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10 ways to lower the glycemic index of potatoes

Nutritionally, potatoes have a bad rap, particularly when we think about potato chips and French fries. Potatoes, however, do have significant nutritional value. They are high in Vitamin C, B6, B12, fiber, potassium and a host of minerals. Potatoes also contain kukoamines, a substance that lowers blood pressure. So are potatoes a good nutritional choice? It depends on how you prepare them and eat them.

The concern over high glycemic foods

Potatoes by themselves have a high Glycemic Index (GI). High glycemic index foods are a concern because they are digested quickly causing spikes in blood insulin levels, which increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

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It is not just about potatoes

The glycemic indexes are calculated based on eating a food in isolation. What is more relevant is what happens when you eat a meal. There are several food combinations that significantly lower the glycemic index of potatoes. In other words, you can slow the rate of digestion down when you eat potatoes with other foods. To lower the overall GI of potatoes, eat them with:

  • Fat - Olive oil, butter, sour cream or avocados will lower the GI. This makes a fully loaded baked potato interesting again.
  • Acid - Vinegar, citrus or salsa lowers the GI of a potato.
  • Protein - Eating potatoes in combination with protein also lowers GI, making steak and potatoes a better choice than potatoes alone.
  • Fiber - Adding other fiber-rich foods to a potato slows down digestion and lowers GI. So eat a romaine or kale salad with your potatoes.
  • Other low GI foods - Eating a combination of foods, including lower GI foods, reduces the combined GI load of a meal that includes potatoes.

It is also how you prepare the potatoes

  • Eat the skin - Eating the skin of the potato not only adds vitamin C, but also fiber, and fiber helps lower the GI index.
  • Cook and cool - An interesting study found cooking a potato and then cooling it before you eat it also lowers GI, even if you later reheat the potato.
  • Boil - Boiling a potato results in a lower GI than baking.

And the type of potato

  • Waxy potatoes have lower GI than floury russet potatoes.
  • Sweet potatoes have even lower GI.

The bottom line on potatoes

Potatoes are economical, have significant nutritional value, and let's face it, potatoes can be downright delicious. Prepare your potatoes smartly and pair them with foods that lower GI.

Looking for a great potato recipe?

Try my Crazy-good smashed potato salad or my BLT smashed potato salad. Both recipes incorporate all the GI lowering tricks identified above.

19 COMMENTS

Comments

  1. Kaye says:

    The cool/cool/reheat does work. Furthermore, I make mashed potatoes with full fat cream and butter and I add a heaping table spoon of hi-maize resistant starch to them. This allows the recommended 1/2 cup serving to be filling and it doesn’t seem to spike my BG. Of course we don’t eat them all the time. Also, if you do a cauliflower mash and add a couple of medium cooked potatoes to the mash, you increase the fiber and it tastes good. I use this method on pasta and rice as well. It works for some people and I get so irritated at all the smart Alec comments from other people. If it doesn’t work for you. then don’t do it but it does work for some of us. I also use coconut palm sugar and Whey Low products with favorable results as long as it is all in moderation. Isn’t that how we should all eat anyway? BTW, adding coconut oil in the water when you boil is also good for you.

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Thank you for your comments Kaye. Much appreciated. I like the coconut oil idea.

  2. Bill says:

    Are there any guidelines on how long and to what temperatures the patatoes must be cooled to get the GI lowering effect?

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Bill, I went back to look for the study I referenced and found there are several studies on this subject. One study boiled potatoes to 182 degree fahrenheit and then cooled them to 78.8 degrees F, or basically room temperature. Another study found differences in how much the GI could be lowered by cooking then cooling different types of potatoes, with the GI of red potatoes having the greatest reduction after cooking and cooling. Another study found that cooking, cooling and then reheating starches produced the most dramatic reduction in GI. Additionally, there are studies that show cooking and cooling other starches including pasta, rice and beans also lowers GI. I don’t think there is one study you can hang your hat on, but there is enough information out there that shows cooking, cooling and possibly reheating potatoes and other starches has real impact on GI.

  3. mark says:

    mash carrots in 50/50 it really helps to eat less and is healthier

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Great tip Mark!

  4. Karen says:

    Thank you all for the great ideas and info!

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      You are most welcome!

  5. Angeline Merrick says:

    Have made the basic scalloped potatoes yesterday. Used baby red potatoes (skin on) and some pouring cream which had a higher fat content. Baked, cooled, and reheated them later. Absolutely luscious, and when I took my blood sugar 2 hours later, found it within normal range. This is a keeper! Thanks so much for finding a way to lower the GI in potatoes, a favorite side dish in our house.

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Angeline, I am so glad this worked out for you. I’ve read the studies that say these steps lower the GI in potatoes, but I have never actually checked my blood sugar. So nice to have the methodology is verified. Thank you for sharing with our readers!

  6. Ian says:

    If you lower the GI of potatoes do you also lower the carb count?

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      I wish! But sadly, I don’t think so.

  7. mebrat says:

    so when I cook potatoes a lot to the point it is soft I get spike in energy right a way and dizzy however if I cook it not so much feel good not dizzy at all and tasty.

  8. George Robinson says:

    My doc has told me to get serious about lowering my A1C so all the ideas I’ve read here are a Godsend for me and one of favorite dishes. Thank you all

  9. Mac Beavers says:

    I have in the past and am willing to eat raw white potatoes. Any idea where that would fit on the glycemic index. Most assume that no one will eat raw potatoes but they are incorrect. Thank you.

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Hi Mac, Funny, it is hard to find a resource on raw potatoes, but after a few tries I found this: https://foodstruct.com/food/potato. I hope it answers your question.

  10. Bob Thomass says:

    Cooking and cooling creates “resistant starch” which acts like and and can be counted as soluble fiber. Preparing potatoes, rice, pasta this way does not lower GI but does lower carb count.

  11. Holly W. says:

    My husband is Scottish, so mashing potatoes with other vegetables is common, particularly “Neeps and Tatties” which is with a turnip, or a swede, and often served on holidays. But it wasn’t until I grew some kohlrabi and tried mashing potatoes with that, that I got something closer to just straight mashed potato in flavor and texture. Kohlrabi has a G.I. of only 20. I highly recommend trying it!

    1. Kim Pawell says:

      Great tip Holly. Thank you!

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