Root Vegetables:
Can They Doom a Low Carb Diet?

Root vegetables are so named because they derive from plant roots and bulbs. They serve as energy store houses for plants and consolidate that energy in the form of polysaccharide carbohydrates.

The root veggie family is incredibly diverse. Common examples include beets, parsnips, water chestnuts, ginger, potatoes, yams, radishes, carrots, and beets.

Not all root vegetables are equal from a carb-counter’s point of view--not by a long shot.

In fact, on many low carb diets, root veggies are restricted or forbidden entirely.

  • Veggies like parsley, jicama, and garlic contain relatively few carbs per serving.
  • Onions, carrots, ginseng, and radishes are moderately carb rich. (i.e. a standard medium white onion, for instance, contains about nine grams of carbs).
  • Sweet potatoes, beets, and rutabagas, on the other hand, contain lots of carbohydrates.

The accessibility of carbohydrates in various tubers depends on the method of food preparation. A raw carrot contains a significant amount of fiber. So when you eat that carrot, it takes a while for your digestive system to “find” the sugar in the vegetable and break it down and absorb it. The digestive process must first remove the non-digestible fiber and then slice up the long polysaccharide molecules into glucose and other simpler sugars. The extended nature of this digestion means that, theoretically, eating a raw carrot shouldn’t cause a massive spike in your blood sugar/insulin levels.

Conversely, if you take that same carrot and blend it in a juicer, you strain away the fiber and turbo charge the process of ripping the carrot’s polysaccharide molecules into shreds. Thus, when you drink a cup of carrot juice, your body can access the sugars far faster, and this can provoke a bigger blood sugar rush and stronger reactive insulin spike.

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