Carrots have a bad rep as a high carb vegetable, but is that really true? Can you eat carrots without spiking blood sugar? Read on to find out!
How many carbs are in carrots?
Let’s take a quick look at the overall nutrition of carrots…
One cup of chopped raw carrots provides:
- 50 calories
- 0.3 grams fat
- 11.7 g carbs
- 3.4 g fiber
- 5.8 g sugar
- 1.1 g protein
Carrots are also packed with nutrients including vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, potassium, along with many antioxidants.
As you can see, carrots are low in calories, fat, and protein. Overall, carrots are composed primarily of carbs and water. The carbs within carrots include fiber, starch, and sugar.
Carbohydrates in raw carrots vs cooked carrots
One thing you may not realize is that the carbohydrate content in carrots changes based on whether they are raw or cooked.
Let’s compare the nutrition facts of one cup of raw carrots listed above to one cup of cooked carrots:
- 54.8 calories
- 0.3 g fat
- 12.8 g carbs
- 4.6 g fiber
- 5.4 g sugar
- 1.1 g protein
As you can see, the carb content of carrots increases when cooked. But let’s be honest… a 1 gram change is pretty insignificant. Moreover, it has been shown that eating raw vs cooked carrots doesn’t make a difference when it comes to your blood sugar response. So if you enjoy carrots, eat how you prefer them and don’t worry if they are raw instead of cooked.
Are carrots a high carb vegetable?
When you look at the net carbs (total carbs minus fiber content) of carrots, one cup yields just over 8 grams. Generally, we care more about net carbs than total carbs because fiber isn’t digestible and doesn’t result in blood sugar increases. In addition, fiber also slows the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream.
8 grams of net carbs really doesn’t amount to that many carbs, especially when you compare it to starchy vegetables like the potato, which has 24 grams of net carbs per cup.
While some people consider carrots a higher carb vegetable, they have fewer carbs than many other vegetables including beets, butternut squash, parsnips, sweet potatoes, corn, and plantains. In reality, carrots are relatively low to moderate in terms of carb content.
Can I eat carrots on a low carb diet?
The short answer is: absolutely!
The good news is that you are the one who gets to decide what types of carbs (and what amounts) to include in your diet. Carrots are low in calories and have a low-to-moderate amount of carbs, making them a good option for a carb to include on a low carb diet.
Always remember that your overall diet matters more than a single food. If you are concerned about the amount of carbs in carrots (and really, I’m telling you as a dietitian and diabetes educator, the carb content in carrots is pretty insignificant and not something to worry about) then you can always balance out the carbs in carrots by making adjustments to other areas of your meal plan. You can also stick to smaller portions if you want as well. When it comes to eating carrots on a low carb diet, the choice is up to you – do whatever works best for you and your needs.
Can I eat carrots with diabetes?
Not all carbs impact your blood sugar in the same way.
Carrots are considered non-starchy vegetables, which have a lower impact on blood sugar than starchy veggies.
Take a look at the glycemic index (GI) of carrots. The GI of carrots ranges from 16-60 (low to medium), from raw to pureed, respectively. Which means that carrots are low to moderate on the GI scale. And since eating lower GI foods when you have diabetes is associated with improved insulin sensitivity, you can see that eating carrots will most likely have little impact on blood sugar.
And remember, carrots aren’t empty calories. Far from it! When you eat carrots, you aren’t just consuming carbs. You are also getting beneficial nutrients including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
One reason eating carrots can be beneficial when you have diabetes is because one cup contains about 10% of your recommended daily fiber. Adequate fiber intake is linked to slower carb digestion which allows for better blood sugar control.
Consuming carrots (along with fiber intake in general) helps to lower cholesterol and improve heart health, which is important since simply having diabetes increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Another nutrient that is abundant in carrots is vitamin A, which may also play a role in blood sugar regulation. Diets low in vitamin A have been suggested to lower insulin secretion, which leads to higher blood sugar levels. This demonstrates that vitamin A intake may be beneficial for blood sugar control.
Vitamin A, along with lutein (an antioxidant found in carrots), are also essential for vision and eye health. This is important since people with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing retinopathy which can lead to vision loss. And adding more vitamin A rich foods into the diet may help to reduce this risk.
The best way to eat carrots and manage blood sugar
When you have diabetes, it is important to pay attention to your carb intake throughout the day to manage blood sugar levels. Since carrots contain carbs, tracking your intake of carrots and other carb-containing foods at meals and snacks, and balancing them out with a source of protein and fat, can help you to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.
Remember, everyone responds differently to various carbs. To see how eating carrots impacts you and your individual glycemic response, you can use your blood glucose monitor to test your blood sugar before and after eating them. This will give you an idea of how many carrots you can eat without seeing a spike in blood sugar.
One cup of carrots contains 12 grams of carbs. Since many people with diabetes can eat 45-60 grams of carbs per meal, this amount of carbs is considered perfectly safe to consume without worrying too much about your blood sugar. However, some people may have lower carb targets, so speak with your dietitian or diabetes care team to ensure you stay on track.
The American Diabetes Association emphasizes that eating non-starchy veggies is essential when you have diabetes. They promote the guideline that half of your plate should be full of this type of vegetable – and this includes carrots.
Overall, since the nutrients in carrots are associated with better blood sugar control, feel free to enjoy them regularly as part of your balanced meal plan if you enjoy them.
The final verdict on carbs in carrots
The bottom line is that you really shouldn’t be avoiding carrots because of the carb content.
Carrots are filled with beneficial carbs that are tied to fiber and other essential nutrients. They also have less carbs than some other vegetables that rarely get ‘called out’ as being high in carbs like beets and parsnips.
Overall, carrots are a healthy carb-containing food that can offer a multitude of health benefits, including helping to regulate blood sugar, improving cardiovascular health, and preventing vision loss.
People on low carb diets and those with diabetes can rest assured that carrots are a safe and nutritious food that won’t get in the way of your health goals.
The final verdict is: whether you like them raw, boiled, roasted or even as ice cream – carrots are a great addition to any diet. So go eat some and enjoy them!