Carrots: The Misunderstood Vegetable
I teach a lot of prediabetes and diabetes classes. I also counsel clients one-on-one about the disease and how to help manage it through diet and exercise. Why so many classes, attendees and clients? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2012, 29.1 million people in the U.S. had diabetes. This represents 9.3% of the population. Another staggering number is that there were 86 million prediabetics. These are people knocking on diabetes’ door. Americans aren’t the only people with the dubious distinction of having blood sugar issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2014 9% of Earth’s population age 18 and older had diabetes.
Why is this a problem? Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in America. Complications from diabetes include kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, low blood sugar, high blood pressure, blindness and amputations. Not good.
So what do these sobering statistics have to do with the much-maligned carrot? It’s about starchy versus non-starchy veggie. Non-starchy vegetables are lower in carbohydrate and should make up half the plate. A serving size of starchy veggies (corn, peas, beans, potato, winter squash, pumpkin, plantains and parsnips) have as much carbohydrate as a slice of sandwich bread. They should occupy one-quarter of the plate. (For the record, the other quarter of the plate should be lean protein. Fruit and low fat or nonfat dairy can be outside the plate.)
When I talk about veggies in my classes, I always ask the group to call out the starchy ones. Invariably at least one attendee, usually more, yells out “carrot.” But they’re misinformed. Carrots aren’t starchy, they’re non-starchy.
Here are some facts about this orange veggie. It’s low in calorie and high in vitamin A (good for the eyes and skin). It has beta-carotene which is an anti-oxidant that can help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Carrots also contain fiber (good for regularity, lowering cholesterol, managing blood sugar and keeping us full), vitamins C and K and potassium among even more vitamins and minerals. They’re chock full of health. So add them to your “half the plate” choices. Your body will thank you.