A study suggests a link between potatoes and gestational diabetes

‘Potatoes and Pregnancy;’ the headline amused me – the paper has picked up on potatoes like there’s something inherently wrong with that particular food, but in fact what the connection really is about is carbohydrates in general.

Carbohydrates make our blood sugar rise faster and greater than fat and protein and some carbohydrates do this more than others.

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The smaller the particles, the bigger the sugar ‘rush.’ 

So simple carbs like sugar, sweets and sugary drinks give a pretty dramatic rise in blood sugar.

More complex carbohydrates such as whole oats result in a much slower, and overall lower rise in blood sugar. To complicate things further, adding fat, protein or fibre to those carbs (such as putting peanut butter on your toast) also slows down the sugar rush.

Different levels of carb & sugar intake

Some people are known as more ‘carb tolerant’ or ‘insulin sensitive’ than others, meaning different people can eat different amounts of carbohydrates and sugar and all have different responses.

Not everyone will get diabetes on a diet too high in sugar, and also some people who eat a good diet may still get diabetes!

Genetics do play a part, though that’s not to say we shouldn’t do our best to avoid triggering diabetes.

Diabetes occurs when blood sugar is rising too much too often. Insulin (which the pancreas distributes to lower blood sugar) is over used and overworked, and eventually stops doing it’s job properly, so blood sugar remains high and can dangerous.

The proof is in the potato

So can eating potato increase the risk of diabetes in pregnancy? The short answer is yes.

In fact, one portion a week alone is said to increase this risk for pregnant women by twenty percent.

However, the risk isn’t restricted to pregnant women alone.

This applies to everyone especially those at risk of diabetes like people with a family history or who are overweight, especially if they have a high waist to hip measurement.

And as I said before, it’s not all about potatoes either!

Having said that pregnancy does appear to raise a woman’s risk of becoming diabetic even if they weren’t before, so it’s definitely a time take extra care of your health.

Make sensible food choices and avoid excessive weight gain, for the sake of both the mother and unborn baby.

diabetes in pregnancy_2So if you’re a real fan of potatoes, all is not lost

There’s no need to cut out carbohydrates completely (in fact this isn’t advised at all) but stick to small to moderate portions of more complex varieties such as brown rice, boiled rather than mashed potatoes, oats, beans and lentils, and plenty of vegetables and salads.

Avoid added sugars and limit treats like biscuits (or make low sugar versions), eat fresh fruit rather than dried fruit, juices, or pure fruit smoothies (try vegetable/fruit combo smoothies instead), and eat protein, fibre, and some fat with every meal to slow down the digestion of the carbohydrates.

Exercise is also good for improving insulin sensitivity

Stress can make things worse, so plenty of walking along with some yoga or pilates could really help.

diabetes in pregnancy_3Higher intensity exercise like weight training can be continued during pregnancy, but get help from someone qualified to train pregnant women to avoid joint strain or exercises and positions not recommended when carrying a baby.

Should you eat for two?

It’s tempting to use pregnancy as an excuse to not only eat for two, but to eat all those treat foods you’d normally restrict like cake and chips, but following a healthy diet and lifestyle could not only prevent gestational diabetes but if you’re fitter you’re less likely to have back and joint aches, are more likely to have a shorter, easier birth, and won’t have so much weight to lose after your baby is born.

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