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Sweet Potatoes & Diabetes

3 Jan

Here is a question that I received from

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 potatoes are considered starchy vegetables. According to the Mayo Clinic, 4 ounces or ½ of a sweet potato is approximately one starchy vegetable on the exchange list.  Sweet potatoes are definitely okay to include in your diet.

Reasons to Eat Sweet Potatoes:

  • Fat free, which will make following a low fat diet easier
  • Great source of fiber, which will help keep you fully satisfied and may also help lower your blood cholesterol
  • Great source of potassium, and vitamin B6, which helps with improvement of  energy metabolism to  improving cognitive performance
  • Great source of beta carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A and helps the immune system’s response to sickness and disease
  • Great source of vitamin C, which is a great antioxidant that protects tissues from oxidative stress

Sweet potatoes are definitely my favorite complex carbohydrate.  You can include them as your pre-workout snack, a side dish to your favorite protein and veggies, or as a dessert.  Desserts tend to be the hardest thing for me to avoid when I start a low-fat diet.  I have found that trading in cheesecake for sweet potatoes is a great way to satisfy my sweet tooth with much fewer calories.

A slice of cheesecake can be filled with 500-600 calories and up to 40 grams of fat.  One half of a sweet potato is filled with approximately 125 calories and is non-fat.  A great dessert idea for sweet potatoes is to peel them, dice them up, throw them in a Ziploc steamer bag or boil them, and then mash them up.  Add a few sprinkles of cinnamon, because it will help stabilize your blood sugar levels.  Mix in 1-2 tablespoons of crushed walnuts or pecans, because they are filled with just enough healthy fats. Top it off with one tablespoon of Fat-Free or Sugar-Free Cool Whip, because it’s a delicious topping.  Voila, you have a guilt-free delicious sweet dessert that fills you up and helps you lose weight!


A Vegetable Adventure

25 Oct

Here is a question I received from

I was just diagnosed with pre-diabetes.  The nurse told me to eat lots of vegetables.  Could you tell me what “lots of vegetables” means and what type of vegetables to consume?  Also, how should I prepare them?

Receiving a pre-diabetes diagnosis sounds alarms and whistles for your future health. Pre-diabetes means that your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnoses. Implementing a healthier diet and starting an exercise regimen will help decrease blood glucose levels and may prevent the real diagnoses of diabetes.

The statement ‘eat lots of vegetables’ is much too vague.  A registered dietitian would be a better source for dietary recommendations.  The amounts of vegetable servings in your diet are dependent on your calorie needs. Calorie needs are based on an individual’s age, sex, size, and activity level.  In general, a healthy daily vegetable intake includes at least 2 to 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables, and 6 servings of grains, beans, and starchy vegetables.  A single non-starchy vegetable choice is equal to 1 cup of raw vegetables or ½ cup of cooked vegetables or vegetable juice.  A single starchy vegetable choice is equal to 1 ounce by weight.

Vegetable type falls into two categories; non-starchy and starchy. Non-starchy vegetables contain 5 grams of carbohydrate and 25 calories per serving. Starchy vegetables contain 15 grams of carbohydrate and 80 calories per serving.  Non-starchy vegetables contain less sugar than starchy vegetables; hence portion size must be kept in check when consuming starchy vegetables.  The table below contains some examples of these two types of vegetables.

Preparation techniques are important to keep in mind when consuming vegetables.  Absorption of nutrients, into the body tissues, from vegetables is dependent on the way the vegetable is prepared.

Raw, cooked, frozen, or canned vegetables may affect the nutritional value of your produce. Non-starchy vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked.  If you prefer to cook your vegetables, the best way to retain water-soluble nutrients is to steam them.  Starchy vegetables are best consumed cooked because of the process of gelatinization of the starches from the food.   Cooking starchy vegetables improves the digestibility and percentage of nutrients and energy available to your body tissues. There is a variety of frozen vegetables and they can be blanched in hot water or steamed. When consuming canned vegetables, be wary of the sodium content, avoid dented or swollen cans, and always check for expiration dates. Keep in mind that canned vegetables lose several nutrients in the process of preservation.   Nevertheless, all vegetables are nutritious and healthy and should be incorporated into your daily diet.