Should You Eat Sweet Potatoes If You Have Diabetes?

Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious vegetables grown in the subtropical and tropical areas of the world. But just because they hold nutritional value doesn't mean they are always a good choice for people with diabetes.

While people with diabetes don't need to steer clear of sweet potato altogether, it's important to keep in mind the amount, type, preparation, seasoning, and accompanying side dishes when eating sweet potato.

sweet potatoes

Aniko Hobel / Getty Images

Sweet Potato Nutrition

Sweet potatoes contain many vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals that are helpful for your overall health. They are rich in the following vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Fiber
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium

Sweet potatoes do have a large level of carbohydrates, but they generally have a low glycemic index

Sweet potato is known to be beneficial to individuals with type 2 diabetes due to the high levels of magnesium and fiber, which can aid in reducing insulin resistance and stabilizing blood sugar.

More studies need to be conducted to determine the exact glycemic indexes of sweet potatoes and how it impacts glucose and glycemic response after it is eaten.

Types of Sweet Potato and Diabetes

Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Japanese sweet potatoes are typically purple on the outside and have a white or yellow interior. They are known to be sweeter in taste.

The extract from Japanese sweet potatoes—Caiapo—may potentially help people with diabetes.

In a study that was conducted, it concluded that Caiapo is an agent that can help the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The study showed that Caiapo had a beneficial effect on the plasma glucose and cholesterol levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Purple Sweet Potatoes

Purple sweet potatoes are known to have many health benefits. The color is due to the anthocyanins, a water-soluble element that is also known for pigmenting other fruits and vegetables that are purple, red, and blue.

Anthocyanin is known for its high level of antioxidants and also known to:

  • Help reduce the risk of certain diseases
  • Improve vision
  • Treat diabetes

A recent study compared purple potatoes to yellow potatoes and found that the polyphenol-rich purple potatoes lowered glycemia, inflammation, and insulin. The glycemic index for the purple sweet potato is 77.0.

Orange Sweet Potatoes

Orange sweet potatoes are the most common sweet potato and are known for having contents of:

  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Fiber
  • Vitamin B6

They also have beta-carotene and a high glycemic index. Another ingredient is anthocyanin which is known for its antioxidant properties.

On average a boiled orange sweet potato has a glycemic index of 44. Sweet potatoes are also known to regulate blood glucose concentration.

How to Enjoy Sweet Potatoes

If you have diabetes, sweet potatoes are a safe option to add to your diet in moderation.

Sweet potatoes are known to be high in fiber and have a low glycemic index, which results in a less immediate impact on blood glucose levels. This can help individuals with diabetes control their blood sugar.

As someone with diabetes, if you do consume sweet potatoes, the amount and how you prepare the sweet potato is important.

There was a study that showed that out of 70,773 people consuming three servings per week of mashed, boiled, or baked potatoes there was an increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes by 4%.

The study also looked at the consumption of French fries, and the risk elevated to 19%. Consuming fried potatoes can lead to weight gain and other health issues. For individuals with diabetes, weight control is important.

A Word from Verywell

Potatoes are a food that can be eaten with careful moderation and food combination. It is important to speak with your healthcare provider to understand the proper way to consume sweet potatoes when you have diabetes.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Sweet potatoes.

  2. Bahado-Singh PS, Riley CK, Wheatley AO, Lowe HIC. Relationship between processing method and the glycemic indices of ten sweet potato (ipomoea batatas) cultivars commonly consumed in JamaicaJournal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2011;2011:1-6. doi:10.1155/2011/584832

  3. Khoo HE, Azlan A, Tang ST, Lim SM. Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food Nutr Res. 2017;61(1):1361779. doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779

  4. Jokioja J, Linderborg KM, Kortesniemi M, et al. Anthocyanin-rich extract from purple potatoes decreases postprandial glycemic response and affects inflammation markers in healthy menFood Chemistry. 2020;310:125797. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2019.125797

  5. Ramdath DD, Padhi E, Hawke A, Sivaramalingam T, Tsao R. The glycemic index of pigmented potatoes is related to their polyphenol content. Food Funct. 2014 May;5(5):909-15. doi: 10.1039/c3fo60395d

  6. Muraki I, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB, Sun Q. Potato consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective cohort studiesDia Care. 2016;39(3):376-384. doi:10.2337/dc15-0547

By Yvelette Stines
Yvelette Stines, MS, MEd, is an author, writer, and communications specialist specializing in health and wellness.