Sweet Potato during Pregnancy

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic disorder affecting millions of individuals. You may first detect this metabolic disease during pregnancy. When it happens it is called gestational diabetes. Diabetes in pregnancy affects the health of mother and baby. Hence controlling this disorder is a priority. Pregnancy requires more energy and restricting the diet is not an ideal option. Hence a modified diet is prescribed for pregnant mothers. Sweet potato during pregnancy is used in traditional medicine due to its unique metabolic features. Sweet potato is a tropical vegetable being common in Asia and African countries. Many varieties of these root vegetables are available in tropical countries. 

Benefits of sweet potato during pregnancy

These are vegetables rich in nutrients and ranked higher in nutritional value. Important nutrients in sweet potatoes that are beneficial for pregnancy are

  • Monosaccharides 
  • Complex carbohydrates 
  • Dietary fibre
  • Beta‐carotene 
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B6
  • Anthocyanins 
  • Minerals 

Beneficial Compounds Found in Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes contain many minerals and vitamins which help your cancer fighting abilities. Orange and purple sweet potatoes contain more anticancer compounds. Cyanidins in the vegetable are the chemicals which reduce the danger of heavy metals in your body. Individuals with digestive problems also benefit from these compounds. This amazing tuber is a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals in addition to its antioxidant content. It has all the health benefits to recommend sweet potato during pregnancy.

How do sweet potatoes work for pregnant women with diabetes?

   Pregnant women with diabetes should take sufficient macronutrients and micronutrients to support the growing baby.  Your diet must limit the fluctuations in your blood glucose levels. At the same time you must gain appropriate weight. Your blood glucose level changes according to the carbohydrates in the diet.  Sweet potatoes are beneficial for your body due to the following compositions.

High fiber content

Sweet potatoes are a good food choice for diabetics as they are high in fiber. You can get a good deal of fiber, particularly when you take it with the skin. The amount of fiber in it slows down the degradation of starch in your diet. In addition, it retards the absorption of sugar from the gut. In addition the peel of sweet potatoes is helpful for nonhealing ulcers due to the fibre content. It gives positive results for skin wound therapy in burn patients.

Low glycemic index

Sweet potatoes are a low-glycemic index (GI) food. It is a complex carbohydrate which releases glucose very slowly into your bloodstream. Low-glycemic index also benefits your pancreas by reducing its load.  You will feel satiated for a longer time after taking this vegetable. Foods with a low glycemic index don’t change the blood glucose level abruptly. Therefore these vegetables help diabetics control their blood sugar. Pregnant women with Insulin resistance and pancreatic islet dysfunction benefit from this effect. 

Natural sweetness

Sweet potato is a naturally sweet food and its varieties differ with their sugar content. You will get around 6.5 grams of sugar per 100 grams of this vegetable. This sweetness makes it a potential alternative to rice, potatoes and other carbohydrates with high glycemic index.

High content of Vitamin E

The sweet potato plant has high antioxidant due to its high vitamin E content. 25 mg of alpha tocopherol is found per 100 g of sweet potato shoots. 

Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins of purple sweet potato (PSP) have antioxidant activity.

Adiponectin

Sweet potatoes can help regulate blood sugar by raising blood levels of adiponectin. Fat cells of your body release  this protein hormone to help regulate Insulin metabolism. 

What causes gestational diabetes?

Pregnancy makes few changes to your body as it is a complex metabolic condition. Pregnant women release various hormones like estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, cortisol, and growth hormone in higher quantities. As pregnancy advances your body reduces the glucose utilization to feed the baby more. It happens by increasing insulin resistance in the mother. Adiponectin is  a protein hormone which reduces insulin resistance in your body. But in pregnancy, this hormone secretion is reduced. 

Gestational diabetes is a condition of glucose intolerance when maternal pancreas can not handle the high glucose levels. It is a potential prediabetic condition.

A healthy diet consisting of low fat levels, with high levels of complex carbohydrates, appropriate portions of proteins, essential micronutrients and minerals in the therapeutic Nutritional management of gestational diabetes includes a healthy diet with low fat, high complex carbohydrates and moderate proteins. Inclusion of essential micronutrients in appropriate quantities are mandatory for a pregnant woman.

Are sweet potatoes safe for pregnant women?

Insulin resistance during pregnancy is a protective phenomenon for the baby. When you are pregnant glucose from your blood passes through the placenta to supply your baby. This glucose stimulates insulin production in your baby. If you are diabetic during pregnancy, your blood sugar levels are high and the same is transmitted to your baby. More insulin production in babies causes weight gain or macrosomia. This may lead to childhood obesity and risk of diabetes in later life. So it is essential to treat your gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Sweet potatoes effectively reduce insulin resistance and fasting glucose levels in pregnant women.

Sweet potatoes are generally safe during pregnancy. However you should consume them after consultation with a medical practitioner. Since these are naturally sweet tubers they may increase your glucose level if consumed in higher quantities. You should avoid this vegetable if you are hypersensitive to it. However moderate consumption is safe in pregnant women and lactating mothers.

Who should avoid sweet potato during pregnancy?

Hypersensitivity: Women with hypersensitive reactions to this vegetable should not take it during pregnancy. Although it is a rare phenomenon, you should be cautious about it. Any hypersensitivity reactions like generalized itching, feeling dizzy, and swelling of the hands and face should be immediately reported. At times you may develop severe reactions like tightness in throat and chest compression which requires urgent medical attention.

Hypoglycemic treatment: If you are taking therapy for gestational diabetes, you may avoid eating this vegetable. Sweet potato can cause sudden lowering of blood sugar if taken with your anti diabetic drugs.

Healthiest way to cook sweet potatoes

   At times the leaves of sweet potatoes get contaminated with fungal toxins. These toxins can cause severe disease. Few ways to eat this vegetable in  a healthy way

  • Wash properly
  • Blanch before eating: It can be done by boiling, steaming or by microwave. Microwave blanching deactivates the pathogen and toxins and hence preferable.
  • Eat with the skin on: It gives ample amounts of dietary fiber.
  • Store in a cool place

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