Most of us would agree that vegetables are good for us and that we probably should be eating more of them. But if you have diabetes, you might be curious or downright confused about certain vegetables. A good example of this is carrots. Yes, they’re a vegetable, but they taste sweet, so maybe they’re not that good to eat? Are they too high in carbs? Read on to find out.
What are carrots?
Carrots are root vegetables in the Apiaceae family. Their cousins are celery, parsnips, fennel, dill, caraway, anise, and coriander. The orange carrots that we eat today are derived from the wild carrot, which has whitish roots.
It’s thought that carrots originated in Central Asia, and according to the World Carrot Museum website (a virtual wealth of all things carrots), carrots were cultivated as a food crop in Iran (formally known as Persia). During the 10th century AD, carrots were brought to what is now known as Spain, and from there, they spread to the rest of Northern Europe. Carrots arrived somewhat late on the scene to North America during the 17th century from European settlers.
Today, California produces more than 85% of all carrots grown in the United States, although Michigan and Texas are also top-growers of carrots, as well.
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Varieties of carrots
You might think that carrots are always orange, but they come in purple, red, white, and yellow, as well. In fact, there are several hundred varieties available. Orange carrots get their color from beta-carotene, which gets converted to vitamin A in the body. Purple carrots are very sweet, and they sometimes have an orange core. Red carrots get their hue from lycopene, an antioxidant also found in tomatoes. White or golden carrots have a mild flavor and tend to be sweeter than orange, red and purple carrots, says the website The Spruce Eats.
You can grow your own carrots and purchase seeds for the variety and color that you want. You can even grow them in containers if you don’t have a yard. For pointers on successfully growing carrots, visit “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” website.
Carrots are a great source of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Different colored carrots have more of certain nutrients; for example, yellow carrots have both beta carotene and lutein, while purple carrots have anthocyanin, a carotenoid that may play a role in treating inflammation.
One medium-sized carrot contains:
- • 25 calories
• 0 grams of fat
• 6 grams of carbohydrate
• 1.5 grams of fiber
• 0.5 grams of protein
• 42 milligrams of sodium
One cup of chopped carrot contains:
- 52 calories
- 0.3 grams of fat
- 12 grams of carbohydrate
- 4 grams of fiber
- 1.2 grams of protein
- 88 milligrams of sodium
Carrot health benefits
Think of carrots, and you might think of “eye health.” While carrots certainly do help support healthy eyes and protect against certain eye diseases, such as macular degeneration and possibly diabetic retinopathy, there’s more to carrots than “meet the eye.” For example, carrots help to:
- Support a healthy immune system
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Lower the risk of cancer
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Support gut health
Can people with diabetes eat carrots?
Yes! Carrots do contain some carbohydrate, but they are considered to be a “nonstarchy” vegetable, like broccoli and green beans. Carrots don’t have as much carb as, say, peas, corn, or potatoes. And they rank low on the glycemic index scale, which means they aren’t as likely to quickly raise blood sugar levels after eating.
However, because their carb content is a little higher than some other nonstarchy veggies, you do need to watch your portion. But the good news is that carrots are filling, thanks to the fiber (and if you eat them whole, they take while to eat), so can definitely be part of a healthy diabetes eating plan.
Tips for enjoying carrots
Carrots are delicious when eaten “as is.” Simply wash well to remove dirt and debris, and enjoy. You don’t have to peel carrots, either, as long as they’re scrubbed clean.
Here are other ideas for eating carrots:
- Dipped in hummus or salads dressing, or spread with a bit of peanut butter (move over, celery!).
- Blended into a breakfast smoothie.
- Shredded or grated into your favorite stir-fry, soup or coleslaw.
- Tossed with a bit of olive oil, and small amount of salt and pepper, and baked at 450°F for 35-45 minutes.