Carrots 101: Proven Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts (Calories, Carbs, Fiber, Vitamins)

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Carrots: Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts (Calories, Carbs, Fiber, Vitamins)
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The carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) is a tasty root vegetable that is good for you because it contains fiber, vitamins, and other healthy plant nutrients. Eating carrots raw, blanched, or in a nutritious meal can benefit your health in general. In fact, research has shown that carrots are good for your eyesight, heart, skin, and may even help you lose weight.

Drinking carrot juice can also benefit your health because it contains a large amount of vitamin A, C, and some B-group vitamins. Because carrots are a good source of antioxidants, a glass of carrot juice can give you a concentrated amount of healthy nutrients.

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Although we tend to think of carrots as an orange vegetable, carrots come in various colors such as purple, red, yellow, and white.

Orange carrots get their color from the high levels of beta-carotene. Purple carrots may be even better for you because they also contain beta-carotene as well as anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants. (1)

In this article, you will learn about the many reasons why eating carrots every day can be good for you. You will also find out if there is such a thing as consuming too many carrots. At the end of the article, you will find out how cooking affects the nutrient content of carrots.

Nutritional Value of Carrots

The carrot is a highly nutritious vegetable that is loaded with fiber and antioxidants. The nutritional value of a carrot is fairly impressive, especially as carrots contain very little fat.

Let’s look in more detail at the main nutrients you get from eating a carrot.

Carbs in carrots

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one medium carrot (61 g) contains 5.8 g of total carbohydrates. From this, 1.7 g is healthy dietary fiber which means that the net carbs in one carrot are only 4.1 grams. (2)

The other carbohydrates in a medium carrot are sugars (2.9 g) and starch (0.9 g). The weight of carrots is mostly water which accounts for nearly 90% of their weight.

Fiber in carrots

As already mentioned, carrots are good for you because they contain a lot of dietary fiber (1.7 grams of fiber in one medium carrot). A cup of chopped raw carrots (128 g) contains 3.6 grams of fiber. This is about 14% of your recommended daily needs (RDI).

Although carrots are a sweet vegetable and contain sucrose, glucose, and fructose, their fiber content means their sugars are released slowly in your body. So, carrots can be eaten by diabetics and are a great healthy snack if you are trying to lose weight.

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Calories in carrots

There are 25 calories in a medium-size carrot. Gram for gram, there are actually more calories in fully-grown carrots than baby carrots. For example, a serving of baby carrots (85 g) only has 30 calories whereas the same serving of carrots has 35 calories. (3)

Vitamins in carrots

One of the most impressive nutritional benefits of eating a carrot is their vitamin A content. Vitamin A is necessary for good eyesight, healthy immune system, and good organ function. (4)

Eating a raw carrot will give you a massive 10,190 IU of vitamin A which is double your RDI.

Carrots also contain good amounts of vitamin C, K, and B-group vitamins. There is also some vitamin E in carrots.

This means that carrots are an important source of antioxidants that can help to keep your body healthy and free from disease. (5) Vitamin K is also necessary for healthy blood and bones. (6)

Other plant nutrients in carrots

Carrots have many other nutrients that are good for you.

Beta-carotene. The main nutrient in orange, red, and purple carrots is beta-carotene. This orange-pigment converts into vitamin A and is important for your general health. (7)

Lycopene. This red-colored phytochemical is found in red carrots and helps protect cells from DNA damage. Researchers have found that red carrots can be a good alternative to tomatoes as they provide both lycopene and beta-carotene. (8)

Anthocyanins. This antioxidant is found in dark and purple-colored vegetables and fruits. Research has found that fresh foods rich in anthocyanins can help protect against numerous diseases. (9)

Carrots also contain important minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, and phosphorus.

Health Benefits of Carrots

Let’s look in more detail at why carrots are good for you and why drinking carrot juice is good for your health.

Carrots May Help Prevent Cancer

The fact that orange, purple, and red carrots are packed with antioxidants means that they may reduce your risk of developing cancer.

Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that has been linked to lower risk of certain cancers. For example, researchers have found that a diet rich in beta-carotene and lycopene can help protect against prostate cancer. (10)

Yellow carrots contain good amounts of the plant nutrients lutein and beta-carotene. Studies have shown that lutein helps protect men and women from colon cancer. (11, 12)

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The high vitamin A content in carrots can also help reduce your risk of gastric cancer. (13)

A 2018 meta-analysis published in the journal Medicine found that eating carrots and other foods rich in beta-carotene and vitamins can reduce the risk of breast cancer. (14)

One study found that fresh carrot juice contains bioactive compounds that are useful in treating leukemia. Research in the lab found that carrot juice extracts helped to kill off lymphoid leukemia cells. (15)

Of course, more research has to be done to see how carrots can help protect against cancer. However, most researchers agree that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and other nutrients could help reduce the risk of cancer by up to 40%. (16)

Learn more about cancer-fighting foods such as carrots that you can consume as part of an anti-cancer diet.

Carrots are Good for Your Eyesight

Vitamin A is essential for good vision, and so it is no surprise that carrots are good for your eye health.

The journal Clinical Interventions in Aging reports that beta-carotene, vitamins C and E are important nutrients for good eyesight. A diet rich in foods containing these nutrients can help protect against age-related macular degeneration. Researchers noted that carrots and sweet potato are among the best foods for good eye health. (17)

Some studies indicate that carrots could help protect against poor night vision. (18)

Consuming carrots every day could also be good to help protect your vision from eye-related degenerative diseases. (19)

Carrots contain many of the necessary nutrients to help protect your eyesight. Learn about other foods you can consume to help improve your vision.

Find out how to get some of the healthy benefits from carrot juice by making your own vision-boosting juice.

Carrots Boost Your Heart Health

Eating a portion of carrots daily can be good to help improve your cardiovascular health and lower your risk of heart disease.

The journal Nutrients reported in 2018 that yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots are linked to a lower risk of heart disease. One study found that consuming carrots every day can be good for your heart. (20)

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One of the reasons that drinking carrot juice is good for your heart is that it contains a load of antioxidants. Researchers have found that nutrients in carrot juice help to protect the cardiovascular system. The study showed that consumption of carrot juice also helped to lower systolic blood pressure. (21)

Purple carrots or black carrots can also have a protective effect on your cardiovascular health. Researchers have found that dark-colored carrots contain anthocyanins which have anti-inflammatory activity and help to prevent heart disease. (23)

Find out how you can help to protect your heart from disease by including heart-healthy foods such as carrots in your diet.

Eating Carrots Could Help You Lose Weight

Carrots are a delicious crunchy snack that can help soothe hunger pangs if you are trying to lose weight.

For example, one cup of carrot strips (122 g) only contains 50 calories. This serving of raw carrot also gives you 14% of your daily fiber needs (3.4 g). This means that carrots are a low-calorie, fiber-rich food that helps keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Scientists have also proven that consuming carrots increases feelings of satiety. One study involving young women found that adding whole chopped carrots or blended carrots to meals kept them feeling fuller for longer. The addition of whole or blended carrots was better for losing weight than just the carrot nutrients alone. (24)

Further reading: Proven Ways to Lose Lower Belly Fat Based on Science.

Carrot is a Diabetes-Friendly Food

Even though they are a sweet vegetable, carrots are still good to eat if you have diabetes.

Carrots are a low-glycemic, non-starchy vegetable which means that they don’t spike blood glucose levels. A medium carrot only has 4 grams of net carbs and so is a good vegetable to eat if you are diabetic.

The journal Diabetologia reported that carrots don’t cause significant rises in blood glucose after eating them. (25)

Researchers have also noted that eating cooked carrots or raw carrots doesn’t alter their effect on blood glucose levels. (26)

The American Diabetes Association lists carrots among the non-starchy vegetables that are good for diabetics. (27)

It is good to remember that carrot juice may not be suitable if you have diabetes. It can take about 4 or 5 carrots to make a glass of carrot juice. This could contain about 15 grams of sugar but without the fiber that helps to slow down sugar metabolism in the body.

If you have type 2 diabetes, learn about other scientifically proven foods to control blood sugar levels.

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Carrots Have Immune-Strengthening Properties

Adding a few carrots to your daily diet can also give your immunity a boost.

A review of the nutritional value of carrots found that beta-carotene and vitamin A are immune system enhancers. Diets that are rich in foods such as carrots can help to lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, cataracts, and other degenerative diseases. (28)

Other studies have shown that consuming more carrots can help to reduce your chances of infections in the urinary tract. (28)

Learn about more foods that have immune-boosting potential and can help to prevent getting infections.

Carrots are Good for Your Skin

Eating raw carrots or consuming carrot juice can benefit your skin because of the high vitamin A content.

A 2012 review into the best nutrition for skin care found that foods containing beta-carotene help to nourish the skin. Also, carrots contain antioxidants that help to kill off free radicals that can cause signs of early aging. Beta-carotene also helps protect the skin from the effects of ultraviolet (UV) damage. (29)

One case-control study from Italy found that high consumption of carrots and other vegetables had a protective effect against cutaneous melanoma (skin cancer). (30)

Consuming purple carrots can also help to protect your skin from the visible signs of aging. Studies have shown that anthocyanins in foods such as purple carrots help to prevent skin damage caused by sun exposure. (31)

Why not add one or 2 purple carrots to your favorite smoothie to help boost your cardiovascular health and keep your skin looking healthy? One study found that purple carrot smoothies contained a good amount of both beta-carotene and anthocyanins. (32)

How Cooking Affects Nutrients in Carrots

Although some foods are best eaten raw to maximize the most nutritional benefits, carrots can actually benefit from a gentle cooking or steaming.

A study from the University of Arkansas found that cooked, pureed carrots don’t lose their nutritional value, and even contain more healthy properties than raw carrots. The researchers measured antioxidant levels in fresh and pureed carrots with and without the peel and found that the pureed carrots had higher antioxidant levels (increased levels of phenolic acids and total carotenoids) than fresh carrots. (37, 38)

The researchers found that antioxidant levels increased immediately after heat by more than 34% and continued to increase for the first week of storage. After that the antioxidant levels declined, but didn’t go back down to the original levels for raw carrots. The research also found that adding the carrot peels increased antioxidant activity.

As for vitamin C which is heat sensitive, a study from 2018 that checked the effect of different cooking methods on various vegetables, including carrots. The study found that steaming and microwaving carrots retained higher concentrations of vitamin C than boiling them because of the reduced contact with water at relatively low temperatures. The researchers concluded that using minimal cooking water and cooking for shorter time periods should result in higher vitamin C retention. (39)

Precautions with Eating Too Many Carrots

Although carrots are very good for your health and form part of a nutritious, well-balanced diet, eating excessive amounts of carrots is not good.

The high amounts of vitamin A in carrots can impact on your liver health if you eat too many of them. Doctors reported about one case where a man consumed 6-7 lbs. (2.7 – 3.1 kg) of carrots weekly. The man complained of yellowing skin and doctors found that his liver wasn’t functioning properly. After discontinuing eating so many carrots, his liver enzymes normalized in a 1-month period. (33)

So, carrots can turn your skin orange. This is a condition called hypercarotenemia and it can happen if you consume excessive amounts of orange-colored vegetables or fruits. (34)

Doctors from Medscape say that carotenemia is common among infants and young children due to consuming large amounts of carrots in pureed baby food. (35)

So, how many carrots should you eat a day? One study found that consuming 250 ml of carrot juice daily could give your skin a yellowish tinge over the course of a few weeks. It may take 5 or 6 carrots (depending on size) to make a cup of carrot juice. (36)

It’s good to remember that just one medium-size carrot contains more than enough of your daily vitamin A needs.

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