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.
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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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.
In general, though carrots have a minimal amount of fat, and contain potassium, magnesium, calcium, folate, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
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:
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.
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:
Want to learn more about eating well with diabetes? Read “Strategies for Healthy Eating,” “Improving Your Recipes: One Step at a Time,” and “What Is the Best Diet for Diabetes?” Delicious!
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