Are Carrots Good For Diabetes?

According to the American Diabetes Association, 37.3 million Americans were living with diabetes in 2019, which amounted to 11.3% of the population. These statistics make diabetes the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, confirming that the disease is very common — either you or someone you know has likely been affected by one of the different types of diabetes.

Living with diabetes requires caution with dietary habits for better blood sugar management, as explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also advises eating the right foods at the right time to keep your blood sugar in the ideal range. 

But what exactly are the "right" foods? Undoubtedly, your dietician or doctor can assist with creating a balanced and rational diet. However, educating yourself on the recommended food options can also help. The good news is that the options are plentiful and vegetables, in general, make a great addition to your healthy eating plan. Here, we'll dwell specifically on carrots and try to determine whether they're ideal for those living with diabetes.

Carrots are packed with essential nutrients

It's no secret why parents around the world encourage their kids to gnaw on this crunchy root vegetable. Carrots contain many useful vitamins and minerals including beta-carotene, fiber, and vitamin C.

Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A. One medium carrot provides around 4 milligrams of beta-carotene, per the Cleveland Clinic. A 2015 study published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases noted that high carotenoid levels were associated with reduced diabetes risk in men and women.

According to Healthline, the fiber in carrots includes pectin, which slows down the body's absorption of sugar and ensures the proliferation of good intestinal bacteria. A 2020 study published in Carbohydrate Polymers also suggests that pectin is highly beneficial when managing type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as it prevents the onset of pancreatic damage during periods of oxidative stress. WebMD describes oxidative stress as a bodily condition caused by low antioxidant levels and an imbalance of free radicals. 

Although the vitamin C content in carrots isn't as high as that of oranges, it's still an important nutrient — it strengthens the immune system and has an antioxidant effect on the body (via the Mayo Clinic). MedicalNewsToday advises increasing your vitamin C intake to counteract the imbalance of free radicals caused by oxidative stress, which often results in the damage of cell tissues. This can promote the onset of chronic health conditions, like diabetes.

Carrots should be part of a balanced diet

A healthy eating plan full of vital nutrients is key to managing diabetes (via the Mayo Clinic). A 2019 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine also notes that ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Fresh ingredients can be more beneficial than processed-ready meals since you don't run the risk of consuming hidden fats and sugars.

In addition to carrots, there are many other fresh vegetables to choose from if you're living with diabetes. MedicalNewsToday advises opting for low glycemic index (GI) starch-free vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, or peppers. Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans, are also particularly healthy. They are some of the lowest glycemic index foods, according to a 2012 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Although many fruits contain sugar, you don't have to avoid them completely. Fruits with edible skin, such as apples and pears, can provide you with essential dietary fiber without causing a blood sugar spike.