Carrots 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
The carrot (Daucus carota) is a root vegetable that is 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 K, potassium and antioxidants
Carrots have a number of health benefits. They are a weight loss friendly food and have been linked to lower cholesterol levels and improved eye health.
The carotene antioxidants in them have also been linked to reduced risk of cancer.
They are found in many colors, including yellow, white, orange, red and purple.
The traditional orange colored carrots get their bright color from beta-carotene, an antioxidant that is converted to vitamin A in the body.
The water content can vary from around 86-95%, and the edible portion consists of around 10% carbohydrates Carrots contain very little fat and protein
One medium, raw carrot (61 grams) contains 25 calories, with only 4 grams of digestible carbs.
Nutrition Facts: Carrots, raw – 100 grams
Carrots are mainly composed of water and carbohydrates.
The carbs consist of starch and sugars, such as sucrose and
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, which is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar after a meal.
The glycemic index of carrots ranges from 16-60, being lowest for raw carrots, a little higher for cooked carrots and highest for pureed carrots
Eating low-glycemic foods is linked to numerous health benefits and is considered particularly beneficial for diabetics
Pectin is the main form of soluble fiber in carrots
Soluble fibers can lower blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion of sugar and starch.
They can also feed the friendly bacteria in the gut, which may lead to improved health and decreased risk of disease
Certain soluble fibers can also impair the absorption of cholesterol from the digestive tract, lowering blood cholesterol
The main insoluble fibers in carrots are in the form of cellulose, but also hemicellulose and lignin
Insoluble fibers reduce the risk of constipation and promote regular and healthy bowel movements
Vitamins and Minerals
Carrots are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A (from beta-carotene), biotin, vitamin K (phylloquinone), potassium and vitamin B6.
- Vitamin A: Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A promotes good vision, and is important for growth, development, and immune function
- Biotin: One of the B-vitamins, formerly known as vitamin H. It plays an important role in fat and protein metabolism
- Vitamin K1: Also known as phylloquinone, vitamin K is important for blood coagulation and can promote bone health
- Potassium: An essential mineral, important for blood pressure control.
- Vitamin B6: A group of related vitamins that are involved with the conversion of food into energy.
Other Plant Compounds
Carrots contain many plant compounds, but the carotenoids are by far the best known.
These are substances with powerful antioxidant activity, and have been linked to improved immune function and reduced risk of many diseases.
This includes cardiovascular disease, various degenerative diseases, and certain types of cancer
Beta-carotene, the main carotene in carrots, can be converted to vitamin A in the body.
However, there is some individual variability in how effective this conversion process is. Eating fat with the carrots can also help you absorb more of the beta-carotene
These are the main plant compounds found in carrots:
- 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 is also partly converted to vitamin A.
- Lutein:One of the most common antioxidants in carrots, 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. It may decrease the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease
- Polyacetylenes:Recent research has identified bioactive compounds in carrots that may help protect against leukemia and cancer cells
- Anthocyanins:Powerful antioxidants found in dark-colored carrots.
Much of the research on carrots has focused on carotenoids.
Reduced Risk of Cancer
Diets rich in carotenes may have a protective effect against several types of cancer.
This includes prostate cancer colon cancer and stomach cancer
Women with high circulating levels of carotenoids may also be at reduced risk of breast cancer
Older research suggested that carotenoids could be protective against developing lung cancer, but newer studies found no protective effect
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
Carrots, as parts of meals, can increase satiety and decrease calorie intake in subsequent meals
For this reason, carrots may be a useful addition to an effective weight loss diet.
Individuals that are low in vitamin A are more likely to experience night blindness, a condition that may improve by eating carrots or other foods rich in vitamin A or carotenoids
Carotenoids may also cut the risk of age-related macular degeneration
Organic vs. Conventionally Grown Carrots
Organic farming uses natural methods for growing the crop.
Several studies have compared the nutrient content in organic and non-organic carrots.
These studies did not find any difference in the amount of carotenoids, or antioxidant content and quality
Baby carrots are a term for small and/or immature carrots, which have become very popular as a snack food in recent years.
There are actually two kinds of carrots that are called baby carrots, which can be a little misleading.
One one hand, there are whole carrots that are naturally small, or carrots that are harvested before they grow large.
On the other hand, there are baby-cut carrots. These 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 is very little difference in nutrients between regular and baby carrots, and they should have the same health effects.
Carrots are generally considered safe to eat, but may have adverse effects in some people.
Eating too much carotene can cause the skin to become a little yellow or orange, which is harmless.