Do potato chips raise blood sugar?

Potato chips, also known as crisps, are a popular snack food around the world. However, some people wonder if eating potato chips leads to spikes in blood sugar. This is an important question for people with diabetes or prediabetes who need to carefully manage their blood sugar levels. In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore whether potato chips raise blood sugar and provide tips for enjoying this snack food while maintaining healthy blood sugar control.

Do Potato Chips Contain Carbohydrates?

Yes, potato chips do contain carbohydrates. Potatoes are starchy vegetables that are high in carbs. One medium baked potato with skin contains 37 grams of total carbohydrates, including 4 grams of fiber, according to the USDA.1

During the potato chip making process, potatoes are thinly sliced and fried or baked until crisp. Although the fiber is removed, the carb content remains high.

One ounce (about 15-20 chips) of plain salted potato chips contains about 15 grams of total carbohydrates.2 This carb count is similar to other starchy snacks like pretzels or tortilla chips.

So while potato chips are low in fat and protein, the carb content per serving is quite high. All of these carbs can impact blood sugar levels.

How Do Carbohydrates Impact Blood Sugar?

When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks down the carbs into simple sugars. These sugars then enter the bloodstream, causing a rise in blood glucose levels.

The rise in blood sugar triggers the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin allows cells throughout the body to take up sugar from the blood for energy.

In people without diabetes, this insulin response keeps blood sugar levels in a normal range. However, those with diabetes either don’t make enough insulin or can’t use insulin effectively. This causes high blood sugar levels after eating carbs.

The speed at which carbs are broken down and enter the bloodstream impacts blood sugar spikes. Foods like potato chips, which contain refined carbs, are broken down quickly. This leads to rapid rises in blood glucose.3

Complex carbs like whole grains, beans and vegetables are digested more slowly. So they cause a more gradual increase in blood sugar over time.

Glycemic Index of Potatoes

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar levels. Foods are ranked based on how much they increase blood sugar compared to pure glucose.

Pure glucose is used as the reference food and has a GI value of 100. Foods are considered low GI if 55 or less, medium GI if 56-69 and high GI if 70 or more.4

Boiled potatoes have a high GI, ranging from 70-90. Chips and French fries also have a high GI of 75-80.5 This means potatoes cause a rapid spike in blood sugar compared to low GI foods like beans (GI of 20-40).

The high carb, starchy nature of potatoes gives them a very high glycemic impact. And frying potatoes to make chips does not significantly lower their GI.

What About Sweet Potato Chips?

Sweet potato chips have gained popularity as an alternative to regular potato chips. But do they have less impact on blood sugar?

Sweet potatoes are lower carb than white potatoes, providing 18 grams of carbs per medium spud.1 And they have a lower GI of 44-94, averaging around 70.5

So sweet potato chips may have slightly less effect on blood sugar than regular potato chips. However, their GI is still considered high.

And food processing can increase the GI of a food. For example, mashed sweet potatoes have a GI of 80 while boiled sweet potatoes are 70.5

So the difference in blood sugar effect between sweet potato chips and regular potato chips is likely minimal. Portion size has the biggest impact.

Portion Control is Key

When it comes to blood sugar management, portion control is very important. While potato chips are high carb and high GI, having a small serving is unlikely to cause major issues for most people.

Here are some tips for keeping portions of potato chips reasonable:

  • Read nutrition labels and stick to standard 1 ounce serving sizes
  • Measure out portions into small bowls rather than eating from a large bag
  • Avoid mindless chip snacking and be aware of how much you’re really eating
  • Consider diluting chips by eating them with low carb foods like veggie slices or nuts
  • Satisfy cravings with a few chips and move on to something else

Moderation and mindfulness when snacking on potato chips is key. Going overboard on portion sizes can lead to blood sugar spikes.

Tips to Lower the Glycemic Impact

There are also ways to reduce the blood sugar effect of potato chips:

  • Choose thicker, kettle-style chips – they absorb less oil and digest slower than thin chips
  • Look for chips cooked in healthier oils like olive or avocado oil
  • Pair chips with protein like nuts or Greek yogurt to slow digestion
  • Eat chips as part of a balanced meal with fiber, protein and healthy fats
  • Select low-salt varieties to avoid dehydration and increased blood sugar levels
  • Avoid chips cooked in unhealthy oils like palm, soybean or vegetable oil

Making smart choices about the type and quality of potato chips can reduce glycemic response. But moderation is still key to keep portions in check.

How Much Can Potato Chips Raise Blood Sugar?

The effect of potato chips on blood sugar levels depends on a variety of factors. But studies have shown the potential impact of eating potato chips on blood glucose:

– In one study, patients with type 2 diabetes saw an average blood sugar increase of around 60 mg/dL 1-2 hours after eating 1-2 ounces of potato chips.6

– Another study found an average 45 mg/dL rise in blood glucose 1 hour after healthy adults ate 1 ounce of potato chips alone or with various proteins.7

– Pairing potato chips with protein, fiber and healthy fats can reduce glycemic impact. In one study, having chips with nuts led to just a 15 mg/dL blood sugar rise compared to 60 mg/dL when eating chips alone.6

For most healthy people, eating a small portion of potato chips alone or with other foods is unlikely to cause major blood sugar issues. But those with diabetes need to be more careful with portions and pairing to prevent spikes above their target blood sugar range.

Should People With Diabetes Avoid Chips?

People with diabetes don’t necessarily need to avoid potato chips completely. But extra care should be taken to prevent blood sugar spikes. Here are some tips:

– Stick to very small portions of chips – measure out 1 ounce servings
– Pair with protein and healthy fats like nuts or cheese
– Choose low-salt varieties and chips cooked in healthy oils
– Test blood sugar before and 2 hours after eating chips to see individual response
– Take insulin to cover carb intake from chips if needed
– Avoid chips if recently injected insulin, which could lead to low blood sugar
– Consider lower-carb snack options like veggies, seeds, cheese, meat snacks

With smart portions and pairings, most people with diabetes should be able to occasionally incorporate potato chips into their diet. Testing blood sugar levels is important to assess impact. Working with a registered dietitian knowledgeable in diabetes management can also help with fitting favorite foods like chips into a healthy pattern of eating.

The Bottom Line

Potato chips are high in refined carbs and have a very high glycemic index. This means they cause rapid blood sugar spikes soon after eating. However, portion control is key.

Studies show that eating a standard 1-2 ounce serving of chips alone or paired with protein, fiber and fat causes a moderate rise in blood glucose of 15-60 mg/dL in healthy people and those with diabetes.

People with diabetes should use caution with chips, sticking to small portions and testing blood sugar levels after eating. Pairing chips with protein, healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables can also help manage blood sugar response.

So while potato chips do raise blood sugar, they can be incorporated in moderation into a healthy diet for most people, including those with diabetes through careful planning. Just be mindful of portions and pairings to prevent overdoing it on the carbs, salt and unhealthy fats from chips.


  1. USDA FoodData Central. Potatoes, russet, flesh and skin, baked.
  2. USDA FoodData Central. Snacks, potato chips, plain, salted.
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Glycemic index for 60+ foods.
  4. Atkinson FS, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller JC. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care. 2008;31(12):2281-2283. doi:10.2337/dc08-1239.
  5. Lin MH, Wu MC, Lu S, Lin J. Glycemic index, glycemic load and insulinemic index of Chinese starchy foods. World J Gastroenterol. 2010;16(39):4973-4979. doi:10.3748/wjg.v16.i39.4973
  6. Kendall CW, Josse AR, Jenkins DJ. Potato glycoalkaloids and metabolic control in type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(5):1232-1236. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29779.
  7. Fardet A, Leenhardt F, Lioger D, Scalbert A, Rémésy C. Parameters controlling the glycaemic response to breads. Nutr Res Rev. 2006;19(1):18-25. doi:10.1079/nrr2006128.

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