The first thing people usually ask me is “what should I eat?” While recommendations can vary slightly from person to person depending on health issues, at the heart of all dietary guidelines are a few basic tenets, and truthfully, the most important and irrefutable rule of all is actually quite simple…eat more fruits and vegetables.
We know that eating a plant-based diet will help reduce your risk of getting practically all the major maladies – heart disease, cancer, diabetes – EVERYTHING. There is no getting around this fact. All the research points us to this conclusion. Yet, people buck this recommendation all the time. They try to modify it with questions like:
- “I don’t like vegetables, can I eat more fruit?”
- “I don’t like fruit, can I eat more vegetables?”
- “Can I just drink juice?”
- “Can’t I just take a pill?”
No, no, no, and no. I suspect that the recommendation isn’t fancy enough. People like complicated. The harder it is to come up with the answer, the more likely we are to believe it. We like to use formulas, charts, and graphs. But the problem is, when we look solely to formulas, charts, and graphs and stop using common sense, we make something very simple into something very, very incorrect.
Such is the case of the poor, lowly carrot. For years now, I have heard the evils of this vegetable expounded. But I think it’s finally time someone stood up for this noble root, because it’s taken an unnecessary beating. It all started with the glycemic index…
The glycemic index is a measure of how much and how quickly a food will raise your blood sugar – the higher the glycemic index, the greater the blood sugar response. The idea is this: test subjects are given an amount of a particular food that is equal to fifty grams of carbohydrate. Blood sugar is then measured at intervals over a period of time. Now, to get fifty grams of carbohydrate from bread, the test subjects would have to eat about three slices. Not a big deal – most people can handle that. However, to get fifty grams of carbohydrates from carrots, they would need to consume over a pound of carrots, or about eighty-seven baby carrots! That’s a lot of carrots. More than what most people would consume in one sitting. It’s no surprise then that carrots would score high on the glycemic index. But if I didn’t know how the glycemic index was measured, I might hear a report in the news that “carrots increase blood sugar,” and think I need to stop eating carrots. And that is exactly what happened – to carrots, and corn, and beets – I’m sure there were others.
Trying to analyze and categorize foods in this manner just creates dietary confusion. But if we take a step back, we intuitively know that there is nothing wrong with carrots, or any of the other fruits and vegetables often labeled as “bad” in the media. In fact, research has found that adding fruits and vegetables to a diet never results in weight gain. So go ahead and eat more fruits and vegetables…even carrots.