Type 2 Diabetes
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Pass the Carrots, Please!
If I had a nickel for all the times a patient asked me this question, I’d have a whole lot of nickels: “Carrots are really sweet; I can’t eat those if I have diabetes, right?”
Somehow along the way, carrots got the awful reputation as the “bad boy” of the veggie world. I’ve met patients who have sworn off of them completely, even though they love the way they taste! Let’s set the record straight here: Carrots are NOT bad for you. Do they taste sweet when they’re cooked? They sure do. Are they delicious that way? They sure are! Luckily, the sweetness of a vegetable does not necessarily determine the effect it will have on your blood sugar.
Just for some history, carrots got a bad rap back when the glycemic index first became popular; we’ll save the intricacies of the glycemic index for another blog, but suffice to say, it is very easy to misinterpret. Lots of healthful foods became “bad” for no good reason, and we nutritionists have been trying to do damage control ever since.
Let’s talk about a few other vegetables that you may think twice about eating because of their sweetness, but don’t need to worry about:
Beets: If there ever was a sweet vegetable, this is it! Boiled, roasted, canned, jarred, the natural sweetness of this vegetable shines through no matter how you prepare it. The good news? This vegetable is considered a non-starchy veggie, so the carbohydrate content is so low that they will usually not significantly impact your blood sugar.
Parsnips: These are carrots' fraternal twins. They look exactly like carrots, except the skin and flesh is a whitish-yellow color instead of orange. You can cook these the same way you’d cook carrots: roasting, boiling or sautéing. They are among the sweetest veggies out there, but their actual carb content is low and their fiber content is high. Little blood sugar impact here!
Sautéed onions: Cooked onions become sweet very quickly, but a sautéed onion has no more carbohydrates than a raw onion. If you love your onions nice and tender, have at it! Just be sure to use as little oil as possible to keep the total fat content of these delicious veggies on the low end.
Sweet Potatoes: This one is especially confusing, since the word “sweet” is right in this potato’s name! Despite their name, sweet potatoes do not raise your blood sugar any more quickly than a white potato; in fact, they will raise it more slowly! Because sweet potatoes are a starchy veggie, we just want to try to eat a portion about the size of a baseball to keep these tasty tubers from causing any unwanted blood sugar changes.
As with all things in your diabetes life, it’s a good idea to see how these foods impact you individually by testing your blood sugar before and after you eat them. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn you can enjoy more “sweets” than you thought!