Carrots: Friend or Foe?
Have you ever met someone who didn’t like carrots? I know I haven’t.
There are a thousand ways to eat them. Sweet, savory, in a soup, raw, etc. We all have our favorite ways to enjoy them, but did you know that they are the most consumed antioxidant in the U.S.
These little orange rockets can also significantly lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and recent research has revealed another category of phytonutrients in carrots, called polyacetylenes, found to inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells. They have also been shown to lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure, boost your immune system, improve eyesight and reduce the risk of stroke and diabetes.
However, even with these known benefits, many people still choose not to consume them because of their reputation of having ‘a lot of sugar’ and sabotaging weight loss efforts. You may have even heard that carrots are high on the Glycemic Index. What’s that all about?!
WARNING, things are about to get science-y for a minute.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a numerical scale that ranks foods and beverages on their potential to raise blood sugar and insulin levels. It indicates how rapidly a carbohydrate is digested and released as glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream. Foods and beverages that rank above 70 are considered “high GI” foods and are ‘likely’ to raise your blood sugar levels.
Sharon Palmer, R.D., writer for Today’s Dietitian reminds us that the Glycemic Index isn’t perfect. Many factors affect the GI of foods, including ripeness and storage time, processing and cooking method. The GI of a food is also different when eaten alone or combined with other foods. And get this, chocolate has a lower GI than oatmeal. So if we followed the GI in this case, we would be eliminating healthy foods from our diets and adding chocolate! And NO, that would not be a good thing. 😉
Dr Jonny Bowden PhD, a clinical nutrition specialist and author of the book “150 healthiest Foods On Earth” suggests that you should absolutely not let the Glycemic Index of carrots deter you from eating them even if you’re on a diet. The Glycemic Load is a far more significant measuring stick for how a food affects blood sugar and insulin levels. Glycemic Load is a ranking system for carbohydrate-rich food that measures the amount of carbohydrate in a serving of food. Foods with a glycemic load under 10 are considered low GL foods, 10-20 moderate GL and above 20 High GL which could tend to cause blood sugar spikes.
Carrots are an example of a low GL food that many people think will raise their blood sugar a lot but it’s not true. Carrots have a GL of 3-6. Unless you’re going to eat a pound and a half of carrots in one sitting (I mean really, who does that?), carrots will have very little impact on blood glucose levels.
The bottom line is that the benefits of carrots far outweigh any kind of negative that crazy nay-sayers can think of. Carrots are, most definitely, our friends.
So eat those friendly carrots and reap all of their amazing benefits!
For a comparison of Glycemic Index versus Glycemic Load go to www.health.harvard.edu