Carrots: The Misunderstood Vegetable

Carrots: The Misunderstood Vegetable

When the Glycemic Index (a way of measuring foods' effect on blood sugar levels) came out some years back, it showed that carrots had a similar effect on blood sugar levels as sugar. Well, as too often is the case, this one piece of information was used as the be-all and end-all of carrots, without taking into consideration the many positive health effects of carrots that sugar lacks.

For example, raw carrots are full of fiber, containing about 3.6 grams per cup, over 1g of protein, and in 12g of carbohydrates, or 52 calories' worth, only half is comprised of natural sugars. Carrots also contain a hefty dose of beta-carotene, which helps keep skin, eyes and our immune systems healthy.

There has been continuous confusion about carrots containing too much sugar and therefore being bad for those with diabetes. However, when the science is put to the test, whether in the lab or at the dining room table, it becomes obvious from the data that there is a wonderfully comfortable spot for carrots in regular meal plans for those with and for those who are at risk of diabetes.

Think about it. Our bodies don't react the same way when we eat half a cup of carrots as when we eat half a cup of sugar. Although both initiate a rise in blood sugar, there is not that plummet later on because there is a good amount of fiber and some protein in those carrots. The carrots also don't initiate an inflammatory response in the body. Quite the opposite, actually, carrots appear to fight inflammation and diabetes.

So, why the confusion?

One, they do tend to be sweet, which makes some individuals concerned.

Two, people enjoy them both raw and cooked and there are a lot of opinions on the topic of raw and cooked foods. Additionally, in the cooking, some individuals feel the need to add sugar, honey or agave, which is simply not necessary.

Three, there simply hasn’t been enough written to reassure individuals that root foods, like carrots, have many positives that outweigh the few bits of poor information floating about.

Let's clear up some facts right now!

Here's a study showing the antioxidants in carrots can actually help ward off diabetes and here's another study showing how beta-carotene can help lower the risk of developing diabetes in those with a genetic predisposition to it.

Since both studies acknowledge there is a positive correlation between high beta-carotene intake and low diabetes incidence, we should certainly find ways to enjoy a few carrots a day! Throw a carrot into your Blast or enjoy a few raw baby carrots as a snack. You can also steam them along with broccoli and take full advantage of better health!

Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator

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