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September 20, 2023
April 23, 2024
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Sweet potatoes often are associated with the holidays and Thanksgiving meals. These tubular vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals and come in various sizes and colors. While sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrates, they generally have a low glycemic index. They can benefit those living with type 2 diabetes due to their high levels of magnesium and fiber.

This article will dive deeper into how sweet potatoes may impact blood sugar levels and the health benefits of including this vegetable in your diet. 

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Glycemic Index Table

There are several types of sweet potatoes, which all have varying glycemic index levels. 

  • Purple sweet potato: This sweet potato’s color can be attributed to anthocyanins, packed with antioxidants. The glycemic index for this type of sweet potato is 77, which is considered high.¹
  • Orange sweet potato: This sweet potato variety is filled with beta-carotene and has a glycemic index of 44 when boiled.¹
  • Red sweet potato: This sweet potato has orange flesh and a red-copper skin color. The glycemic index of this variety is 84.¹

The cooking method of sweet potatoes also can change the glycemic index of the vegetable. 

  • Boiling: This preparation method can alter the chemical composition of the sweet potato and prevent spikes in blood sugar levels by allowing the starches to be easily digested.³ ⁴ ⁵ The time spent boiling sweet potatoes also makes a difference. When boiled for 30 minutes, sweet potatoes have a glycemic index of 46, but when boiled for eight minutes, the glycemic index rises to 61.¹ ⁶
  • Roasted: The roasting process destroys resistant starch, giving the sweet potato a higher glycemic index. Sweet potatoes that are peeled and roasted have a glycemic index of 82, a high glycemic index rating.¹
  • Baked: Baked sweet potatoes also have a high glycemic index rating. Sweet potatoes that have been peeled and baked for 45 minutes have a glycemic index of 94, which is comparable to white rice and instant mashed potatoes.¹
  • Fried: Surprisingly, fried sweet potatoes have a slightly lower glycemic index than roasted or baked versions because they contain fat, which slows glucose absorption (sugar). Sweet potatoes that have been peeled and fried in vegetable oil have a glycemic index of 76, comparable to cake, doughnuts, and jelly beans.¹

The below glycemic index and glycemic load data is for 100 grams of boiled orange sweet potatoes:¹ ²

Glycemic Index

44

Serving Size

100g

Carbohydrate* per Serving (g)

17.3 g

GL per Serving

9.00

Nutritional Facts

Sweet potatoes contain vitamins A, C, and manganese. They are also rich in potassium, fiber, and zinc. Sweet potatoes, especially the orange and purple varieties, contain abundant antioxidants that protect the human body against free radicals, which can damage DNA and trigger inflammation.

The nutritional information below is for 100 g of raw orange sweet potatoes.²

Calories

79 kcal

Carbs

17.3 g

Protein

1.58 g

Fiber

4.44 g

Cholesterol

14.75 mg

Vitamins

A (393.13 µg), B12 (0.05 µg), B6 (0.16 mg), C (5.45 mg), D (4.14 IU), Potassium (486 mg), Phosphorus (37 mg), Calcium (22 mg), Magnesium (19.1 mg)

Sodium

152.81 mg

Total Fat

0.38 g

Is Sweet Potato Good for Weight Loss?

Sweet potatoes may promote fullness and aid you in eating fewer calories, which can aid weight loss goals.²⁴ ²⁵ Uncooked sweet potatoes are 77% water and 13% fiber, which can allow you to feel satiated without consuming a lot of calories.² 

One review that looked at 48 studies found that eating more fiber over one year was associated with sustained weight loss of at least 5% of the participant’s body weight.26 An eight-week study with 58 participants had similar findings.²⁷

If you want to incorporate sweet potatoes into your meals, here are some ideas to try:

  • Swap out tortilla chips for thinly sliced sweet potatoes. Optional: use an air fryer instead of a deep fryer.
  • Add sweet potatoes to a salad to any salad.
  • Add sweet potatoes to a breakfast bowl full of vegetables and eggs.

Is Sweet Potato Safe for People Living with Diabetes?

Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and, depending on the variety and cooking method can have a low glycemic index. This will result in smaller spikes in blood sugar levels, which can help those living with diabetes stay within an optimal blood sugar range.

It is important to be mindful of serving size and cooking methods if you live with diabetes. Aim to consume boiled or steamed sweet potatoes. Baking, roasting, or frying sweet potatoes causes an increase in the vegetable’s glycemic index, which can lead to severe and sudden spikes in blood sugar levels.

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Allergies

Sweet potatoes are considered a low risk for food allergies.

Symptoms of a sweet potato allergy can include itchiness of the mouth, lips, or throat, swelling, and redness. In severe cases, allergic reactions can cause hives, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis. Please consult a healthcare professional if you suspect an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance to sweet potatoes.

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FAQs

What is Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels compared to a reference food, usually glucose. It ranks foods on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating a faster rise in blood sugar. The glycemic index (GI) scale is typically categorized as follows: Low GI [55 or less], Medium GI [56-69], High GI [70 or higher]. Foods with a high glycemic index digest rapidly and can cause dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose or glucose spikes.

What is Glycemic Load?

Glycemic load (GL) takes into account both the quality (glycemic index) and quantity (carbohydrate content) of carbohydrates in a specific serving of food. It is a measure of how much a particular food will raise blood sugar levels. GL is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by its carbohydrate content and dividing it by 100. It provides a more accurate representation of the overall impact of a food on blood sugar compared to the glycemic index alone.

Does Sweet Potato Spike Insulin?

No, sweet potatoes do not spike insulin levels. In fact, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index, which means they are digested and absorbed slowly, leading to a gradual and steady increase in blood sugar levels. This makes them a good choice for people with diabetes or those trying to manage their blood sugar levels. Additionally, sweet potatoes are high in fiber, which can also help regulate blood sugar levels.

Is Sweet Potato Low Glycemic?

Yes, sweet potato is considered a low glycemic index food. It has a glycemic index of 44-94, depending on the cooking method and variety. This means it is less likely to cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels.

Can People Living with Diabetes Eat Sweet Potato?

Yes, people living with diabetes can eat sweet potato in moderation as it has a low glycemic index and is a good source of fiber and nutrients. However, portion control and monitoring blood sugar levels is important.

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References

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About the author

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout.

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About the author

Brittany Barry is a national board-certified health coach and NASM-certified personal trainer based in South Carolina.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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