There are a whole range of root vegetables and most of them are also starches – a type of carbohydrate. Basically, some plants store glucose as starch – giant chains of sugars.
So when it comes to root vegetables and starches, are they safe for type 2 diabetics to eat or not?
Well, let's dig in and explore the facts.
Root Vegetables Nutrition Facts
As you can see the veggies from swede up are relatively low in carbs, while the ones downwards are high in carbs – potatoes being the highest.
Glycemic Index of Root Veggies
GI is a measure of how fast different food affects blood sugar levels. Anything below 55 is considered a low GI and anything above that is considered high GI. The lower the GI the better it's going to be for you if you're diabetic, the higher…well the worse it is.
Health Hubs sums it up well:
“Root vegetables and tubers are relatively concentrated sources of sugars and starches and tend to contain only small amounts of fiber. This can be problematic for diabetics because they can produce a large glycemic response in situations when they are not combined with high fiber foods…The lowest GI vegetables are yams, carrots and sweet potatoes with GI values of 38, 47 and 55 respectively. High GI root vegetables include potatoes (GI of 60-90), parsnip (97), rutabaga (71), and beets (65).”
As you can see, yams and carrots are really your best 2 options here, followed by a small amount of sweet potato on the odd occasion. BUT, that's only when it comes to GI levels – you still have to keep the amount of carbs in mind.
Research on Root Veggies
There isn't a great deal of evidence to show benefits of root veggies for type 2 diabetes, but here are a few things I've found.
One study has shown “root vegetables– including carrots, radishes, salsify, beets, turnips, celeriac, and swede (aka rutabaga or Swedish turnip) – displayed an inverse association with diabetes” – meaning they help diabetes.
That's really the only study to mention root vegetables overall.
I keep saying this but I think in this instance it comes down to total carb count per day and perhaps GI considerations.
Remember: the thing that influences blood sugar and A1C the most is the total carbohydrates consumed.
Many proponents of the low carb diet cut out all types of starch and root vegetables but I don't think that's absolutely necessary.
If you stick to the lower carb options – radish, turnip, celeriac, pumpkin, beets, and carrots, and perhaps some peas and swede occasionally – I think it gives you a bit more variety. And as far as I'm concerned variety is important.
Having a wider variety of foods keeps things interesting and it also provides a wider range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients to the body.
For example, beets contains anthocyanins – which is responsible for it's dark color the same as things like blueberries and purple carrots.
Studies show these are extremely powerful polyphenols with many health benefits. In type 2 diabetes anthocyanins have been suggested to be able to help reverse metabolic issues by reducing inflammation and increasing antioxidant activity.
Beets also contain nitrates, which research shows has blood pressure lowering effects.
Carrots and pumpkin contain carotenoids, along with vitamin A, E, and C.
As Dr Axe says:
“Beta-carotene, a precursor to active vitamin A, is found in high quantities in sweet potatoes, carrots, beets and other root vegetables and is crucial for lowering inflammation, protecting skin and eye health, and fighting free radical damage.”
And experts like Dr Mark Hyman and Mark Sisson agree, that it's often not necessary to reduce carbohydrates so low that you exclude the beneficial nutrients that many of these colorful veggies provide.
Just keep the carb count in mind and stick to the lower carb options.
Really with all types of carb foods, you have to constantly monitor blood sugar levels, but if you know the best choices, you won't have to always monitor so closely.
Baked Carrot Fries
Guacamole and Carrot Sticks
Hope you've learned something new about starches, root vegetables, and diabetes.
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