Sugar in a carrot

The question: I’ve been told I should avoid carrots because they’re too high in sugar. Is that true? Aren’t they nutritious?

The answer: It is true that carrots have natural sugar, but not much more than many other vegetables. And you certainly don’t need to avoid these low-calorie, nutritious root vegetables. One half-cup of chopped raw carrot sticks has three grams of sugar and only 26 calories. You might be surprised to learn that the same serving size of chopped raw broccoli has similar numbers at 6 g of sugar and 31 calories. Vegetables such as leafy greens, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower and mushrooms provide 1 to 2 g of sugar per serving.

What carrots are packed with, however, is beta-carotene, a phytochemical that gives them their bright orange colour. Beta-carotene is important for two reasons. First, your body converts some of it to retinol, an active form of vitamin A. A deficiency of vitamin A can cause symptoms including night blindness, dry eyes, dry skin, impaired bone growth and susceptibility to respiratory infections. (Night blindness is a condition in which vision is normal in daylight, but very weak or completely lost at night or in dim light.)

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Beta-carotene is also a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals. Studies suggest that a diet high in beta-carotene – from foods, not supplements – can help lower the risk of heart disease and lung cancer.

There isn’t an official recommended dietary intake for beta-carotene, but experts contend that consuming three to six milligrams of beta-carotene daily will maintain blood levels of the phytochemical in the range that’s associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases. One half-cup of cooked carrots deliver 6.5 mg of beta-carotene, a full day’s worth.

You’ll get more beta-carotene if you eat your carrots cooked, rather than raw. That’s because heating vegetables releases antioxidants by breaking down cell walls. Another tip: Since beta-carotene is fat-soluble, it’s best absorbed if you eat carrots with a little fat or oil. All it takes is 3 to 5 g of fat in a meal (roughly one teaspoon worth) to enhance beta-carotene absorption.

Carrots also offer fibre, vitamin C and potassium.

Bottom line: Go ahead and eat your carrots. They’re nutritious and they are not high in sugar. Here are a few ways to enjoy carrots – raw, cooked or baked:

  • Add grated raw carrots to whole-grain muffin batter.
  • Add grated carrots to omelettes, frittatas, pasta sauces, coleslaw and green salads.
  • Combine grated carrots, beets and apples for a nutrient- and antioxidant-rich salad.
  • Make carrot soup by pureeing boiled carrots and potatoes (and cooking water). Add herbs and spices to taste.
  • Add baby carrots or sliced carrots to curry and stir-fry recipes.
  • Enjoy a beta-carotene-rich protein shake by blending leftover cooked carrots (or one half-cup carrot juice), one banana, almond milk and protein powder.
  • Mix a little Dijon mustard, honey and pepper with steamed or boiled carrots.

Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is based at the Medisys clinic in Toronto. She can be seen every Thursday at noon on CTV News Channel’s Direct;

Sources of glucose

Our bodies convert food into energy. Although we get energy and calories from carbohydrate, protein, and fat, our main source of energy is from carbohydrate. Our bodies convert carbohydrate into glucose, a type of sugar.

See Illustration: How food affects blood sugar

Many foods contain a combination of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. The amount of each in the food we eat affects how quickly our bodies change that food into glucose.

This is how different foods affect how our blood sugar levels:

  • Carbohydrate: Includes bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, sugar, yogurt, and milk. Our bodies change 100 percent of the carbohydrate we eat into glucose. This affects our blood sugar levels quickly, within an hour or two after eating
  • Protein: Includes fish, meat, cheese, and peanut butter. Although our bodies change some of the protein we eat into glucose, most of this glucose is stored in our liver and not released into our bloodstream. Eating protein usually has very little impact on blood sugar.
  • Fat: Includes butter, salad dressing, avocado, olive oil. We turn less than 10 percent of the fat we eat into glucose. The glucose from fat is absorbed slowly and it won’t cause an immediate rise in blood sugar.

Even though we don’t get much glucose from fat, a meal that’s high in fat can affect how fast our bodies digest carbohydrate. Because fat slows down the digestion of carbohydrate, it also slows down the rise in blood sugar levels. This sometimes can cause a high blood sugar level several hours after eating.

For some people, this delayed reaction can be quite a surprise. For example, after eating a meal high in fat, a person might have a blood sugar reading that’s close to normal before going to bed. But the next morning, he or she might have a fasting blood sugar that’s over 200. This is because it took the body overnight to digest the carbohydrates in the meal.

The most important thing to remember is that eating balanced meals that combine protein, carbohydrate, and a small amount of fat can help keep your blood sugars from rising too high or too quickly.

Clinical review by Meredith Cotton, RN
Kaiser Permanente
Reviewed 01/03/2019

Cheese won’t budge the blood sugar needle even a bit and it will make you feel plenty full . Cheese is also an excellent source of calcium, and studies show that getting plenty of calcium from food may help prevent insulin resistance, a harbinger of diabetes. According to a recent study, women who get plenty of calcium from dairy products also have a significantly lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which is linked to both diabetes and heart disease.

That doesn’t mean you can load up on all the mac ‘n’ cheese you want, though. It’s packed not only with calories but also with cheese’s big “design flaw” — saturated fat, the kind that clogs arteries and reduces your body’s sensitivity to insulin. That’s why it pays to choose, whenever possible, lower-fat cheeses, such as low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat string cheese, part skim mozzarella, skim ricotta, farmer cheese, and soft goat cheese. Otherwise, the drawbacks of cheese could easily outweigh its benefits. Soft cheeses have less fat per ounce (30 g) than hard cheeses (usually about 6 or 7 grams instead of 8 or 9).

When you do use a hard cheese like cheddar, you’ll want to eat less of it and/or choose a low-fat version. You probably won’t want to snack on low-fat cheddar, though, so give another cheese a try for nibbling.We suggest goat cheese sprinkled with herbs and drizzled with lemon juice. The acidic juice offers an added benefit, since the acid has the power to lower blood sugar. Another way to cut cheese calories is to choose a strong-flavored type like Parmesan, Romano, feta, or Muenster because a little goes a long way, and you can use less.

Cheese wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t tend to use so much of it, as in lasagna or pizza that’s downright gooey with the stuff — but that’s easy to remedy! When making lasagna, you can use the usual amount of ricotta (part skim) and Parmesan but only half the mozzarella (part skim). Add a little extra spaghetti sauce to keep the lasagna moist. For pizza, you can ask for half the cheese at any pizzeria.

Health Bonus
If you think milk is good for you, consider this: It takes about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of milk to create a single pound (450 g) of cheese, making it a concentrated source of all the good stuff in milk, including phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and calcium. Probably because of their calcium content, low-fat dairy foods can also help bring down high blood pressure. (If you’re a cottage cheese fan, though, note that it’s one type of cheese that’s not high in calcium.)

Cheese can even help prevent cavities, especially if you eat it after meals or as a between-meal snack.

Glycemic Load: Very low

To make cheese last longer in the fridge, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent it from drying out and change the wrapping each time you use the cheese to keep mold from taking hold.

Menu Magic

  • Serve cheese and fruit as an appetizer or a snack or even dessert. Mix and match flavors and textures. Try cheddar with sliced apples, Brie with pears, shaved Parmesan with Asian pears, or cottage cheese with peaches.
  • Pack string cheese in your briefcase or purse for a low-fat, high-protein hunger tamer.
  • Add feta or goat cheese to omelets.
  • Create a salad with shredded Swiss, diced seedless grapes, chopped pecans, and chopped fresh basil. Serve with whole wheat crackers.
  • Make an easy toaster-oven pizza by topping a whole wheat pita with tomato sauce, part-skim mozzarella, and a vegetable of your choice and cooking until the cheese melts.

Perfect Portion: A serving of cheese is a scant 1 ounce (30 g).
For hard cheese, that’s about the size of two board-game dice. Cheese calorie counts range from a low of about 72 per serving for part-skim mozzarella to a high of about 130 per serving for Parmesan.


Yes, diabetics can also eat Cheese. It is delicious, and calcium-rich food that provides a lot of nutrition. This makes it a healthy inclusion in their balanced diet. As cheese is loaded in calories and fat, it makes a concern for diabetics.

However, they need not worry as they can indulge in them without elevating their blood pressure, blood sugar or body weight. It is needed that diabetic patients should choose healthful varieties of cheeses, that are low in calories and high in fiber. In this article, we will learn what kind of cheese is safe to eat in diabetes without damaging health.

Can people with diabetes eat cheese?

There is no harm in eating cheese when it is done in moderation. There are a lot of varieties of cheese that can be included to make it a healthful and balanced diet. You need to consider a few factors when it comes to choosing a diabetes-friendly diet. These are calories, and fat content.

People who have type 2 diabetes are prone to obesity. There are several steps that would assist them to eat cheese while keeping his blood sugar and weight under control.

  • Stick to small portions of cheese as excessive amounts can lead to development of heart ailments, high cholesterol, overweight, gallbladder issues, etc.
  • Select only low-calorie, low sodium and low fat varieties of cheese.
  • Don’t eat cheese in the form of meal. Only consume it in sparse amounts for taste.

What is the recommended amount of cheese in a day?

Diabetics are advised to eat only single serving of cheese in a day. A recommended serving size of “natural cheese” is 1.5 ounces in a day and “2 ounces” of processed form of cheese.

Advantages of cheese for diabetics

Cheese maintains healthy levels of glucose

Eating foods that have high glycemic index increases the blood sugar levels drastically in the body and vice versa. This happens because these foods are quick to digest in the body. A diabetic should incorporate low glycemic index foods in their diet. This reduces any spike in blood sugar levels in the body.

A majority of cheese have little or negligible amounts of carbohydrates and so rate at a very low level on the glycemic index scale. Cheddar cheese has 0.4 grams of carb per ounce, whereas Swiss cheese has 1.5 grams of carbs per ounce. So, you need to check the nutrition content of the cheese before you eat it.

A good source of Probiotics

Cheeses is loaded with protein, minerals and calcium that makes it a healthful choice for people. Fermented varieties of cheeses such as ricotta cheese, cottage cheeses, Gouda, cheddar, and feta, provide probiotics. It is a healthful bacterium that enhance the overall well-being of a person. This lowers chances of heart disease, fight yeast infections, and enhance gut health.

Rich in protein

Cheese is high in protein. It is considered to be a remarkable source of protein for vegetarian diabetic patients. This nutrient aids in balancing out the rise in blood sugar levels in the body that occurs when a person only eats carbs. Protein delays digestion of carb that makes you feel fuller for a longer time.

It aids in lowering your cravings for unhealthy foods. Different types of cheese contain different amounts of protein in it. Parmesan cheese has ten grams of protein in its single ounce, whereas cheddar cheese has seven grams of protein in its single ounce. Protein content is least in cottage cheese, contributing to only 3 grams in per ounce of it.

Cheese reduces chances of development of Type 2 diabetes

As per the study done on cheese on diabetic patients, it was revealed that cheese has the potential to reduce the chances of development of Type 2 diabetes in a person. Eating two slices of low fat and low sodium unprocessed cheese can reduce the chances of diabetes in a person by twelve percent.

The right way to incorporate cheese in your diet

Processed cheeses are high in fat and sodium that makes them bad choices for a diabetic diet. High sodium cheeses such as Edam, and feta should be discarded and low sodium varieties should be included in the diet. These varieties of cheese are considered to be the healthful choices for diabetics.

  • feta
  • Edam
  • imported blue
  • low-sodium cottage cheese
  • halloumi
  • Emmental
  • Wensleydale
  • mozzarella
  • cream cheese


Though cheese is high in salt and fat, but eating it in limited amounts is safe for a diabetic. Fresh cheese and cheese that has low calories and salt in it like Mozzarella, Wensleydale and Emmental are preferred over processed cheese.

As with dietary recommendation for diabetics, moderation and balance in consumption are important to minimize high blood sugar and associated complications, that includes heart ailments, and stroke.

Is Swiss Cheese Good For Diabetics

Is Swiss Cheese Good For Diabetics

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  • + Is watermelon good for ?
  • Is Swiss Cheese Good For Diabetics develops gradually, but the symptoms may seem to come on suddenly. When there’s no more insulin in the body, blood glucose levels rise quickly, and these symptoms can rapidly develop: Extreme weakness and/or tiredness.

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  • What causes type 1 Is Swiss Cheese Good For Diabetics? Is Swiss Cheese Good For Diabetics occurs when your immune system, the body’s system for fighting infection, attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Scientists think type 1 Is Swiss Cheese Good For Diabetics is caused by genes and environmental factors, such as viruses, that might trigger the disease.

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  • Studies show that men with Is Swiss Cheese Good For Diabetics often have reduced testosterone levels, which can affect their sex drive. … However, Is Swiss Cheese Good For Diabetics damages the blood vessels, which can affect blood flow to the penis. Diabetes can also lead to nerve damage and make it more difficult for him to maintain an erection.

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I don’t have any commercial relationship with this product. Indeed, no one pays me anything for my blog. (I do get paid by Quartz for columns I write there.) But also, all I know about this product is what the advertisements for it say. I figure that taking many kinds of fruit and turning them into a powder that I mix with milk destroys some of the value of the antioxidants, phytochemicals, and other micronutrients, but for me the fact that the sugar has been subtracted in making the powder more than makes up for that. Overall, I feel I am getting an improved ratio of the good aspects of fruit relative to the bad aspects. I do eat some whole fruit (cherries and cream :), but I feel the variety of different fruits that are used to make this powder is valuable because it might give me a wider range of different antioxidants, phytochemicals and other micronutrients.

In any case, I wanted to get across the message that, contrary to what you have been taught “fruits and vegetables” are not automatically healthy. Some vegetables—such as carrots, peas, and corn—are relatively starchy, and most fruits have a lot of sugar that weighs down the benefit from their other good aspects. Be just as careful with fruits and vegetables in your efforts to avoid too much fattening insulin production as with other things you eat.


If everyone kept handy a table of insulin indexes and treated foods and beverages with high insulin indexes as fattening, and treated foods and beverages with low insulin indexes as good for keeping weight low, it could make a huge difference to health in the US and other countries around the world. This is an area where accurate information alone can do a lot to raise welfare. So spread the word!

I hope that soon, many more foods and beverages will be tested for their effects on insulin production by the body, so that an insulin index table will soon be as complete as the calorie tables that I am warning you away from relying on.

Let me illustrate how I cope with the current state of the data on the insulin index. I wanted to guess the insulin index for basic hummus (with no added sugar). I first think about the insulin index for related foods like beans and lentils, but that still leaves me confused. Also I wondered whether being mashed up would affect the insulin index (anything that makes digesting something easier, including chopping something or mashing it can raise the insulin index), so I googled “hummus glycemic index” and found that it was 6. Multiplying by 1.1 or a bit more makes me hope insulin index for hummus is about 7, which would mean it was a very good food, suitable even for modified fasts. That is how I would then treat hummus until I found genuine insulin index data for hummus or for the chickpeas hummus is made from. An easier case is cucumbers. Without direct data on the insulin index for any of these, I start out expecting cucumbers to have a bit higher insulin index than lettuce or spinach. To confirm, I googled the glycemic index for cucumbers as 15 (giving me a guess of 17 for the insulin index for cucumbers), but find on the same webpage that spinach and lettuce have the same glycemic index of 15, somewhat higher than I expected. Googling kale glycemic index gets me an estimate of 4 or below for the glycemic index, which further makes me guess an insulin index of 5, which is behind my inclusion of kale in the “suitable for modified fasts” category above. Finally, curious about another ingredient in my daily salad, I googled a glycemic index of 15 for mushrooms.

I learned a lot from studying this table of the insulin index for various foods and beverages. I hope you have learned something from my take on that table.

Finally, let me emphasize again: please read “Obesity Is Always and Everywhere an Insulin Phenomenon” if you haven’t already. That is where I explain why insulin is so important for anyone who cares about their weight or the many deadly diseases that are highly correlated with weight.

Update: I think you will find the discussion about this post on my Facebook page interesting. And here is an organized version of the discussion on Twitter. Also, let me copy out here a highly relevant Q&A with the same commenter in the comments for my post “On Fighting Obesity” and “‘Forget Calorie Counting. It’s the Insulin Index, Stupid’ in a Few Tweets”:

Matt: So i don’t totally get the fascination with focusing on insulin vs calories in / calories out.

If you were to eat a ton of fatty meat, nuts, guacamole etc and low sugar you would still gain weight. I don’t think many nutrionists / healthcare professionals would disagree. Would you?

What usually happens, however, is that carbs / sugar are insanely cheap and tasteful and ubiquitous now such that way more calories in vs calories out means weight has gone. As well as insulin issues and overconsumption of sugar. I just don’t see why you disagree so much with saying yeah it is an calories in vs calories out thing, but primarily caused due to the massive increase in sugar / fast digesting carbs.

I think you partially agree to this by saying the problem with calories in / calories out is wrong due to the fact that calories in isn’t totally exogenous.

In short, I think you are on to something with the importance of sugar, and fast digesting carbs, and the resulting insulin effects, I just think that you miss a good bit by not integrating that with the relatively accepted and common sense calories in / calories out framework.

Miles: I totally disagree. If you eat only high-fat food, you just can’t get much down. You will be too full.

By contrast, people can eat a huge amount of sugary things. Sugar gives you a keen appetite.

How many calories you want to eat is governed in a big way by how much insulin is produced. Sugar produces a lot of insulin and makes you read to eat more an hour or two later. Fat by itself makes you not want to eat more.

Calories in/calories out talks as if calories in and calories out are exogenous. They aren’t. They are governed in a big way by insulin.

Matt: The bloomin onion has 1,950 calories, of which 72 are due to sugar, and over 1300 are due to fat… you are telling me that is not fattening and that the fat in tht will be satieting? Or that a wedge salad that has 500 calories, and then the clam chowder that has 400 calories which is mainly fat is filling and won’t make you fat? That’s crazy….None have substantial refined carbs or “starchy”, they all have huge, huge amounts of fat and added fat / frying / oil.

Sugar is bad, which seems obvious, and I totally agree. the insulin side you and taube talk about is just way exaggerated.

(btw, love your blog, and love your unique economic insights. It probably almost seems like I am trolling you since this is about my fourth comment on this topic, but I have lost and kept off 90 lbs over 4 years ( statistics shows <10 percent of people do this) with primarily a calorie counting philosiphy, and this was emphasized when i did nutrition research before recently going to outback (not a big govt rule guy at all, but them mandating calorie information for larger chains certainly has changed my habits, despite many studies I think showing smaller broad scale change). Just thought I would make what anecdotally and logically seems obvious about added fat (oil / butter / fried etc).

Miles: Just avoiding sugar and flour (which is highly correlated with avoiding processed foods) will do an enormous amount of good. So if you are getting that right, I am not surprised you are having a lot of success.

Yes, I do think that it is better to focus on the effects of food and drink on insulin than on calories, which implies that avoiding avoiding dietary fat is not helpful (unless you are substituting food with an even lower insulin index or are fasting—no food).

Think of it this way: many American adults gain about 1 pound a year. One pound of body fat corresponds to about 3500 calories. That means 1 pound a year is slightly less than 10 calories a day. So someone gaining 1 pound a year is keeping the calories in/calories out balance on average within 10 calories per day out of, say, 2000 calories a day overall. That is a remarkably close match! It is clear that people are not doing this consciously. So there must be unconscious regulatory mechanisms that are keeping calories in and calories out in very close balance. If those regulatory mechanisms get off by even 10 calories a day, it leads to being overweight in a now typical way. If those regulatory mechanisms get off by 30 calories a day, it can lead to serious obesity. So it is the regulatory mechanism you should pay attention to, and keeping it on track. The regulatory mechanism will handle the calories in/calories out for you. And insulin is central to the regulatory mechanism.

Let me also say that many things people think are fattening really are fattening, but are fattening for a different reason than people think:

  • Bread and butter: It is the bread you need to worry about, not the butter.

  • Pizza: It is the dough and the sugar in the toppings you need to worry about, not the cheese.

  • Hamburger: It is the bun you need to worry about, not the meat.

  • Ice Cream: It is the sugar (or nonsugar sweeteners) and corn syrup you need to worry about, not the cream.

Note: If you find the title of this post puzzling, take a look at the Wikipedia article for “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Update: Bonnie Kavoussi pointed me to the graphic below, which does a good job at showing how to avoid the types of food that are the very highest on the insulin index. But here are my notes on this graphic, from my post “The Keto Food Pyramid”:

  1. The Keto Food Pyramid doesn’t do a good job at distinguishing between types of food that are medium on the insulin index and those that are low on the insulin index. Avoiding high is most important, but leaning toward low in the choice between low and medium also matters. In particular, any fruit (including berries), as well as most types of meat, poultry and fish need to be eaten in moderation,

  2. While skim milk is high on the insulin index, whole milk is not.

  3. While some types of beans are high on the insulin index, other types of beans are reasonably low on the insulin index.

  4. While I suspect typical American spaghetti is indeed quite bad, existing evidence on the insulin index suggests (surprisingly) that there may be some types of pasta that are not so bad. More research is needed on this.

  5. It is only raw carrots that are OK. Cooked carrots have a higher glycemic index, suggesting a high insulin index.

  6. Potatoes should be on the banned list.

Insulin Response: It Comes from Eating Protein Too

It’s pretty well known that eating carbs causes an insulin release. But what many people don’t realize is protein causes a similar response.

What is an insulin response?

When we eat a meal, our digestive system breaks down food into nutrients that are absorbed into the bloodstream.

Carbohydrates are broken down into sugars, which lead to an increase in blood sugar after consuming them. It’s this rise in blood sugar that triggers the release of the blood-sugar-lowering hormone, insulin. This process is known as an insulin response.

This process is crucial because of the delicate balancing act we call blood sugar. The body likes to keep a tight reign on blood sugar as too low or too high can have deleterious effects. We often hear insulin and think “bad” when in fact it is absolutely essential for optimal health and function.

Proteins are broken down into amino acids, which also stimulate an insulin response. However, the type of insulin response varies depending on the protein food source.

Benefits and dangers of an insulin response

The rise in insulin after eating helps move sugar into body tissues, and therefore keeps your blood sugar from getting too high.

Note from Luke: Think of insulin as a traffic cop. It tells the blood sugar(glucose) where to go. In normal and healthy individuals the glucose fuels your nervous system, red blood cells, brain and muscle tissue. With optimal amounts and good insulin sensitivity, glucose fuels your nervous system and is burned off as energy. With too much or poor insulin sensitivity your muscle don’t readily grab the glucose and it goes to where it’s always welcome: fat stores.

But the release of insulin can have negative effects. Too much insulin, for instance, can stress the pancreatic cells that secrete insulin. And this added stress might cause the exhausted cells to stop releasing insulin normally or, in the worst cases, to die. These outcomes are particularly dangerous, as your body needs insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

A diet high in refined carbohydrates, low in fiber and protein can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. When you are constantly stimulating insulin and causing huge blood sugar swings, eventually your muscles become less sensitive to it’s effects. So to get the muscle to absorb the glucose you need more insulin, then more and then more. Pretty soon the muscle doesn’t really respond to insulin and much of the glucose is stored as bodyfat and even sometimes in the liver, leading to fatty liver disease.

In severe cases, some individuals stop making insulin altogether which is extremely dangerous as chronically high blood sugar can lead to neuropathy, kidney damage, high blood pressure, eye damage and high cholesterol. A pretty strong case for having healthy insulin levels.

With information like this, many people read “blood sugar” and “insulin” and think that carbohydrates are bad and insulin is worse. In fact, many claims about insulin responses are taken out of context as the glycemic index of foods are measured individually (such as w hite potato) and almost no one ever eats a white potato alone. Combined with protein, fats and fiber the glycemic index becomes irrelevant, blood sugar spikes are blunted and insulin release is dampened.

If all of that isn’t enough for you, let find out below how protein also stimulates insulin which should lessen some fears about insulin’s effects and shed light on why it is important, healthy and normal.

Effects of different types of protein

Different proteins are digested and absorbed at different rates. For example, whey protein is absorbed much faster from the digestive tract than casein protein.

In fact, a July 2007 article published in the “Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews” showed that whey protein resulted in “higher after-meal amino acid concentrations and a greater insulin response than casein”.

A similar study, conducted in 2011, concluded the daily intake of at least one high-protein meal (especially whey protein) consumed with low to moderate amounts of carbohydrates increases insulin release and lowers blood sugar.

But still, research has shown that 35 grams of casein is enough to spike insulin after an overnight fast. And this insulin spike from protein occurs very quickly after protein intake, typically reaching its peak levels at about 15 minutes after ingestion.

Food Insulin Index

The Food Insulin Index measures the body’s insulin response to individual food items. Check out the insulin score for some common foods below:

While high protein, virtually no-carb foods like meat and eggs are low on the glycemic index, they measure high on the insulin index. In other words, while the meat and eggs didn’t cause a spike in blood sugar the way most carbohydrates do, they do result in a significant rise in insulin.

In non-diabetics the insulin response to protein is usually only 20-30% of the response you would get from an equal dose of glucose. In diabetics, however, the insulin response to protein can be as high as 94% of the equivalent glucose response.

Furthermore, high-protein foods frequently stimulate insulin to a similar, or sometimes even greater, degree than high-carbohydrate foods. For example:

  • Beef and fish release as much insulin as brown rice.
  • Pasta (white or brown) and porridge release less insulin per calorie than cheese, beef and fish

Quick tip: Protein also stimulates glucagon, an antagonist to insulin. So even though carbohydrates and protein spike insulin which lowers blood sugar, protein also stimulates glucagon which elevates blood sugar, resulting in a stable environment. This is one reason why eating protein at most meals and snacks is so beneficial it helps balance the relationship of blood sugar and insulin as well as keeping you full and building muscle.

As you can tell, gauging the relative insulin responses of certain foods can be challenging and the actual numbers can be surprising. Maintaining a healthy blood sugar is important to everyone’s health, regardless of whether or not you’re diabetic. If you want to double check, be sure to look up the insulin response levels of the foods you’re consuming!

Insulin and Muscle Building

Whether your goal is muscle gain or fat loss, stimulating insulin after a workout is beneficial. The reason? Insulin is anti-catabolic which means it stops muscle breakdown. Not only does this present a better environment for muscle growth but also ensures you do not LOSE muscle mass while dieting.

Since we know from above that protein (and especially whey protein) stimulate insulin, consuming a high protein meal after a workout and even a whey shake directly after a workout stimulates insulin which halts muscle breakdown. The insulin also helps shuttle the protein into muscles to help BUILD muscle tissue.


So even on a fat loss diet or low-carbohydrate diet stimulating insulin at key times can be quite beneficial. If your goal is performance or muscle gain you have more leeway to stimulate insulin with carbohydrates around a workout from an overall calorie perspective. But in a fat loss and/or low-carb phase a whey protein shake helps keep calories down while accomplishing the same insulin release.


“How Much Protein – Protein and Insulin – How Much Protein to Spike Insulin Levels.” How Much Protein / Protein and Insulin – How Much Protein to Spike Insulin Levels.,

When people eat a food containing carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which enters the blood.

  • As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that prompts cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage.
  • As cells absorb blood sugar, levels in the bloodstream begin to fall.
  • When this happens, the pancreas start making glucagon, a hormone that signals the liver to start releasing stored sugar.
  • This interplay of insulin and glucagon ensure that cells throughout the body, and especially in the brain, have a steady supply of blood sugar.

Carbohydrate metabolism is important in the development of type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body can’t make enough insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it makes.

  • Type 2 diabetes usually develops gradually over a number of years, beginning when muscle and other cells stop responding to insulin. This condition, known as insulin resistance, causes blood sugar and insulin levels to stay high long after eating. Over time, the heavy demands made on the insulin-making cells wears them out, and insulin production eventually stops.

Glycemic index

In the past, carbohydrates were commonly classified as being either “simple” or “complex,” and described as follows:

Simple carbohydrates:

These carbohydrates are composed of sugars (such as fructose and glucose) which have simple chemical structures composed of only one sugar (monosaccharides) or two sugars (disaccharides). Simple carbohydrates are easily and quickly utilized for energy by the body because of their simple chemical structure, often leading to a faster rise in blood sugar and insulin secretion from the pancreas – which can have negative health effects.

Complex carbohydrates:

These carbohydrates have more complex chemical structures, with three or more sugars linked together (known as oligosaccharides and polysaccharides). Many complex carbohydrate foods contain fiber, vitamins and minerals, and they take longer to digest – which means they have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar, causing it to rise more slowly. But other so called complex carbohydrate foods such as white bread and white potatoes contain mostly starch but little fiber or other beneficial nutrients.

Dividing carbohydrates into simple and complex, however, does not account for the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar and chronic diseases. To explain how different kinds of carbohydrate-rich foods directly affect blood sugar, the glycemic index was developed and is considered a better way of categorizing carbohydrates, especially starchy foods.

The glycemic index ranks carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 based on how quickly and how much they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, are rapidly digested and cause substantial fluctuations in blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index, like whole oats, are digested more slowly, prompting a more gradual rise in blood sugar.

  • Low-glycemic foods have a rating of 55 or less, and foods rated 70-100 are considered high-glycemic foods. Medium-level foods have a glycemic index of 56-69.
  • Eating many high-glycemic-index foods – which cause powerful spikes in blood sugar – can lead to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, (2) heart disease, (3), (4) and overweight, (5,6) (7). There is also preliminary work linking high-glycemic diets to age-related macular degeneration, (8) ovulatory infertility, (9) and colorectal cancer. (10)
  • Foods with a low glycemic index have been shown to help control type 2 diabetes and improve weight loss.
  • A 2014 review of studies researching carbohydrate quality and chronic disease risk showed that low-glycemic-index diets may offer anti-inflammatory benefits. (16)
  • The University of Sydney in Australia maintains a searchable database of foods and their corresponding glycemic indices.

Many factors can affect a food’s glycemic index, including the following:

  • Processing: Grains that have been milled and refined—removing the bran and the germ—have a higher glycemic index than minimally processed whole grains.
  • Physical form: Finely ground grain is more rapidly digested than coarsely ground grain. This is why eating whole grains in their “whole form” like brown rice or oats can be healthier than eating highly processed whole grain bread.
  • Fiber content: High-fiber foods don’t contain as much digestible carbohydrate, so it slows the rate of digestion and causes a more gradual and lower rise in blood sugar. (17)
  • Ripeness: Ripe fruits and vegetables tend to have a higher glycemic index than un-ripened fruit.
  • Fat content and acid content: Meals with fat or acid are converted more slowly into sugar.

Numerous epidemiologic studies have shown a positive association between higher dietary glycemic index and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. However, the relationship between glycemic index and body weight is less well studied and remains controversial.

Glycemic load

One thing that a food’s glycemic index does not tell us is how much digestible carbohydrate – the total amount of carbohydrates excluding fiber – it delivers. That’s why researchers developed a related way to classify foods that takes into account both the amount of carbohydrate in the food in relation to its impact on blood sugar levels. This measure is called the glycemic load. (11,12) A food’s glycemic load is determined by multiplying its glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate the food contains. In general, a glycemic load of 20 or more is high, 11 to 19 is medium, and 10 or under is low.

The glycemic load has been used to study whether or not high-glycemic load diets are associated with increased risks for type 2 diabetes risk and cardiac events. In a large meta-analysis of 24 prospective cohort studies, researchers concluded that people who consumed lower-glycemic load diets were at a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate a diet of higher-glycemic load foods. (13) A similar type of meta-analysis concluded that higher-glycemic load diets were also associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease events. (14)

Here is a listing of low, medium, and high glycemic load foods. For good health, choose foods that have a low or medium glycemic load, and limit foods that have a high glycemic load.

Low glycemic load (10 or under)

  • Bran cereals
  • Apple
  • Orange
  • Kidney beans
  • Black beans
  • Lentils
  • Wheat tortilla
  • Skim milk
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Carrots

Medium glycemic load (11-19)

  • Pearled barley: 1 cup cooked
  • Brown rice: 3/4 cup cooked
  • Oatmeal: 1 cup cooked
  • Bulgur: 3/4 cup cooked
  • Rice cakes: 3 cakes
  • Whole grain breads: 1 slice
  • Whole-grain pasta: 1 1/4 cup cooked

High glycemic load (20+)

  • Baked potato
  • French fries
  • Refined breakfast cereal: 1 oz
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages: 12 oz
  • Candy bars: 1 2-oz bar or 3 mini bars
  • Couscous: 1 cup cooked
  • White basmati rice: 1 cup cooked
  • White-flour pasta: 1 1/4 cup cooked (15)

Here’s a list of the glycemic index and glycemic load for the most common foods.

2. de Munter JS, Hu FB, Spiegelman D, Franz M, van Dam RM. Whole grain, bran, and germ intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study and systematic review. PLoS Med. 2007;4:e261.

3. Beulens JW, de Bruijne LM, Stolk RP, et al. High dietary glycemic load and glycemic index increase risk of cardiovascular disease among middle-aged women: a population-based follow-up study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2007;50:14-21.

5. Anderson JW, Randles KM, Kendall CW, Jenkins DJ. Carbohydrate and fiber recommendations for individuals with diabetes: a quantitative assessment and meta-analysis of the evidence. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23:5-17.

7. Maki KC, Rains TM, Kaden VN, Raneri KR, Davidson MH. Effects of a reduced-glycemic-load diet on body weight, body composition, and cardiovascular disease risk markers in overweight and obese adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85:724-34.

8. Chiu CJ, Hubbard LD, Armstrong J, et al. Dietary glycemic index and carbohydrate in relation to early age-related macular degeneration. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83:880-6.

9. Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. A prospective study of dietary carbohydrate quantity and quality in relation to risk of ovulatory infertility. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63:78-86.

10. Higginbotham S, Zhang ZF, Lee IM, et al. Dietary glycemic load and risk of colorectal cancer in the Women’s Health Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004;96:229-33.

11. Liu S, Willett WC. Dietary glycemic load and atherothrombotic risk. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2002;4:454-61.

12. Willett W, Manson J, Liu S. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and risk of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:274S-80S.

13. Livesey G, Taylor R, Livesey H, Liu S. Is there a dose-response relation of dietary glycemic load to risk of type 2 diabetes? Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97:584-96.

14. Mirrahimi A, de Souza RJ, Chiavaroli L, et al. Associations of glycemic index and load with coronary heart disease events: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohorts. J Am Heart Assoc. 2012;1:e000752.

17. AlEssa H, Bupathiraju S, Malik V, Wedick N, Campos H, Rosner B, Willett W, Hu FB. Carbohydrate quality measured using multiple quality metrics is negatively associated with type 2 diabetes. Circulation. 2015; 1-31:A:20.

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