
  9. Fast food baked potatoes with all the fixin’s. You take a relatively healthy item—the plain baked potato—and add cheddar cheese, butter, sour cream, ranch dressing or bacon and it just turned into a high-sodium, fat laden disaster. The same goes for nachos and other cheese-covered appetizers when eating out.
  10. Anything fried. We know fried foods are bad for us, but for people with diabetes, they are the worst. The fat is absorbed into the food and leads to high cholesterol and weight gain. Fried foods cause diabetes and fried foods make diabetes worse. This goes for everything from French fries to fried chicken to that panko-crusted tilapia at your favorite restaurant.

Now for the best foods…

All of the foods on our list have a low glycemic index (which represents the total rise in a person’s blood sugar level after eating the food) and provide important nutrients you need to stay healthy.

  1. Sweet potatoes. A great source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Add cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg or allspice for extra flavor. ½ cup cooked sweet potato = 1 carb serving
  2. Cruciferous vegetables. These include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts. These non-starchy vegetables are rich in potassium, folate and vitamin C. 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked = < 1 carb serving. They are just 5 grams of carbohydrate and 15 grams is one carb serving so you can load up on these!
  3. Legumes. These include a variety of beans such as black, garbanzo, kidney, lima, navy, pinto and white. They are loaded with fiber and protein, which will help you feel full with fewer calories. ½ cup cooked = 1 carb serving
  4. Nuts. Especially walnuts, almonds and pecans. They are a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats and antioxidants and they reduce LDL cholesterol and promote heart health. Consume in small amounts as they are high in calories. Add to salads, oatmeal and yogurt. If you are trying to watch your calorie intake, buy the 100 calorie packets in a box. They may cost a little more, but they help with portion control. 1 serving = 1 carb
  5. Berries. They are full of antioxidants, vitamin C and fiber. Add to salads, cereal, summer desserts and yogurt. 1 cup of strawberries, blue berries or raspberries = 1 carb serving

Do Potatoes Cause Diabetes?

Are potatoes dangerous? Do potatoes cause diabetes?

You might think so if you followed the headlines. In 2006, the media was full of reports making these claims, some of which are still being made today. All of this attention was based on the results of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.1

The prospective study followed 84,555 women in the famed Nurses’ Health Study. At the start, the women, aged 34–59 years, had no history of chronic disease, and completed a validated food frequency questionnaire. These women were then followed for 20 years with repeated assessments of their diet. The study concluded, “Our findings suggest a modest positive association between the consumption of potatoes and the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. This association was more pronounced when potatoes were substituted for whole grains.”

So, let’s take a closer look at the study and see how accurate these claims are, and where the truth really lies. Specifically, we will look at five key points.

Are all potatoes equal? Or “When is a potato not a potato?”

In the study, participants were asked how often, on average, in the previous year, they had consumed potatoes. The options they were given to choose from were either:

a) One baked or one cup mashed potato
b) 4 ounces of french-fried potatoes

These were the only two choices the subjects could pick from. So, while these may represent how potatoes are often consumed here in America, they do not account for any differences in how the potatoes were prepared and served. And mashed potatoes were counted in with baked potatoes, which are two completely different forms of preparing potatoes.

In America, whether it is at home or in restaurants, most all mashed potatoes are made with milk and butter and/or margarine. In addition, most all baked potatoes are served with butter, sour cream and/or cheese.

The following analysis represents these important differences. They are of a serving of mashed potatoes, a loaded baked potato and a plain baked potato as served in a popular national restaurant chain. They are typical for how mashed potatoes and baked potatoes are often served and consumed in America. In addition, I have included the analysis of a plain medium baked potato for comparison.

Mashed Potatoes (Restaurant):

367 calories
24 grams of fat
59% calories from fat
11.4 grams of saturated fat
28% calories from saturated fat
9 milligrams of cholesterol

Loaded Baked Potato (Restaurant):

505 calories
22 grams of fat
39% calories from fat
10 grams of fat
18% calories from saturated fat
30 milligrams of cholesterol

Regular Baked Potato (Restaurant):

329 calories
4.5 grams of fat
12% calories from fat
.4 grams of saturated fat
1% calories from saturated fat
22 milligrams of cholesterol

Baked Potato (Home):

160 calories
.2 grams of fat
1% calories from fat
.1 grams of fat
.05% calories from saturated fat
0 milligrams of cholesterol

So, compared to an at-home, plain baked potato:

  • The mashed potato gets more than ½ its calories, plus nearly all its fat (about 24 grams) and cholesterol (9 mgs) from “non-potato” ingredients;
  • The loaded potato gets more than 2/3 of its calories, plus nearly all of its fat (about 22 grams) from “non-potato” ingredients;
  • Even the regular baked potato from the restaurant gets ½ its calories, plus nearly all its fat (about 4 grams) and cholesterol from “non-potato” ingredients (most likely oil and/or butter used on the outside and/or as a regular topping).

As we can see, the potato is contributing only a small percentage to what is most likely being counted as “potatoes” in this study. The association applied to potatoes may be more accurately applied to how potatoes are prepared and consumed and the toppings they are served with here in America, more so than just the potato itself. The study admitted that “cooking methods” were not assessed, so it is safe to assume that these were typical Americans consuming potatoes in the way they are typically served.

In addition, other studies on the Nurses database show the majority of their diets are not low fat, low saturated fat, low cholesterol or high fiber which confirms that they are not choosing or consuming the healthier versions.

So, when is a potato not a potato? When nurses in America consume them.

The Potato: Is It a Marker for Something Else?

In this study, was the potato the problem itself, or was the potato acting as a marker and pointing to something else that was associated with potato consumption?

Quoting the researchers:

“White potatoes and French fries are large components of a “Western pattern” diet. This dietary pattern is characterized by a high consumption of red meat, refined grains, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, desserts, high-sugar drinks, and eggs, as well as French fries and potatoes. A Western pattern diet previously predicted a risk of type 2 diabetes. Thus, we cannot completely separate the effects of potatoes and French fries from the effects of the overall Western dietary pattern.”

The researchers found that the study subjects who ate more potatoes also ate more red meat, more refined grains and consumed more total calories (in fact more than 500 additional calories per day). In addition, potato intake was also associated with higher intakes of saturated and trans fat, and less physical activity.

So, was the potato the problem, or was the potato a marker for a dietary pattern and lifestyle that was responsible for the results? In this study, the potato seems to be a marker for a high-fat, high refined grain diet.

Trends and Truth in Taters

If a food really is a causative factor in a disease, then as we consume more of the food (as an individual or as a nation) we should see the disease rates go up accordingly. In addition, when we remove or lessen the consumption of the food, we should see disease rates (as an individual or as a nation) go down. However, this is not the case for potatoes and diabetes. Let’s take a closer look:

Total Potato Consumption per person per year:

1970: 122 pounds
1996: 145 pounds
2008: 117 pounds

Prevalence of Diabetes (% of population):

1970: 2.00%
1996: 2.89%
2008: 6.29%

We see here that consumption of potatoes is trending down since 1996 yet the prevalence of diabetes is rising faster than ever. In fact from 1996 to 2008, potato consumption fell 19% while the percentage of people with diabetes increased by more than 200%.

Most importantly, the prevalence of diabetes really began to increase in 1996-1998, which is the same time that potato consumption began to fall sharply.


In science, the results of any one study are always interesting but never prove anything unless they can be replicated and/or reproduced. Reproduction and replication are what increase the validity of any claim.

In a 4-year prospective study of 36,787 adults which was done one year later, researchers investigated the association between a variety of dietary patterns and type 2 diabetes.3 The study results, which were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found an association between potatoes and diabetes only when they were cooked with oil. In fact, they concluded that consuming a variety of cooked vegetables, including potatoes, cooked in ways other than frying, was associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Other studies, similarly, have not found any correlation between diabetes and plain potatoes, and another also showed a decrease incidence of diabetes.2,3

What Causes Diabetes and Do Potatoes Play a Role?

During the 20 years that the subjects in the Nurses study were followed, we saw a dramatic shift in the dietary and lifestyle pattern of Americans. Not only has potato consumption and the type of potato changed dramatically, but there have been significant changes in other areas. Americans have sharply increased their consumption of refined sugars/sweeteners, refined grains/carbohydrates, added oils/fats, hydrogenated fats/trans fat, cheese, calories, etc. Meanwhile the percentage of Americans who are overweight, and even obese, increased, while the percentage who are active fell dramatically.

These factors, and not the potato itself, are what is responsible for the dramatic increase in the incidence of diabetes. Sure, mashed potatoes, loaded baked potatoes and french-fries, which are calorie dense, high in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and salt increase your risk for disease and should be avoided.

However, there is no credible evidence that potatoes, when consumed close to their natural state and cooked conservatively by baking, boiling, and/or steaming, will cause diabetes or are associated with an increased risk. In fact, potatoes have long been part of healthy diets around the world.

A more detailed version of the article was published here.

1 Potato and French fry consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women– Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:284 –90.

2 “Dietary Patterns and Risk for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in U.S. Men. Ann Intern Med. 2002;136:201-209.

3 Dietary Patterns and Diabetes Incidence in the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study Am J Epidemiol 2007;165:603–610


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