Non-starchy vegetables like carrots are an important part of a healthy diet, including for people with diabetes. They contain nutrients that can benefit blood sugar levels.

The short and simple answer is yes. Carrots, as well as other vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, are non-starchy vegetables. For people with diabetes — and everyone else, for that matter — non-starchy vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.

It’s important to pay attention to the carbohydrate content in food when you have diabetes. However, many foods that contain carbs also contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and even fiber.

Some of these foods, especially non-starchy vegetables, have less of an effect on blood glucose levels. In this article, we’ll explore how carrots affect diabetes and offer helpful information about carbohydrates and diabetes.

There’s some truth behind the saying “Eat the rainbow.” Colorful fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients for a healthy diet. Carrots are well known for containing beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. They also contain antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients.

A medium carrot contains only 4 grams (g) of net (digestible) carbs and is a low glycemic food. Foods that are low in carbs and low on the glycemic index tend not to have a very large effect on blood sugar levels.

Research also suggests that the nutrients in carrots may benefit people with diabetes.

  • Vitamin A: Some research has found that high doses of vitamin A combined with vitamin E and zinc supplementation may improve blood sugar and insulin management in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Vitamin B-6: B vitamins play an essential role in many different areas of metabolism. Some evidence suggests that vitamin B6 can protect those with type 1 diabetes from complications, though further research is necessary as to whether it also might affect diabetes onset.
  • Fiber: Dietary fiber intake is essential to blood sugar management in diabetes. A 2018 review of 16 meta-analyses shows strong evidence that dietary fiber intake may help reduce the prevalence of type 2 diabetes. In addition, for people with diabetes, fiber intake can help reduce both long-term and fasting blood glucose levels.

For people with diabetes, following a healthy diet is important for managing your condition. The National Institute of Health (NIH) emphasizes that the healthiest diet for diabetes contains foods from all food groups. This includes:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • grains
  • proteins
  • nonfat or low fat dairy

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diet and exercise are the best ways to improve blood glucose levels. Eating a healthy diet can also help with weight loss. Even a 5% reduction in body weight can help improve blood sugar levels.

To expand on the NIH’s recommendations above, the ADA recommends the following tips for eating nutritious foods when you have diabetes:

  • Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, and zucchini. At least half of your plate should be filled with nutritious vegetables.
  • The best type of protein for a healthy diet is lean protein. Roughly a quarter of your plate should be a lean protein source, such as chicken or fish. Avoid deep frying and charring your protein. Instead, try baking or lightly grilling.
  • Limit your carb intake per meal to roughly 1 cup or less. Try to eat carbs with high fiber content, as fiber helps improve blood sugar levels. Great sources of high fiber carbs include beans, whole grain bread, brown rice, and other whole grain food products.
  • Fruits and low fat dairy can make a great addition to a healthy meal. Be mindful not to overdo it on the portion size. A handful of fresh berries or half a glass of low fat milk can be a delicious after-dinner treat. Limit dried fruit and fruit juices because their carbs are more concentrated.

Sometimes, you may crave a treat, and the occasional sweet treat is fine. However, it’s important to be mindful of what you’re eating and how much you’re eating.

Eating too many processed, sugary foods can negatively affect your blood sugar levels. These foods may also lead to weight gain and can have a poor effect on your overall health. Choosing lower carbohydrate options in small amounts and only occasionally is the best way to treat yourself.

In recent years, low carb diets have been a popular dietary choice, and they’re often recommended for diabetes. There’s some truth to this suggestion.

A 2018 consensus report from the ADA and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) states that a handful of diets — low carb included — show benefits for those with diabetes.

According to the research, a low carbohydrate diet (less than 26% of total energy) produced substantial reductions in HbA1c at 3 and 6 months, with diminishing effects at 12 and 24 months.

This means that more extreme diets (like the keto diet, which typically limits carbs to only 5% total intake) aren’t necessary to follow to see health benefits.

In addition, lowering carbohydrate intake too much can cause you to miss out on many important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Ultimately, a low carb diet may work for some people with diabetes, but it does not work for everyone. The ADA and EASD recommend that treatments for glycemic control, including dietary interventions, should always be individualized to the person.

People with diabetes who take insulin at meals will want to count carbs. This is done to match the amount of carbohydrates in your meal with the amount of insulin you inject. Doing this will help you tightly manage your blood glucose levels.

Other people may count carbohydrates to help manage how many carbs they’re eating per day.

When counting carbs, learning to read nutrition labels is key. It’s important to remember that not all carbs have the same effect on blood sugar levels.

For example, 1 cup of chopped carrots has roughly 12.3 g of total carbohydrates and 3.6 g of fiber.

12.3 – 3.6 = 8.7

This leaves only 8.7 g of carbs in 1 cup of carrots.

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If you’re interested in counting carbs to help manage your blood sugar levels, a nutrition professional or diabetes educator can teach you how.

Two of the most common diet myths for people with diabetes are that you can’t have any sugar and that you must follow an extremely low carb diet. As it turns out, this advice is outdated and untrue.

Sugar, as a catchall term, is more than just sweets and baked goods — fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all “sugars” too. Therefore, the myth that people with diabetes can’t eat sugar is false. Processed and added sugars should be limited, but the ADA recommends eating fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.

An extremely low carb diet isn’t necessary in blood sugar management either. Extremely low carb diets like the keto diet eliminate almost all carbohydrate intake.

However, even a low carb Mediterranean diet has shown benefits for glycemic control. An extremely low carb diet is neither necessary nor safe for every person who has diabetes. It’s important to see a dietitian or nutritionist before making these changes to your diet.

If you have diabetes and are interested in eating a healthier diet, a trained nutrition professional can help. Dietitians can offer evidence-based suggestions on how to eat a healthier diet for your condition.

If you want to dig even deeper, some nutrition professionals specialize in nutrition for people with diabetes.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Find an Expert tool is a great way to find a nutrition professional in your area. The tool even allows you to search by specialty, which can help you find a diabetes specialist near you.

Do carrots raise blood sugar?

Carrots are a low glycemic food. Foods that are low in carbs and low on the glycemic index tend not to have a very large effect on blood sugar levels.

What foods can those with diabetes eat freely?

The best foods for people with diabetes include non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins such as lean meats.

What vegetables are best for those with diabetes?

Non-starchy vegetables are best for people with diabetes, including broccoli, peppers, carrots, and tomatoes.

What vegetables lower blood sugar?

Vegetables that lower blood sugar include broccoli, okra, kale, avocados, and citrus fruits.

Carrots, among other non-starchy vegetables, are a great addition to a healthy diet for people with diabetes. They contain many important nutrients that benefit blood sugar levels, such as vitamin A and fiber.

If you have diabetes, continue incorporating vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein into your diet. Contact a nutrition professional near you for other suggestions on managing your blood glucose levels through diet.