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The carrot (Daucus carota) is a root vegetable often claimed to be the perfect health food.
It is crunchy, tasty, and highly nutritious. Carrots are a particularly good source of beta carotene, fiber, vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants (1).
They also have a number of health benefits. They’re a weight-loss-friendly food and have been linked to lower cholesterol levels and improved eye health.
What’s more, their carotene antioxidants have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer.
Carrots are found in many colors, including yellow, white, orange, red, and purple.
Orange carrots get their bright color from beta carotene, an antioxidant that your body converts into vitamin A.
This article tells you everything you need to know about carrots.
Carrots’ water content ranges from 86–95%, and the edible portion consists of around 10% carbs (1, 2).
Carrots contain very little fat and protein (3).
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
Carrots are mainly composed of water and carbs.
The carbs consist of starch and sugars, such as sucrose and glucose (1).
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 (4, 5).
Eating low-glycemic foods is linked to numerous health benefits and considered particularly beneficial for people with diabetes (6, 7).
Pectin is the main form of soluble fiber in carrots (8).
Soluble fibers can lower blood sugar levels by slowing down your digestion of sugar and starch.
They can also feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, which may lead to improved health and decreased risk of disease (9, 10, 11).
What’s more, certain soluble fibers can impair the absorption of cholesterol from your digestive tract, lowering blood cholesterol (12, 13).
The main insoluble fibers in carrots are cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Insoluble fibers may reduce your risk of constipation and promote regular bowel movements (1, 14).
Carrots are about 10% carbs, consisting of starch, fiber, and simple sugars. They are extremely low in fat and protein.
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 (15).
- Biotin: A B vitamin formerly known as vitamin H, biotin plays an important role in fat and protein metabolism (16).
- Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K1 is important for blood coagulation and can promote bone health (17, 18).
- 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 are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. They are also a good source of several B vitamins, as well as vitamin K and potassium.
Other plant compounds
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 (1).
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 (19).
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 (20, 21, 22).
- 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 (23).
- 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 (24).
- Polyacetylenes: Recent research has identified bioactive compounds in carrots that may help protect against leukemia and other cancers (1, 25, 26).
- Anthocyanins: These are powerful antioxidants found in dark-colored carrots.
Carrots are a great source of many plant compounds, especially carotenoids, such as beta carotene and lutein.
Health benefits of carrots
Much of the research on carrots has focused on carotenoids.
Reduced risk of cancer
Diets rich in carotenoids may help protect against several types of cancer.
This includes prostate, colon, and stomach cancers (27, 28, 29).
Women with high circulating levels of carotenoids may also have a reduced risk of breast cancer (30).
Dated research suggested that carotenoids could protect against lung cancer, but newer studies have not identified a correlation (31, 32).
Lower blood cholesterol
High blood cholesterol is a well-known risk factor for heart disease.
Intake of carrots has been linked to lower cholesterol levels (12, 13).
As a low-calorie food, carrots can increase fullness and decrease calorie intake in subsequent meals (33).
For this reason, they may be a useful addition to an effective weight loss diet.
Individuals with low vitamin A levels are more likely to experience night blindness, a condition that may diminish by eating carrots or other foods rich in vitamin A or carotenoids (34).
Carotenoids may also cut your risk of age-related macular degeneration (35, 36, 37).
Eating carrots is linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease, as well as improved eye health. Additionally, this vegetable may be a valuable component of an effective weight loss diet.
Organic vs. conventionally grown carrots
Organic farming uses natural methods for growing the crop.
Studies comparing organic and conventionally grown carrots did not find any difference in the amount of carotenoids or antioxidant content and quality (38, 39, 40, 41, 42).
However, conventionally grown carrots contain pesticide residues. The long-term health effects of low-grade pesticide intake are unclear, but some scientists have voiced concerns (43).
While no evidence suggests that organic carrots are more nutritious than conventionally grown ones, organic varieties are less likely to harbor pesticides.
Baby carrots are an increasingly popular snack food.
Two kinds of carrots are called baby carrots, which can be misleading.
One 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.
Baby carrots are whole carrots harvested before they grow large, while baby-cut carrots are pieces from larger carrots that have been machine-cut, peeled, polished, and washed before packing.
Carrots are generally considered safe to eat but may have adverse effects in some people.
Additionally, eating too much carotene can cause your skin to become a little yellow or orange, but this is harmless.
According to one study, carrots can cause pollen-related allergic reactions in up to 25% of food-allergic individuals (44).
Carrot allergy is an example of cross-reactivity in which the proteins in certain fruits or vegetables cause an allergic reaction because of their similarity to the proteins found in certain types of pollen.
If you are sensitive to birch pollen or mugwort pollen, you might react to carrots.
This can cause your mouth to tingle or itch. In some people, it may trigger swelling of the throat or a severe allergic shock (anaphylaxis) (45, 46, 47).
Carrots grown in contaminated soil or exposed to contaminated water may harbor larger amounts of heavy metals, which can affect their safety and quality (48).
Carrots may cause reactions in people allergic to pollen. Additionally, carrots grown in contaminated soils may contain higher amounts of heavy metals, affecting their safety and quality.
The bottom line
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.