What are carrots?
5 Health Benefits Of Carrots – Carrots (Daucus carota), a common root vegetable of the Apiaceae family, are highly adaptable. Eat them raw as a snack or in salads, simmer them for soups and sides, or add them to sweet baked goods.
Although most of us think of carrots as being bright orange, their original colors were yellow and purple. Although the stem and leaves are also edible and can be used in various regions of the world as a herb or salad leaf, the plant’s root is the component that is most frequently consumed.
Carrots are a significant source of dietary carotenes and a significant source of the vitamin A we need in the Western diet.
An 80g serving of carrots (raw) provides:
- 0.4g protein
- 0.3g fat
- 6.2g carbohydrates
- 3.1g fiber
- 142mg potassium
- 2mg vitamin C
- An 80g serving of carrots contributes one of your five-a-day. Check out our handy infographic for more information on what counts towards your daily quota.
Top 5 health benefits of carrots
- Rich source of dietary carotenoids
As their name suggests, carrots are rich in plant compounds called carotenoids – these compounds accumulate in the root, the part we most enjoy eating. About 80 percent of the carotenes in carrots are a type called beta-carotene and are often referred to as pro-vitamin A because we convert them to vitamin A in our intestines. The majority of these carotenoids are in the flesh or outer section of the root, rather than the core. Carotenoids play an important role in eyesight – the old wives’ tale of eating carrots to help see in the dark has more than an element of truth in it.
Carotenoids also help maintain a well-functioning immune system, are important for our skin and healthy aging, and support our mucosal membranes in important areas like the respiratory system.
Interestingly, when we cook carrots by roasting, baking, griddling or microwaving we can improve, or at the very least maintain, their carotenoid content. Puréed and enjoyed with a little fat or oil and you’ll increase your ability to absorb the pro-vitamin A content even more.
- May support cholesterol balance and heart health
Carrots are a source of fiber as well as vitamin C, which contribute to their heart-protective properties. Carrots also appear to help modify cholesterol absorption and may improve cholesterol balance as a result.
However, much of this evidence is derived from animal studies and more human trials are needed before heart benefits can be confirmed.
- May help with weight loss goals
Low in calories and a good source of fiber, research suggests that including vegetables, like carrots, in your diet helps increase fullness and a sense of satiation. Nevertheless, some weight loss plans, like the very low-carb diet plans, advise avoiding carrots because they contribute more in the way of simple carbs. This approach ignores the other health benefits of carrots and the fact that, when eaten in the whole form, the structure, fiber, and high water content of carrots help curb appetite. Their natural sweetness may also be helpful in reducing other sugars in the diet.
4. May reduce the risk of cancer
Protective plant compounds mean carrots have been associated with reduced cancer risk, although evidence to support this is inconclusive.
The reduced risk may be due to the fact that carrots are enjoyed by people who are more likely to eat a healthy diet, rich in a wide variety of vegetables.
- May support gut health
A study of young women who ate sufficient carrots to supply 15g of fiber per day over a three-week period reported that the fiber was highly fermentable. Further, studies confirm that vegetable has a prebiotic role, which means carrot fiber is a good source of fuel for the beneficial bacteria that reside in the gut. Many of these gut bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids which have benefits not only for the gut but for our wider health too.
Are carrots safe for everyone?
For the majority of people, and as part of a balanced, healthy diet, carrots are generally recognized as safe unless you have an allergy to them. An allergy to carrots appears to be more likely in parts of Europe than elsewhere in the world and may be associated with pollen-food cross reactivity.
Eaten in excess, carrots may lead to a condition called carotenemia, where the skin takes on a yellowish appearance. Intakes of around 1 kg per day of juiced or raw carrots have also been associated, in rare cases, with neutropenia (a reduced level of white blood cells), and amenorrhea (cessation of periods).