Why the difference means carrots won’t make you gain weight.
What makes a food lower or higher on the glycemic index?
The glycemic index measures how quickly the sugar from particular foods enter your system. Fibre, protein and fat all slow down the entry of glucose from a particular food into the bloodstream. Most vegetables, beans and whole grains are full of fibre, which is reflected in their lower glycemic index rating. For example:
• Green peas 48
• All-bran 38
However, processed foods (e.g., white flour) usually contain little to no fibre and therefore tend to have a higher glycemic index rating. For example:
• Strawberry cupcake 73
• White bread 73
Does that mean that all foods that are high glycemic index will cause me to gain weight?
Not at all. One limitation of the glycemic index is that it does not take into account how much sugar a particular food contains — it’s only a reflection of how quickly the sugar is absorbed.
For example, the sugar in carrots is readily absorbed into the bloodstream and they are therefore ranked high on the glycemic index (74). This has given carrots some undeserved bad press. Many people decide to avoid carrots because they assume that because they are high on the glycemic index they will cause them to gain weight. This is where the glycemic load of a particular food becomes very useful.
The glycemic load takes into account not only how quickly a certain food is converted into sugar in the body but also how much sugar (carbohydrate) a particular food contains.
The glycemic load categories are:
• Low (10 or less)
• Medium (11 to 19)
• High (20)
Your body’s glycemic response depends on both the type of food eaten and the amount of carbohydrate (sugar) calories consumed. The more concentrated a carbohydrate is, the more sugar it dumps into your bloodstream. Although all of the sugar that is in the carrots is absorbed into the bloodstream quickly (high glycemic index), there is not a lot of sugar to begin with (low glycemic load). As you can imagine, the same amount of dense white pasta would have both a high glycemic index and a high glycemic load.
This explains why even though carrots are high on the glycemic index, you are not likely to gain weight eating them.
By Dr. Laina Shulman