When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I changed the way I ate. I stopped eating all sugary foods, I cut out most fruit and cut back on the all of the other carbs in my diet – grains and starches.
One of the foods I gave up almost completely was potatoes. Unlike rice which is still part of my regular diet (brown rice, that is) and pasta which I eat occasionally (and usually regret), potatoes just about disappeared from our home. I do have a few French fries every once in a while when I go out for a burger (it doesn’t happen all that often) but I can’t remember the last time I made potatoes at home for me or for the kids. I used to love potatoes but until yesterday, I never missed them.
Yesterday I was preparing some potatoes to take to my son’s class bonfire. I put four medium potatoes in a pot of water to pre-cook them before the fire – and then forgot about them. When I suddenly remembered the boiling potatoes, it was too late. They were totally cooked through and their skin was peeling off. I drained the water and let them cool while I figured out what to do with them. I decided to just forget about cooking them in the bonfire since every time I take my kids to one of these things, they’re so full by the time the potatoes come out they don’t even want them.
A few minutes later, when the potatoes were cool enough to handle, I took a piece of one, salted it lightly and tasted it. It was just the right temperature and just the right texture. It was amazing, fantastic, and absolutely delicious. I couldn’t get over how much I liked it. I also knew I was going to be in trouble if I had any more. So I decided to make mashed potatoes with the remaining three and a half potatoes. The mashed potatoes were good too, but not too good to resist.
This whole potato ordeal got me thinking – why did I give up potatoes over other carbs? Was it just because it was an easy thing to give up? Until today, I’d never checked to see if it was a good decision and if it made any sense.
According to nutrition data, potatoes are healthier than pasta. Whole wheat spaghetti for example, is 75% carbohydrate with very little else in it. According to the labels on the (Barilla) pasta I have at home they all are around 72% carbohydrate. (Egg pasta is much better, with only half the amount of carb.) Potatoes, on the other hand, have less carbohydrate (they’re only 18%), are a very good source of vitamin C and a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium.
But what about their Glycemic Index? According to the University of Sydney GI website, pasta has a GI of 45-55 depending on the brand (egg pasta is the same). Potatoes have a GI of 58 – 100 depending on the kind of potato. According to David Mendosa the results of 24 studies show the GI of potatoes ranges from 67 to 158. Anything with a GI of over 70 is considered to have a high gylcemic index, which means that even though potatoes have not as dense a carb as pasta, they are likely to make my blood sugar sky rocket quickly.
So I guess I was right about the potatoes, but wrong about the pasta. I shouldn’t eat either. I know some diabetics say “eat anything you want and just cover it”. But I never seem to just cover it; I go on a rollercoaster of highs and lows. This always makes me wish I had just said no.