Nutrition & Diabetes

Sweet Potatoes and Pre-Diabetes

Posted on: December 28, 2010


This week’s http://www.foodpicker.org question is: I was recently diagnosed with Pre-Diabetes and I’m trying to follow a low fat diet.  I have a question I hope that you can answer.  Are sweet potatoes considered a vegetable and are they ok to eat in my diet?

Sweet potato is a starchy vegetable, therefore it contains 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving.  Sweet potatoes are okay for your diet as long as you eat it in moderation.  According to the American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association “Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes,”  people with pre-diabetes or diabetes do not require special foods.  It’s all about moderation and making sure you do not eat too much carbohydrate rich foods in a meal.  All foods contribute to your blood glucose, but it is the carbohydrate rich foods that really make your blood glucose levels rise.

Sweet potato is a carbohydrate rich vegetable because it is a starchy vegetable.   Non-starchy vegetables like cucumber, summer squash, zucchini, and tomatoes contain only 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving compared to the 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving in starchy vegetables.

Ideally, you would want to eat more of the non-starchy vegetables over the starchy vegetables.   You can eat more of the non-starchy vegetables because they are lower in carbohydrates compared to the starchy vegetables, and this will help you with managing your pre-diabetes.  Starchy vegetables have important nutrients too, but since they are higher in carbohydrates they should be eaten in moderation.  Consuming too many carbohydrates at one given time can raise your blood sugar levels.

1 serving of a starchy vegetable  = 15 grams of carbohydrates = one carbohydrate exchange

1 serving of a non-starchy vegetable = 5 grams of carbohydrates, therefore 3 servings of a non-starchy vegetable = 15 grams of carbohydrates = one carbohydrate exchange

In other words,

One serving of sweet potato (starchy vegetable) is 1/2 cup = 15 grams of carbohyrdates

1/2 cup of cooked non-starchy vegetable (i.e., broccoli) is one serving = 5 grams of carbohydrates, therefore  1  1/2 cups of cooked non-starchy vegetables = 15 grams of carbohydrates

1 cup of raw non-starchy vegetable (i.e., celery) is one serving = 5 grams of carbohydrates, therefore 3 cups of raw non-starchy raw vegetables = 15 grams of carbohydrates


(Note: Salad greens are considered a free food because it has less than 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving.  There is no serving size for salad greens, therefore you can eat as much of it as you like.  Some examples, of salad greens are chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, arugula, radicchio, and watercress.)


It is important to look at those servings sizes because most people eat more than one serving size.  For example, most people eat one cup of rice rather than the serving size of  1/3 cup of rice.  Keep that in mind when you are planning your meals and keeping track of carbohydrate rich foods on your plate.  There should be a balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.  If you want to eat sweet potato as part of your meal, then you want to make sure you do not load your plate with other carbohydrate rich foods (i.e., bread).

Below are some examples of one serving size of starchy and non-starchy vegetables:

One serving of starchy vegetables = 15 grams of carbohydrates

1/3 cup cassava

1/2 cup corn

1/2 cob (5 oz) of a  large corn on the cob

3/4 cup canned Hominy

1 cup mixed vegetables with corn, peas, or pasta

1/2 cup parsnips

1/2 cup green peas

1/3 cup ripe plantain

1/4 large (3 oz) potato baked with skin

1/2 cup or 1/2 medium (3 oz) boiled potato

1/2 cup of mashed potato made with milk and fat

1 cup (2 oz) of roasted potato (cubed)

1 cup of canned pumpkin

1/2 cup of spaghetti/pasta sauce

1/2 cup winter squash (acorn, butternut)

1/2 cup succotash

1/2 cup yam, sweet potato

One serving of a non-starchy vegetable = 5 grams of carbohyrdates

1/2 cup cooked = one serving

1 cup raw = one serving

artichoke, asparagus, baby corn, bamboo shoots, green beans, wax beans, Italian beans, beets, borscht, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chayote, packaged coleslaw, cucumber, daikon, eggplant, gourds (bitter, bottle, luffa, bitter melon), green onions (scallions), collard greens, kale, mustard, hearts of palm, jicama, kohlrabi, leeks, mixed vegetables (without corn, peas, or pasta), mushrooms, okra, onions, pea pods, peppers, radishes, rutabaga, sauerkraut, soybean sprout, spinach, squash (summer, crookneck, zucchini), sugar snap peas, swiss chard, tomato, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato/vegetable juice, turnips, water chestnuts, and yard-long beans


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About Me

Iris M. Pacheco, MS, RD, LD/N

This was a blog I wrote during 2010-2011 while I was a dietetics and nutrition student.

Through this blog I volunteered to answer questions from people with diabetes that were submitted to http://www.FOODPICKER.org.

FOODPICKER.org is a website that helps people with diabetes make better food choices. It holds of large databases of food items and gives recommendations on which foods to have "More Often," "In Moderation," or "Less Often."

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