What is a Carrot?
The carrot is a root vegetable, usually orange in color, though purple, black, red, white, and yellow cultivars exist. They are a domesticated form of the wild carrot, Daucus carota, native to Europe and Southwestern Asia.
The plant probably originated in Persia and was originally cultivated for its leaves and seeds.
People probably first cultivated the carrot thousands of years ago, in the area that is now Afghanistan. The original small, forked, purple, or yellow root had a bitter, woody flavor and was quite different from the carrot that we know today.
Farmers grew purple, red, yellow, and white carrots long before the appearance of the sweet, crunchy, and aromatic orange variety that is now popular. Dutch growers may have developed this type in the 16th century.
The table below shows the amount of each nutrient in a medium-sized, raw carrot that weighs around 61g
It also shows how much of each nutrient an adult should consume each day, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Needs vary, however, according to sex and age.
|Nutrients||Amount in 1 medium, raw carrot||The daily recommendation for adults|
|Carbohydrate (g)||5.8 — including 2.9 g of sugar||130|
|Calcium (milligrams [mg])||20.1||1,000–1,300|
|Vitamin C (mg)||3.6||65–90|
|Folate (mcg DFE)||11.6||400|
|Vitamin A (mcg RAE)||509||700–900|
|Beta carotene (mcg)||5,050||No data|
|Alpha-carotene (mcg)||2,120||No data|
|Lutein & zeaxanthin (mcg)||156||No data|
|Vitamin E (mg)||0.4||15|
|Vitamin K (mcg)||8.1||75–120|
Carrots also contain various B vitamins and traces of iron and other minerals.
Carrots’ water content ranges from 86–95%, and the edible portion consists of around 10% carbs.
The nutrition facts for two small-to-medium raw carrots (100 grams) are:
- Calories: 41
- Water: 88%
- Protein: 0.9 grams
- Carbs: 9.6 grams
- Sugar: 4.7 grams
- Fiber: 2.8 grams
- Fat: 0.2 grams
The carbs consist of starch and sugars, such as sucrose and glucose.
They are also a relatively good source of fiber, with one medium-sized carrot (61 grams) providing 2 grams.
Carrots often rank low on the glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar after a meal.
Their GI ranges from 16–60 — lowest for raw carrots, a little higher for cooked ones, and highest for puréed.
Soluble fibers can lower blood sugar levels by slowing down your digestion of sugar and starch.
Antioxidants and the color of carrots
Antioxidants are nutrients present in plant-based foods. They help the body remove free radicals, unstable molecules that can cause cell damage if too many accumulate in the body.
Free radicals result from natural processes and environmental pressures. The body can eliminate many free radicals naturally, but dietary antioxidants can help, especially when the oxidant load is high.
The antioxidants alpha and beta carotene give carrots their bright orange color. The body absorbs beta carotene through the intestines and converts it into vitamin A during digestion. This is why people consider carotenoids to be provitamins.
Farmer’s markets and some specialty stores offer carrots in a range of colors, including purple, yellow, and red. These varieties contain different compounds with antioxidant properties.
Purple carrots contain anthocyanin, yellow carrots contain lutein, and red carrots are rich in lycopene.
Vitamins and minerals
Carrots are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, especially biotin, potassium, and vitamins A (from beta carotene), K1 (phylloquinone), and B6.
- Vitamin A: Carrots are rich in beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. This nutrient promotes good vision and is important for growth, development, and immune function.
- Biotin: A B vitamin formerly known as vitamin H, biotin plays an important role in fat and protein metabolism.
- Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K1 is important for blood coagulation and can promote bone health.
- Potassium: An essential mineral, potassium is important for blood pressure control.
- Vitamin B6: A group of related vitamins, B6 is involved in the conversion of food into energy.
Carrots offer many plant compounds, including carotenoids.
These are substances with powerful antioxidant activity that have been linked to improved immune function and reduced risk of many illnesses, including heart disease, various degenerative ailments, and certain types of cancer.
Beta carotene, the main carotene in carrots, can be converted into vitamin A in your body.
However, this conversion process may vary by individual. Eating fat with carrots can help you absorb more of the beta carotene.
The main plant compounds in carrots are:
- Beta carotene: Orange carrots are very high in beta carotene. The absorption is better (up to 6.5-fold) if the carrots are cooked.
- Alpha-carotene: An antioxidant that, like beta carotene, is partly converted into vitamin A in your body.
- Lutein: One of the most common antioxidants in carrots, lutein is predominantly found in yellow and orange carrots and is important for eye health.
- Lycopene: A bright red antioxidant found in many red fruits and vegetables, including red and purple carrots, lycopene may decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease.
- Polyacetylenes: Recent research has identified bioactive compounds in carrots that may help protect against leukemia and other cancers.
- Anthocyanins: These are powerful antioxidants found in dark-colored carrots.
Health benefits of carrots
The American Heart Association (AHA) encourage people to add less salt, or sodium, to meals, while eating more foods that contain potassium, such as carrots. Potassium helps relax the blood vessels, reducing the risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues.
Meanwhile, a 2017 reviewTrusted Source concluded that people with a high fiber intake are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people who eat little fiber. Eating plenty of fiber may also help reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol in the blood.
2. Lower blood cholesterol
High blood cholesterol is a well-known risk factor for heart disease.
A balanced diet can help keep the bones healthy.
4. Reduced risk of cancer
The antioxidant effects of dietary carotenoids — yellow, orange, and red organic pigments present in carrots and other vegetables — may reduce this risk. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two examples of these carotenoids.
One medium-sized raw carrot, weighing 61 gramsTrusted Source (g), contains 509 micrograms (mcg) RAE of vitamin A.
It also provides 5,050 mcg of beta carotene and 2,120 mcg of alpha carotene[YB2] , two provitamin A antioxidants that the body can convert into more vitamin A, as needed.
According to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, female adults need to consume at least 700 mcg RAETrusted Source of vitamin A each day, while male adults need at least 900 mcg RAE.
Prostate cancer: A 2015 review of studiesTrusted Source suggested a link between a diet rich in carotenoids and a lower risk of prostate cancer. However, confirming the association, then determining its cause, would require more research.
Earlier, a 2008 meta-analysis indicated that participants with high intakes of various carotenoids had a 21% lower risk of lung cancer, after adjusting for smoking, than participants in control groups.
5. Diabetes control
Carrots have a sweet flavor and contain natural sugars. What does this mean for people with diabetes?
Overall, this makes a carrot a low-calorie, high-fiber food that is relatively low in sugar. For this reason, it scores low on the glycemic index (GI). This index can help people with diabetes understand which foods are likely to raise their blood sugar levels.
Boiled carrots have a GI score of aroundTrusted Source. This means that they are unlikely to trigger a blood sugar spike and are safe for people with diabetes to eat.
Meanwhile, authors of a 2018 reviewTrusted Source concluded that consuming a high-fiber diet may help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. High-fiber foods may also help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels.
.A medium carrot contains 1.7 gTrusted Source of fiber, or between 5% and 7.6% of a person’s daily needsTrusted Source, depending on their age and sex. Meanwhile, 1 cup of chopped carrots provides 3.58 g of fiber.
7. Immune function and healing
Another antioxidant that carrots provide is vitamin C.
The vitamin is also present in immune cells, which help the body fight disease. A healthy immune system may prevent a range of diseases, including cancer, according to a 2017 studyTrusted Source.
If a person is unwell, the immune system has to work harder, and this may compromiseTrusted Source vitamin C levels.
Some expertsTrusted Source believe that taking additional vitamin C may boost the immune system’s function when it is under stress. Consuming vitamin C may, for example, slightly reduce the severity and duration of a cold.
Can carrots help you see in the dark? In a way, yes.
Carrots contain vitamin A, and a vitamin A deficiency may result in xerophthalmia, a progressive eye disease. Xerophthalmia can cause night blindness or difficulty seeing when levels of light are low.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, a lack of vitamin A is one of the main preventable causes of blindness in children.
So, in a way, carrots can help you see in the dark.
However, most people’s vision is unlikely to improve from eating carrots, unless they have a vitamin A deficiency.
For this reason, they may be a useful addition to an effective weight loss diet.
Baby carrots are an increasingly popular snack food.
Two kinds of carrots are called baby carrots, which can be misleading.
On the one hand, there are whole carrots harvested while still small.
On the other hand, there are baby-cut carrots, which are pieces from larger carrots that have been machine-cut into the preferred size, then peeled, polished, and sometimes washed in small amounts of chlorine before packing.
There’s very little difference in nutrients between regular and baby carrots, and they should have the same health effects.
Overconsumption of vitamin A can be toxic. Also, it may cause a slight orange tint to the skin, though this is not harmful to health.
An overdose of vitamin A is unlikely to happen because of diet alone, but it may result from supplement use. Organic Vitamin A/carrot supplement are also available to purchase online here.
Also, some medications derive from vitamin A, such as isotretinoin (Accutane), a treatment for acne, or acitretin (Soriatane), a treatment for psoriasis. People who use these drugs should eat carrots in moderation to avoid an overdose of vitamin A.
Anyone who is starting a new medication should check with their doctor about any recommended dietary changes.
Some people are allergic to compounds in carrots. Anyone who develops hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing after eating carrots needs urgent medical attention.
If the symptoms become severe, the person may experience anaphylaxis, a potential life- threatening reaction that can develop quickly.
If a person knows that they are allergic to carrots, they should carefully check the ingredients of smoothies, vegetable soups, and a range of other products.
Carrots grown in contaminated soil or exposed to contaminated water may harbor larger amounts of heavy metals, which can affect their safety and quality (Trusted Source).
Carrots are the perfect snack — crunchy, full of nutrients, low in calories, and sweet.
They’re associated with heart and eye health, improved digestion, and even weight loss.
This root vegetable comes in several colors, sizes, and shapes, all of which are great additions to a healthy diet.
Carrots have thin skins and thus can absorb chemicals easily underground.
That said, carrots are not usually found on the dirty dozen list of fruits and vegetables that are most susceptible to pesticide exposure.
Even if a food is not on the dirty dozen list, if you eat it daily or very often, I recommend choosing organic, when possible.
Please let us know in the comments below.
- Do you eat carrots? If so, how do you prepare and eat your carrots?
- Did you have health benefits from eating carrots? If so, how did it help you?
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