Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load

A diabetes coach shows the difference between these two when it comes to the sweet carrot.



Find yourself saying no to carrots because of their sweetness?

People with diabetes sometimes avoid eating carrots out of fear this food will raise blood sugar levels, especially since farm-fresh carrots are sweet raw and all carrots get sweet when roasted. This fear of the sweet taste of some carrots might stem from a misunderstanding of how carbohydrates work in the bloodstream. Here’s what you need to know:

Carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed in our bodies as glucose, a sugar which the body creates for energy. There are two types of carbohydrates – complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates include vegetables and starches (bread, rice, pasta). Simple carbohydrates include fruit, milk, yogurt, and sugar (table sugar, syrup, honey, agave).
No matter what food you choose to eat, it’s the grams of carbohydrate that dictate how that food affects your blood sugar.

You may be questioning the healthiness of carrots because of the food’s higher glycemic index, which is a food’s potential to raise blood sugar and insulin levels. Carrots register high on the glycemic Index scale at 41, if you’re counting.

Actually, it’s more important to focus on the glycemic load, which combines the glycemic index and the number of carbohydrates a food has. Since a carrot has a low glycemic load due to low carbohydrate content, this food has a relatively low impact on your blood sugar levels.

One large carrot has 7 grams of carbohydrates while 1 cup of broccoli has 6 grams of carbohydrates. These vegetables have no added sugar and are practically equal in the number of grams of carbohydrates, despite the sweetness. Therefore, carrots are just as good a choice for your blood sugar levels as broccoli. Crunch away!

Fit4D is a patient-coaching program helping people with diabetes overcome complex barriers to diabetes medication adherence, leading them to a more enriching life. It offers a technology platform with intelligent scripting algorithms that enables expert diabetes educators to increase their capacity to deliver personalized care. You can learn more at fit4d.com.

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Erin Spitzberg, MS, RDN, CDE, is a diabetes coach for Fit4D and author and speaker for Living It! Nutrition. Based on her own life experiences, Erin published the Amazon Bestseller Eat Like a Normal Person: Your Guide to Real World Solutions for Healthy Living. Erin holds an MS in Nutrition and Food Studies from New York University.