Carrots perfectly illustrate the difference between the glycemic index (GI) and the glycemic load (GL). When the GI first made waves among

Carrots perfectly illustrate the difference between the glycemic index (GI) and the glycemic load (GL). When the GI first made waves among health enthusiasts, carrots got a bad rap for raising blood sugar. That’s because the type of sugar they contain is transformed into blood sugar very rapidly — almost as fast as table sugar. But since the amount of sugar is low, carrots are still on the menu.

Thank goodness they are, because they’re one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, which is linked to a lower risk of diabetes. One study found that people with the highest blood levels of beta-carotene had 32 percent lower insulin levels (suggesting better blood sugar control) than those with the lowest beta-carotene levels. Like most vegetables, carrots are also a good source of beneficial fiber.

Health Bonus
Carrots won’t help you throw away your reading glasses, but they will help protect against two sight-robbing conditions, macular degeneration and cataracts. They’re also rich in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. One study found that volunteers who ate about a cup of carrots a day had an average 11 percent reduction in their cholesterol after three weeks.

Glycemic Load: Very Low
Cut off the green carrot tops before storing, or they’ll pull moisture from the carrots and make them wither.

Perfect Portion: 1/2 cup
A serving is 1/2 cup of cooked carrots or 1 cup raw. The GL of cooked is slightly higher.

Don’t Fall for It
“Raw foods” proponents would have you believe that all foods are most healthful in their uncooked state. Not true. In the case of carrots, you get different benefits depending on whether they’re raw or cooked. During cooking, the carrot’s cell walls break down, releasing the beta-carotene inside. Raw carrots, on the other hand, contain more vitamin C.

Menu Magic
Add grated carrots to sandwiches. For a decidedly different sandwich spread, mix finely grated carrots with low-fat whipped cream cheese and add chopped green olives and grated onions.

Munch on baby carrots and hummus as a snack or with lunch.

Mix up spicy carrot soup by pureeing cooked carrots and adding them to sautéed onions and garlic along with vegetable broth and either soy milk or fat-free yogurt. Include chopped celery, salt, white pepper, and curry powder if you like.

For a salad with Middle Eastern flair, combine cooked sliced carrots, olive oil, chopped parsley, minced garlic, fresh lemon juice, and salt. The lemon juice reduces the GL of the dish even more.

Cook baby carrots with rosemary and thyme, olive oil, chopped onions, and black pepper. Squeeze the juice of orange wedges over the top.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest