If you have diabetes or are on a low-carb diet, you might be familiar with the glycemic index. You probably know that vegetables such as carrots are "good" for you.
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Whether you eat carrots on a daily basis or are thinking about eating them for their health benefits, you might be curious what their glycemic index is and how your body reacts to them.
What Is Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index is a numerical scale that ranks foods and beverages on their potential to raise your blood sugar and your insulin levels. Foods and beverages above 70 are considered "high GI" foods and are likely to raise your blood sugar rapidly. Foods and beverages below 55 are considered "low GI" foods and aren't likely to raise your blood sugar quickly or any sizable amount.
Glycemic Index of Carrots
Unlike some foods, the glycemic index of carrots can vary to a fairly significant degree. According to Oregon State University Extension, carrots have a glycemic index ranking of 47, plus or minus 16 (between 31 and 63).
There are many factors that go into determining the glycemic index of a food, including how much the food is cooked and/or processed. Cooked carrots, for instance, have a glycemic index of 39, while fresh 100-percent carrot juice has a glycemic index of 45.
Glycemic Load of Carrots
But you shouldn't let the glycemic index of carrots deter you from eating them, even if you are on a diet, according to Jonny Bowden, PhD, in his book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Glycemic load, rather than the glycemic index, is a far more significant measuring stick for how a food affects your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Bowden points out that carrots have a glycemic load of 3, which he calls "ridiculously low." Despite the low-to-moderate glycemic index rating, carrots are very unlikely to significantly affect your blood sugar. If you have diabetes, though, talk to your doctor if you haven't been eating carrots and would like to add them to your diet.
Health Benefits of Carrots
Bowden regards carrots among the very healthiest foods you can eat, saying carrots contain very powerful antioxidants called carotenoids. Carrots contain alpha-carotene. You've probably heard of beta-carotene, but alpha-carotene may actually be more powerful and useful to inhibit the growth and formation of tumors, according to Bowden.
Three medium-sized carrots contain 60 milligrams of calcium, 586 milligrams of potassium, 5 grams of dietary fiber and 30,000 IUs of vitamin A, six times more than your daily recommended allowance, according to the USDA Nutrient Database. Not to worry, exceeding your RDA for vitamin A by eating carrots isn't harmful. Plus, carrots also contain magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin C.