Unfortunately, there is so much skepticism about whether carrots are good for you or not. So, let’s discuss Carrot Nutrition 101 along with a few carrot recipes! 😉
Carrots Nutrition 101 – Are Carrots Good for You?
To me this question is like asking “Is salad healthy?” I would think everyone would answer YES! Due to conflicting information about carbohydrate-containing foods, a lot of people are apparently still confused about carrots nutrition.
Don’t worry, we get a lot of questions about carrots and potatoes for this very reason.
So, let’s get right into learning about why carrots are good for you!
YES! Carrots are Good for You!
I don’t think anyone can argue that carrots are an excellent source of nutrients. Carrots are incredibly rich in both alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A in your body.
Carrots also have a ton of fiber, anti-aging and disease-fighting phytonutrients, a hefty dose of potassium and a little calcium and magnesium.
Cooked or Raw… Just Add Some Fat
Whether you eat them cooked or raw, cooking carrots actually makes the nutrients more bio-available. This is just a fancy way of saying it’s easier for your body to use the nutrients in carrots if they are cooked.
Same Logic for Tomatoes!
The same logic goes for tomatoes too. Lycopene in tomatoes is best with some fat. Which is why it’s not a good idea to eat “fat free” tomato sauce!
Besides carrots and tomatoes both taste better with a bit of fat anyway, so this shouldn’t be too difficult to do.
Eating Carrots Will NOT Make you Fat!
You can read the long-winded scientific answer below! But, the answer can be summed up in one simple sentence.
Eating carrots will not make you fat.
Our Favorite Carrot-Containing Recipes
So, how about a few of our favorite recipes that include carrots!
Ham and Potato Soup: Ham and Potato Soup recipe is creamy (without the dairy) and loaded with healthy vegetables. Cook a large pot and have plenty for leftovers.
Carrot Cake Smoothie: This delicious sun-protecting smoothie is full of nutrients and tastes just like carrot cake!
Pumpkin and Carrot Chili: If you have a sensitive stomach, this Gut-Friendly Pumpkin and Carrot Chili is perfect for you! By removing the nightshades and beans, I’ve made this chili one you can indulge in without fear of an upset stomach later on.
Likely the South Beach Diet is to Blame!
I’m pretty sure it was The South Beach Diet that was really responsible for popularizing the myth that carrots were “fattening”. This diet encouraged people to be conscious of the glycemic index of the carbohydrate-containing foods they ate.
Keep reading to learn more about the glycemic index… or go make yourself that delicious Hummingbird Cake!
Let’s get into the real science behind the glyceic index and why we don’t stand behind it.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system of measuring how quickly a carbohydrate containing food turns to glucose (blood sugar). The slower a carbohydrate containing food turns into sugar, the better. The higher the GI number the faster the carbohydrate containing food will turn to glucose and the lower the GI number the slower the carbohydrate containing food will turn to glucose.
A GI is high if 70+, medium if 56-69 and low if less than 55.
The theory behind the Glycemic Index is simply to minimize insulin-related problems by avoiding foods that spike blood sugar. Eating foods that convert to sugar quickly can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. Which can cause your pancreas to secrete large amounts of insulin that can, over time, lead to loss of sensitivity to insulin.
Insulin resistance is related to obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, elevated blood fats (triglycerides), and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Benefits of avoiding foods that spike blood sugar include:
- Hunger-free weight loss
- Less food cravings; especially for sugary foods
- Improved sensitivity to insulin (and thus, improved ability to burn fat)• Improved control over diabetes/ Protection against type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Reduced cholesterol levels (insulin activates the main enzyme in your liver responsible for making cholesterol)
- Reduced triglycerides
How Scientists Determine the Glycemic Index:
The glycemic index value of a food is assessed as follows. Ten or more volunteers get a serving of the carbohydrate containing food with 50 grams of digestible carbohydrates. Scientists then take blood samples every 15 minutes to test how long it takes the 50 grams of carbohydrates to turn into blood sugar.
The subject’s response to the carbohydrate being tested is compared with the subject’s sugar response to 50g of pure glucose. Since glucose is standard, it is the reference food and the testing of glucose on the subject’s blood sugar levels is done on a separate occasion.
The average blood sugar response from 8-10 people will determine the glycemic index (GI) value of that particular carbohydrate containing food.
Measuring the Glycemic Index Has a Big Flaw:
One major drawback to measuring the glycemic index of foods is that the tests are not performed using typical portion sizes. For example, carrots rank high on the glycemic index but the typical 3 ounce serving of carrots contains just 9 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber (7 grams of net carbs).
It’s not accurate to say that carrots have a high GI because it’s practically impossible to eat 21 ounces of carrots (the amount needed to obtain the 50 grams of net carbs used to measure the GI of a food).
The Quantity of Carbohydrates You Eat at Each Meal Affects Your Blood Sugar Levels:
When using the glycemic index as a guide, you must consider how many grams of net carbs are in a normal serving. The low-carb gurus advise to avoid all high GI foods including nutrient rich foods such as carrots, beets, and bananas.
This is not sound dietary advice as it is nearly impossible to eat 50 grams of net carbohydrates from certain foods. For example, one would need to eat nearly 3 bananas to obtain 50 grams of net carbs—the typical person only eats 1 banana at a serving.
Major Pitfalls of the Glyemic Index
I’m not a fan of the Glycemic Index. Like the misleading Nutrition Facts, the glycemic index drives me nuts for three main reasons:
1. It doesn’t take the nutritional value of the food into consideration. Just because a food has a low GI does not make it a nutrient-dense food! According to the Glycemic Index the following foods are equally healthy choices simply because they have similar GI ranks:
- Pizza and plain unsweetened yogurt
- White pasta and carrots
- Bananas and potato chips
- Watermelon and white bread
- Baked Potato and glucose
2. Too complicated!! Doing calculations for everything you eat and memorizing food charts is NOT practical.
3. It doesn’t take into consideration that carbohydrates are often eaten in combination with other foods that contain fiber, protein and fat—–fiber, protein and fat all slow the conversion of carbohydrates to blood sugar and reduce the glycemic load of the entire meal
So Forget About the Glycemic Index!