In much of the English-speaking world, mashed potatoes are a favorite comfort food. An accompaniment to meat dishes at family gatherings, they have become associated with love and belonging, and it’s not without reason that they get gobbled down by soldiers and travelers away from home. But if you have type 2 diabetes, mashed potatoes can wreak havoc on your blood sugar control.
The first thing to know about this style of cooked potatoes is that all potatoes are not equal when it comes to their effects on blood sugars. Instant mashed potatoes, for instance, have a glycemic index of 110. They actually release glucose into your bloodstream faster than table sugar, which has a glycemic index of 100. The type 2 diabetic pancreas can hardly keep up with the load of glucose released by two, three, or more servings of instant mashed potatoes.
Peeling Red Russet potatoes, steaming them, and them mashing them, however, results in a mashed potato that has a glycemic index of 86. And serving them cold rather than hot results in an even slower release of glucose into your bloodstream, with a glycemic index of 58. Adding a drop or two of milk, or butter to the Red Russets brings the glycemic index down to 50.
Blood sugars go up less when mashed potatoes are made from scratch, when they have a little added fat, and when they aren’t eaten piping hot. Your body still has to create insulin to cover the release of sugars, but when mashed potatoes are homemade, it doesn’t have to find the insulin quite as fast.
If you do your own cooking…and every type 2 diabetic should… you can use other vegetables in place of potatoes for mashing. Rutabagas, turnips, and cauliflower all make a good mash, with less than half the carbohydrate of potatoes. If your cauliflower has a cabbage-y taste, just add a whole walnut to the cooking water while you boil the vegetable. The cabbage-like smell goes into the hull of the walnut. Just be sure to remove the walnut before mashing.
Another option for potatoes after boiling, is to allow them to go cold, dice them up and turn them into potato salad. By adding vinegar to them you will lower the glycemic index and, when eaten, will turn into glucose more slowly… thus giving a lower blood sugar and insulin response. Using new potatoes again helps with a lower glycemic index.