Potatoes During Pregnancy: Do They Trigger Gestational Diabetes?

✔ Research-backed

Potatoes are versatile and can be enjoyed as mashed, baked, or fried. However, you may be concerned about eating potatoes during pregnancy. Potatoes are considered to be rich in carbohydrates, which puts us at an increased risk of gestational diabetesiA condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels due to hormonal and physical changes in pregnancy .  A balanced diet should include all three macronutrients, which are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. So, are you skeptical about including potatoes in your pregnancy diet? Continue reading this post as we discuss the risks and health benefits of consuming this starchy vegetable and how to eat them when pregnant.

In This Article

Are Potatoes Healthy To Eat During Pregnancy?

Healthy eating during pregnancy involves consuming a balanced diet that includes all essential nutrients. Moderate consumption of potatoes is healthy during pregnancy. Your womb’s primary source of energy is glucose, which is found in carbohydrates such as potatoes. According to the Swiss Association for Nutrition (SAN), three to four servings of carbohydrates per day are safe during pregnancy. This includes potatoes, rice, cereal, bread and other whole-grain options.

What Are The Chances Of Potatoes Triggering Gestational Diabetes (GD)?

One serving of potato a week will reduce the risk of gestational diabetes

Image: IStock

Potatoes contain large amounts of starch that is rapidly absorbed by the body and can affect the glucose metabolism. Studies also reveal that potato consumption will increase the concentrations of plasma glucose and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (1). Multiple institutions conducted a dose-response meta-analysis, revealing that women who consume 80 grams of fried potatoes daily have a 34% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D).

The study reinforces the importance of having potatoes in moderation and swapping them with other vegetables, whole grains and legumes to lower the risk of GD. Compared to five or even three servings, one serving of potato per week will reduce the risk of gestational diabetes significantly (1).

Excess consumption of potatoes before pregnancy is also associated with increased risk of GD.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Potatoes While Pregnant?

Potatoes are rich in nutrients. Here are some benefits of consuming potatoes during pregnancy.

1. Folate prevents neural tube defects

Potatoes contain high amounts of folic acid which helps in the development of the fetal nervous system. It, thereby, lowers the risk of brain and spinal issues. Folate-rich foods in the early stages of pregnancy can also prevent a miscarriage (2).

2. Lowers gas and acidity

Potatoes are very helpful for those having digestive issues. If cooked properly, they can help reduce gas and acidity. A serving of mashed potato helps (3).

3. Healthy weight gain

If you are underweight, potatoes can help in an ideal and healthy maternal weight gain during pregnancy (4).

4. Combats cholesterol

Potatoes contain soluble dietary fiber and vitamin C that help fight cholesterol (5).

5. Boosts immunity

Baked potatoes are rich sources of vitamin C that heals wounds and boosts immunity. It also improves the ability to absorb iron from other foods (6).

6. Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases

Potatoes reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

The skin of potato contains rich potassium levels, which are associated with decreased heart stroke and hypertension. One medium serving of baked potato with skin provides 926mg potassium (6).

7. Treats puffy eyes

Undereye bags are common during pregnancy. Simply grate a raw potato and apply it on the eyes for about 10-15 minutes. It cools your eyes and relieves the swelling (7).

8. Helps fetal development

Potatoes are a good source of vitamins (A and C) and minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, which aid in the growth and development of the fetus (8).

It is important to weigh the benefits as well as risks of anything you eat during pregnancy. This is true for potatoes as well.

protip_icon Quick fact
Potatoes are rich in vitamin C, an essential nutrient that can help reduce the risk of pregnancy-associated complications such as pre-eclampsiaiA pregnancy disorder characterized by high blood pressure, water retention, and protein content in urine , anemia, and intrauterine growth restrictioniPoor growth of the baby in the uterus due to lifestyle practices or specific health conditions (14) (15).

What Are The Risks Of Consuming Potatoes During Pregnancy?

Some of the potential side effects of potato are:

  1. Causes gastrointestinal problems: Green potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, alpha-solanineiA potentially toxic substance that is bitter and found in potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum, and eggplants , and alpha-chaconineiA steroidal compound found in fruits and vegetables with potentially toxic effects . These compounds could cause toxicity when consumed in excess and lead to gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea, which could affect the development of the fetus (9).

    Excess potato consumption during pregnancy can cause gastrointestinal problems

    Image: IStock

  1. Risk of congenital anomalies: Eating too many green potatoes also causes certain birth defects such as spina bifidaiA birth condition characterized by spinal cord defects, identified by its protruded tissue requiring surgery and anencephalyiA type of neural tube defect characterized by undeveloped parts in the skull and brain of newborns (10).
  1. Triggers gestational diabetes: Women who consume potatoes in excess are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Babies born to women with gestational diabetes may be larger than average, have difficulty in breathing, low blood pressure and risk of death after delivery (11).

Moderate consumption of potatoes can help you avoid these side effects. Also, how you cook them before consumption makes a difference.

What Are The Safe Ways To Include Potatoes In Pregnancy Diet?

Including potatoes in your diet is a good choice, especially if you’re craving them. One mom, Karen, shared her pregnancy experience and desire for potatoes. She stated, “I’m gonna say, pregnancy cravings can be pretty crazy. I didn’t really crave anything like pickles and ice cream like you always hear people crave when I was pregnant with her (Karen’s daughter). I liked anything that had carbohydrates, like rice, noodles, and potatoes. I loved baked potatoes, I love fried potatoes, french fries, anything with potatoes (i).”

If you’re experiencing a similar potato craving, consider experimenting with different potato recipes to suit your tastes and ensure a healthy maternal diet during pregnancy.

  • Baking potato without cheese
  • Combining potatoes with other vegetables, greens, fish, and meat
  • Potato soup or stewed potato
  • Potato salad or mashed potato with eggs, vegetables and spices

Here are a couple of potato-based recipes for you to try.

1. Potato and onion soup

Potato & onion soup during pregnancy

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 cup potatoes, finely diced
  • ½ cup dried mixed herbs
  • ¼ cup onions, thinly sliced
  • 1tsp butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt for taste
  • 2tbsp grated carrot for garnish

How to:

  1. Add butter and onions to the pressure cooker and saute them for a minute on a medium flame.
  2. Add potatoes and saute for one to two minutes.
  3. Add about one and a half cups of water, combine and cook for three whistles
  4. Tale off the whistle and let the steam out. Let the mixture cool before blending it into a smooth puree.
  5. Transfer the contents to a saucepan. Add dried herbs, pepper, salt and half a cup of water.
  6. Mix properly and cook over a medium flame. Garnish with carrot and serve hot.

Preparation time: 25 min
Servings: 2

protip_icon Quick tip
You may add cheese to enhance the taste and make the soup creamier.

2. Classic potato salad

Classic potato salad during pregnacy

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 8 medium sized potatoes, cooked and diced
  • 2tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2tbsp sugar
  • 1 ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tbsp yellow mustard
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup onion, blended
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced
  • Little paprika
  • 5 eggs, hard-boiled

How to:

  1. Peel potatoes and boil them in salted water.
  2. Cool them to room temperature, dice and put them in a large bowl.
  3. Mix cider vinegar, sugar, mayonnaise, salt, mustard, pepper and garlic powder in another bowl.
  4. Now add the above mixture to the potatoes.
  5. Combine onions and celery to it.
  6. Slice eggs and add to that.
  7. Top with some paprika and serve.

Preparation time: 15 min
Servings: 8

3. Sweet potato pancakes

Sweet potato pancakes

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1tbsp Maple syrup plus more for serving
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • ¼tsp salt
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 2tbsp melted butter

How to:

  1. In a large bowl, combine mashed sweet potatoes, eggs, milk, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Whisk until well combined.
  2. Sprinkle flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg over the sweet potato mixture. Stir until smooth.
  3. Add melted butter and mix until combined.
  4. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a small pat of butter.
  5. Drop ⅓ cup portions of the batter onto the skillet.
  6. Cook until bubbles form (2 to 4 minutes), then flip and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Repeat until all batter is used, yielding about 8 pancakes.
  8. Serve warm with maple syrup.

Preparation time: 25 min
Servings: 8

Consult your healthcare provider before planning to eat potatoes in any form. For answers to more questions about potatoes during pregnancy, read the FAQs next.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does craving potatoes during pregnancy tell something about a baby’s gender?

Craving potatoes means you are carrying a boy. However, this is pure folklore and has no scientific evidence.

2. Can you eat potato chips during pregnancy?

Moderate and occasional consumption of potato chips or french fries, which are considered junk food, is alright unless you have any medical conditions such as gestational diabetes or hypertension(12).

3. Is it safe to eat green sprouted potatoes?

Green sprouted potatoes contain high concentrations of glycoalkaloids, which have a toxic effect on your nervous system. They interfere with the body’s ability to regulate acetylcholine, which stimulates nerve impulses. So avoid eating potatoes with skin that is partially or entirely green (13).

4. Can I eat raw or undercooked potatoes during pregnancy?

Eating raw or undercooked potatoes during pregnancy is generally not recommended as they contain solanine, a toxic compound that can cause digestive problems and headaches. Raw potatoes can also contain harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, which can pose a risk to both the mother and the developing fetus. Cooked potatoes are safe to eat during pregnancy if cooked thoroughly and free from harmful bacteria. It is best to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized dietary advice during pregnancy.

5. Which potatoes are best for pregnancy?

General consultant and gastroenterologist Dr. M Madhan Kumar says, “Sweet potatoes are delicious and healthy food. They are beneficial during pregnancy due to their high beta-carotene levels, which are essential for healthy fetal development. The healthy fibers present in sweet potatoes aid in digestion and reduce blood sugar spikes.”

Potatoes are an excellent source of carbohydrates, and including them in the diet during pregnancy is safe. However, potatoes during pregnancy have also been linked to gestational diabetes and gastrointestinal problems. Therefore, it is better not to over-consume them. Eating potatoes in moderation helps with fetal development, immunity, and the lowering of acidity. So, include moderate amounts of potatoes in your diet and consume them in healthy forms like soups, salads, and stews. Consult your doctor if you have any problems after consuming potatoes.

Infographic: Health Benefits Of Potatoes During Pregnancy

Potatoes are among the common vegetables in every household that can be eaten in many ways, including baked, cooked, and fried. They can also provide several benefits during pregnancy, some of which are mentioned in the infographic below. However, be mindful not to eat potatoes in excess or unhealthily.

how potatoes can support your pregnancy (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Potatoes can be a healthy source of glucose and carbohydrates during pregnancy when consumed in moderation.
  • Folic acid found in potatoes supports the development of the fetal nervous system.
  • Potatoes contain various vitamins such as A and C, and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
  • Including potatoes in pregnancy diets can benefit heart health, weight gain, immunity, and eye health.
  • To consume potatoes safely during pregnancy, one should bake them without cheese, boil them before consumption, and avoid green potatoes.
  • Overconsumption of potatoes during pregnancy can cause digestive issues, congenital disabilities, and gestational diabetes.
potatoes during pregnancy_illustration

Image: Dall·E/MomJunction Design Team


This video reveals an intriguing relation between pregnancy and potatoes. Gain knowledge about their connection in this informative video.

Personal Experience: Source

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Wei Bao et al.; (2016) Pre-pregnancy potato consumption and risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: prospective cohort study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5115165/
  2. D. Rofail et al.; (2012); Factors contributing to the success of folic acid public health campaigns
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3285116/
  3. J. E. Lennard-Jones And N. Babouris; (1965); Effect of different foods on the acidity of the gastric contents in patients with duodenal ulcer
    http://europepmc.org/backend/ptpmcrender.fcgi?accid=PMC1552254&blobtype=pdf
  4. Linnea Bärebring et al.; (2016); Food intake and gestational weight gain in Swedish women
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4811841/
  5. Louisiana Sweet Potatoes Yams
    http://www.sweetpotato.org/nutrition-wellness
  6. Prenatal Nutrition-Preparing Your Baby for Lifelong Health
    https://www.med.umich.edu/pfans/_pdf/hetm-2016/0416-prenatalnutrition.pdf
  7. 3 Treatments For Your Puffy Eyes
    https://cintaaveda.edu/blog/3-treatments-for-your-puffy-eyes/
  8. Pregnancy Planner
    https://www.womenandinfants.org/services/pregnancy/pregnancy-planner
  9. Are Sprouted Potatoes Safe to Eat?
    https://www.poison.org/articles/are-green-potatoes-safe-to-eat-191
  10. J H Renwick et al.; (1974); Potatoes and spina bifida
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1645556/?page=1
  11. Too many potatoes could increase risk of gestational diabetes
    https://podcasts.ufhealth.org/too-many-potatoes-could-increase-risk-of-gestational-diabetes/
  12. Gestational Diabetes and Nutrition
    https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2003/1101/p1775.html
  13. A Review of Important Facts about Potato Glycoalkaloids
    http://www.ask-force.org/web/Potato/Cantwell-Review-Important-Facts-Potato-Glycaloloids-1996.pdf
  14. Potato health benefits and why you should eat more spuds
    https://health.ucdavis.edu/blog/good-food/potato-health-benefits-and-why-you-should-eat-more-spuds/2022/05
  15. Alice Rumbold et al.; Vitamin C supplementation in pregnancy
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26415762/
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Celebrity nutrition advisor Dr. Shikha Sharma has founded Dr. Shikha’s Nutrihealth in 1998. Dr. Shikha has done her MBBS from Maulana Azad Medical College and holds 21 years of experience in the field of health and nutrition.

Read full bio of Dr. Shikha Sharma