Can you eat starchy vegetables if you have diabetes?

According to statistics published by the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 10% of adults meet the recommended vegetable intake. daily recommendation. Even the most recent 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) emphasize the importance of consuming more, not less, of produce to reap the benefits they provide. for comprehensive health. This can include improvements in heart health, gut health, blood pressure, inflammation levels and more! Additionally, you may have heard the advice to add variety by “eating the rainbow” when choosing fruits and vegetables.

Recipe with pictures: French fries

But what if that rainbow product came in the form of starchy vegetables? We’re talking peas, corn and other favorites like winter squash, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins and beloved potatoes. And, what happens if you have diabetes and you’re told to watch your carb intake? Can you still eat these selected products?

Before your mind goes into overdrive, rest assured that we have you covered in this article. We spoke to registered dietitians and a certified diabetes educator to get the facts on what you need to know when introducing starchy vegetables into your diet. drink your own.

How carbohydrates affect people with diabetes

Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source to energize your body. When carbohydrates are consumed, they enter the bloodstream and increase blood sugar levels. In response, the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin, which helps cells use blood sugar and turn it into energy.

In people with diabetes, the pancreas does not produce insulin (type 1) or the cells cannot use insulin effectively to help control blood sugar (type 2), leading to high blood sugar levels. higher. Over time, persistently high blood sugar can lead to complications, including vision and hearing loss, heart disease, nerve damage, kidney failure and even depression.

However, not all carbohydrates are digested the same way. For example, simple carbs (think: refined grains like white pasta and bread products) are absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream because they lack other nutrients like fiber that complex carbohydrates do. their contains. In this case, starchy vegetables are considered complex carbohydrates because they all contain fiber. According to registered dietitian Elise Compston, RD, LD, recipe developer for the Balanced Blood Sugar Association, “Starchy vegetables contain fiber, which is a type of non-digestible carbohydrate. Fiber cannot broken down for energy and benefits blood sugar levels by slowing the rate. In this way, the fiber found in starchy vegetables can actually help prevent spikes from occurring, especially when combined with other blood sugar-balancing foods like protein, fat, and fibrous non-starchy vegetables.

Nutritional composition of starchy vegetables

There are many starchy vegetables that can and should be on your menu if you like them. For example, registered dietitian Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition and author of the book Eat from our roots, shares, “People should choose options that are accessible, affordable, desirable and culturally appropriate. Many starchy vegetables such as cassava, bananas, radishes, Jerusalem artichokes and yams contain full of resistant starch, vitamins, minerals and fiber.” While this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s a helpful reminder that you can enjoy your favorite foods while staying consistent with your nutritional goals.

Here is the nutrition information for one serving (about 1/2 cup) of common starchy vegetables, according to the USDA Nutrient Database:

Jerusalem artichoke1/2 cup squash1/2 cup Corn1/2 cup Peas1/2 cup Potato, 1/2 cup yams, 1/2 cup
Calories 55 42 55 34 56 79
Total fat 0g 0g 1g 0g 0g 0g
Saturated fat 0g 0g 0g 0g 0g 0g
Carbohydrates 13g 11g 12g 5.5g 13g 18.7g
Diet Fiber 1.2g 3.3g 1.6g 2.3g 1g 2.7g
Road 7g 2g 3.7g 3.2g 1g 0g
Protein 1.5g 0.9g 1.8g 2.8g 1g 1g

As you can see, each of the starchy vegetables on this list contains fiber, some protein, and a host of other micronutrients including vitamin A, potassium, selenium, and others. However, they also contain more carbohydrates and calories than non-starchy vegetables. When you have diabetes, you need to be mindful of the amount of carbs you eat at each meal, even if they come from better-for-you sources like these starchy vegetables. So what’s the best way to eat them? Let’s see what the experts say.

Can you eat starchy vegetables if you have diabetes?

Short answer: yes, you can. However, with some things to note. Certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDCES, host of the Sound Bites Podcast, shares, “While many people with diabetes think they If you need to avoid starchy vegetables, the truth is that you can actually enjoy these foods in your daily diet. The amount depends on your diet, preferences, and sugar goals. blood (also known as blood sugar) of each person.”

With this in mind, nutritionists unanimously agree that it’s important to focus on portion sizes, how you prepare them, and monitoring their impact on your individual blood sugar levels. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. Dobbins notes, “Most people can include one serving per meal or snack as part of their total carbohydrate intake. Like any carbohydrate food, it’s best to eat them with foods that contain protein and/or unsaturated fats as these macronutrients will help slow the digestion of carbohydrates and lead to more stable blood sugar levels as most people do not meet the recommended vegetable intake so it would be helpful to encourage people to include higher fiber starchy vegetables as part of a healthy diet.”

Read more: Can people with diabetes eat potatoes?

Tips for including starchy vegetables in a healthy diabetes-friendly diet

With fewer than 9 in 10 Americans not consuming enough vegetables on a regular basis, it is important to encourage consumption of a variety of selected produce, including starchy vegetables, to reap the benefits. nutrition from them. A recent 2023 study published on Circulation even found that prescribing fruits and vegetables can actually help reduce glycated hemoglobin (also known as hemoglobin A1C, or a measure of blood sugar levels over a period of time.)

Compston suggests focusing on shifting the script to a supplement mindset when thinking about including them in a diabetes-friendly diet. “Learning how to incorporate these foods as part of a healthy, balanced diet helps us manage sustainable health that nourishes both body and soul,” she shares.

Here are Feller and Compston’s tips for adding starchy vegetables to your diabetes-friendly diet:

  • Pairing starchy vegetables with a friend helps balance blood sugar levels at mealtime to avoid spikes. Choose combos that include protein and/or fat with your starchy vegetables to help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of spikes and crashes.
  • Pay attention to the sources of fat on your plate, choosing more heart-healthy unsaturated fats like nuts, oils, avocados, fish, etc.
  • Season lightly with additional salt and rely on flavor from garlic, onions, herbs and spices to add antioxidants to your meals to support whole-body health.

frequently asked Questions

1. Do starchy vegetables increase blood sugar?

Starchy vegetables, like any food containing carbohydrates, will affect your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. That said, the response will be highly individualized and based on the vegetable itself, how it was prepared, and what other foods were consumed with it. “Blood sugar increases can range from negligible to significant based on a number of factors,” shares Feller. “People with diabetes need to know their body’s response to carbohydrate foods and give them options to minimize significant and unwanted increases in blood levels.” road.”

2. What starchy vegetables can diabetics eat?

Starchy vegetables come in many different forms, but they can all be found on your dinner table. Each produce choice provides a variety of nutrients, which is why Compston recommends mixing up your produce choices each week to increase your nutrient intake and freshen up your menu. Make choices based on what’s available, within your budget, and appropriate to your culture.

3. How many starchy vegetables should diabetics eat a day?

The MyPlate method for planning your menu is a great rule of thumb to use when you create your plate. “While this can vary by individual, a good rule of thumb is to dedicate about a quarter of your plate to starchy vegetables or grains,” Compston explains. the remaining quarter of your plate with protein and the remaining half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. This will ensure your body receives the right nutritional balance for long-lasting energy and satisfaction needed to fuel the day.”

Bottom line

Following a diabetes-friendly diet doesn’t mean you have to give up foods you may already know and love, especially starchy vegetables. In fact, research shows that eating more produce may actually help improve your blood sugar levels. Focus on incorporating more fiber-rich starchy vegetables along with sources of protein and unsaturated fats to help slow digestion and the impact of carbs on your blood sugar. Get creative in your kitchen and experiment with new starchy vegetables and discover how they impact your individual blood sugar levels.
Read Next: 7-Day Meal Plan for Diabetes

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