Vegetables are often considered a “free pass” for dieters. However, Diabetic dieters and low-carb dieters should be aware there are two kinds of veggies, with two very different effects on the body: the carb-laden, grain-like starchy vegetables, and their low-carb, non-starchy counterparts.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, many low-carb diets are built around the idea that foods that are high in carbohydrates cause a quick blood sugar high. This in turn causes higher insulin levels, leading to hunger and the increased desire to snack. A food’s Glycemic Index (GI) refers to how fast a certain food releases sugar into the bloodstream. A lower number means a slower rate, which in most situations is generally considered preferable. While most vegetables have a very low or negligible GI, there are a few exceptions.
What Are Starchy Vegetables?
A good rule of thumb is that the sweeter and starchier a vegetable is, the higher carbohydrate count it will have. Some high-carb offenders are peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and plantains. To build low carb meal ideas, begin with veggies like bean sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, mushrooms, onions, pea pods, salad greens, and greens like collard, kale, mustard, and turnip. There are plenty of low carb fruits as well, including apples, berries, cantaloupe, orange sections, peaches, pineapple, and watermelon.
When buying frozen, canned, or other prepared vegetables it’s also important to pay attention to additives. Many canned vegetables have added sugar or salt, which can greatly increase carbohydrate, calorie, and sodium counts. A good solution is to choose frozen vegetables instead of canned (they will rarely have added sugar or salt unless in sauce), or to thoroughly rinse canned vegetables. Of course, when possible, fresh is always best.
Low Carb Menu Planning
For dieters that are trying to a create a low carb menu plan, keep in mind that ½ cup of cooked or 1 cup of raw non-starchy vegetables contains about 5 grams of carbohydrate. However, these foods are also often very rich in fiber, which affects the way the body absorbs the carbohydrate and depending on your diet plan, might be counted differently than a carb from grain.
The Plate Method
The American Diabetes Association says that it is perfectly healthy to fill up on non-starchy vegetables, and recommends 3-5 servings of vegetables a day. One way to boost vegetable intake for low carb dinners is by using the “Plate Method,” filling up one half of a plate with vegetables then supplementing the other half with protein. The ADA also recommends filling up on salad to get a double dose of vegetables if a meal isn’t satiating enough.
- “Non Starchy Vegetables,” The American Diabetes Association
- “Low Carb Diets: The Right Way To Go?” The University of Maryland Medical Center
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