The health benefits of carrots

Some people think of carrots as the ultimate health food, while their children have been told by generations of parents that eating carrots can help them see in the dark. Is it true? What other advantages might carrots have?

In the area that is now Afghanistan, people probably first cultivated carrots thousands of years ago. The original small, forked, purple or yellow root had a bitter, woody flavor and was quite distinct from the carrot that we know today.

Long before the appearance of the sweet, crunchy, and aromatic orange variety that is now popular, farmers grew purple, red, yellow, and white carrots. This type may have been developed in the 16th century by Dutch growers.

Read more about the nutrients in carrots and their health benefits in this article. We also look at tips and any precautions to take to add carrots to the diet. And, of course, the age-old question: Do they really help you see in the dark?

Health benefits

Carrots
Vitamin A, antioxidants, and other nutrients are contained in carrots.

Vitamins, minerals, and fiber are rich in carrots. They are also a good source of antioxidants.

Nutrients found in plant-based foods are antioxidants. They help the body to remove free radicals, unstable molecules which, if too many accumulate in the body, can cause cell damage.

Natural processes and environmental forces create free radicals. Many free radicals can be removed naturally by the body, but dietary antioxidants can help, especially when the oxidant load is large.

Some ways in which carrots can promote health are presented below.

Vision

In the dark, can carrots help you see? Yes, in a way.

Carrots contain vitamin A, and xerophthalmia, a progressive eye disease, may result from vitamin A deficiency. Xerophthalmia can cause blindness at night or trouble seeing when light levels are low.

The deficiency of vitamin A is one of the principal preventable causes of blindness in children, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.

So, in a way, in the dark, carrots will help you see.

However, unless they have a vitamin A deficiency, most people’s vision is unlikely to benefit by consuming carrots.

The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in carrots, and the combination of the two can help prevent age-related macular degeneration, a form of vision loss.

Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, too many free radicals in the body will raise the risk of different types of cancer.

This risk can be minimized by the antioxidant effects of dietary carotenoids (yellow, orange, and red organic pigments found in carrots and other vegetables). Two examples of these carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin.

One medium raw carrot, 61 grams (g) in weight, contains 509 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A RAE.

It also supplies 5,050 mcg of beta carotene and 2,120 mcg of alpha carotene[YB2], two antioxidants that can be transformed into more vitamin A by the body, as needed.

Female adults need to eat at least 700 mcg RAE of vitamin A per day, while male adults need at least 900 mcg of RAE, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Prostate cancer: A review of studies in 2015 indicated a correlation between a carotenoid-rich diet and a lower risk of prostate cancer. Confirming the correlation, however, and then identifying its cause, would take further study.

Leukemia: Researchers found evidence in 2011 that nutrients in the extract of carrot juice could kill and delay or stop the progression of leukemia cells.

Lung cancer: Researchers also concluded in 2011 that drinking carrot juice can help prevent the form of harm in smokers that contributes to lung cancer.

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.

Digestive health

According to 2014 research that included data from 893 individuals, eating more carotenoid-rich foods may lower the risk of colon cancer.

The results of a study released the following year show that individuals who eat a high-fiber diet have a lower risk of colorectal cancer than those who eat little fiber.

Depending on age and sex, a medium carrot provides 1.7 g of fiber, or between 5 percent and 7.6 percent of the daily needs of a human. 1 cup of chopped carrots, meanwhile, contains 3.58 g of fiber.

Diabetes control

Carrots have a sweet taste and contain sugars that are natural. For people with diabetes, what does this mean?

Around 10 percent of a carrot is made up of carbohydrates, and about half of this is sugar. Fiber is another 30 percent of the content of this carbohydrate. It offers 25 calories for a medium carrot.

Overall, this makes a carrot a low-calorie, high-fiber food that is relatively low in sugar. For this purpose, it scores low on the glycemic index (GI). This index will assist people with diabetes to understand which foods are likely to increase their levels of blood sugar.

The GI score of boiled carrots is about 39. This means that they are unlikely to cause a spike in blood sugar and are safe to eat for individuals with diabetes.

Meanwhile, analysts of a 2018 study concluded that eating a high-fiber diet could help prevent type 2 diabetes from developing. High-fiber foods can also help control blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes.

Cardiovascular health and blood pressure

The fiber and potassium in carrots can help with blood pressure management.

People are urged by the American Heart Association (AHA) to add less salt or sodium to meals when consuming more potassium-containing foods, such as carrots. Potassium allows the blood vessels to relax, decreasing the risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.

One medium carrot provides about 4 percent of the daily potassium requirement for a person.

A 2017 study, meanwhile, concluded that individuals with a high consumption of fiber are less likely than individuals who consume little fiber to develop cardiovascular disease. Eating a lot of fiber can also help to lower blood levels of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol.

What foods are likely to help lower blood pressure? Find out here.

Immune function and healing

Vitamin C is also another antioxidant that carrots provide.

Vitamin C contributes to producing collagen. Collagen is a key component of connective tissue and is important for healing wounds and maintaining a healthy body.

The vitamin is also found in immune cells that help the body combat illness. According to a 2017 report, a healthy immune system can prevent a range of illnesses, including cancer.

The immune system needs to function harder if a person is unwell, and this may compromise levels of vitamin C.

Some experts believe that when under stress, taking additional vitamin C can boost the function of the immune system. For instance, consuming vitamin C can slightly decrease the intensity and duration of a cold.

Bone health

Vitamin K and small quantities of calcium and phosphorus are found in carrots. These all contribute to the health of the bones and can help prevent osteoporosis.

A balanced diet can help maintain healthy bones. Are there other ways of doing this that are natural? Here, find out.

Nutrition

The quantity of each nutrient in a medium-sized, raw carrot that weighs about 61 g is shown in the table below.

It also indicates how much of each nutrient, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, an adult can eat each day. However, according to sex and age, needs vary.

NutrientsAmount in 1 medium, raw carrotDaily recommendation for adults
Energy (calories)251,600–3,200
Carbohydrate (g)5.8 — including 2.9 g of sugar130
Fiber (g)1.722.4–33.6
Calcium (millgrams [mg])20.11,000–1,300
Phosphorus (mg)21.4700–1,250
Potassium (mg)1954,700
Vitamin C (mg)3.665–90
Folate (mcg DFE)11.6400
Vitamin A (mcg RAE)509700–900
Beta carotene (mcg)5,050No data
Alpha carotene (mcg)2,120No data
Lutein & zeaxanthin (mcg)156No data
Vitamin E (mg)0.415
Vitamin K (mcg)8.175–120

Carrots also contains different B vitamins and traces of iron as well as other minerals.

Learn about other antioxidant-rich foods.

Antioxidants and the color of carrots

Carrots are given their bright orange colour by the antioxidants alpha and beta carotene. The body absorbs beta carotene through the intestine and transforms it during digestion into vitamin A. This is why individuals consider pro-vitamins to be carotenoids.

Farmer’s markets and some stores offer carrots in a range of colors, including purple, yellow, and red. These varieties contain various compounds with antioxidant properties: anthocyanin is present in purple carrots, lutein is present in yellow carrots, and lycopene is rich in red carrots.

What are antioxidants, and how are they functioning? Find out here.

Carrots on your diet

For carrots, there are two seasons: spring and fall, but they are usually available all year round in supermarkets. Fresh, frozen, canned, pickled, or as juice, people can purchase them.

It is safest to store carrots in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. Before storing, remove any green from the tops to prevent them from drawing moisture and nutrients from the roots.

Tips for preparing carrots

Carrots are a vegetable that is versatile. People can eat them raw, steamed, boiled, roasted, or as an ingredient in soups and stews.

First, peel and wash the carrots, then:

  • Use shredded carrots in coleslaws, salads, or wraps.
  • Add shredded carrots to baked goods, such as cakes and muffins.
  • Have carrot sticks or baby carrots as a snack, maybe with a dip, such as hummus.
  • Add carrots to juices and smoothies for a naturally sweet, mild flavor.

Some of the vitamin content may be reduced or eliminated by boiling vegetables. The most nutritional value is provided by raw or steamed carrots.

In the presence of fats, carotenoids and vitamin A can also be better absorbed. People should eat carrots that have a good source of fat, such as avocado, nuts, or seeds, for this reason.

Risks

Vitamin A overconsumption can be toxic. It also can cause the skin to have a slight orange tint, but this is not harmful to health.

It is unlikely that an overdose of vitamin A would happen due to diet alone, but it may result from the use of supplements.

Some drugs are also derived from vitamin A, such as isotretinoin (Accutane), an acne treatment, or acitretin (Soriatane), a psoriasis treatment. To prevent an overdose of vitamin A, people who use these medications should consume carrots in moderation.

Anyone who is beginning a new drug should discuss any suggested dietary changes with their doctor.

Some people are allergic to compounds in carrots. Urgent medical care is required for anyone who develops hives, swelling, and trouble breathing after eating carrots.

The person can experience anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that can grow rapidly if the symptoms become extreme.

The ingredients of smoothies, vegetable soups, and a number of other items should be carefully tested if a person knows that they are allergic to carrots.

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