What Are Carrots?
Carrots are root vegetables that were first grown in Afghanistan around 900 AD. Orange may be their best-known color, but they also come in other hues, including purple, yellow, red, and white. Early carrots were purple or yellow. Orange carrots were developed in Central Europe around the 15th or 16th century.
This popular and versatile veggie may taste slightly different depending on the color, size, and where it's grown. The sugar in carrots gives them a slightly sweet flavor, but they can taste earthy or bitter.
Organic vs. nonorganic carrots
Organic carrots are grown using natural fertilizers and are less likely to have pesticide residues because they’re protected against pests and diseases using mechanical and biological methods.
On the other hand, nonorganic carrots are conventionally grown and treated with pesticides to prevent pest infestations and diseases, potentially leaving behind residues of these chemicals.
Carrots come in several varieties. You can tell them apart by the shape, color, and length of the root, which is the part most people eat. The most common varieties include:
- Imperator carrots: They are long, with a tapered tip and small shoulders (the part near the green tops).
- Nantes carrots: These are of medium length and have a blunt tip. They are popular with home gardeners.
- Danvers carrots: They are large and of medium length.
- Chantenay carrots: These are short with large shoulders.
- Purple carrots: These are the original carrots. They are long and purple and contain antioxidants called anthocyanins that support your health by preventing blood clots, promoting muscle recovery, and more.
- Rainbow carrots: Carrots can come in colors besides orange. Different color carrots include yellow, red, white, and purple.
Are Carrots Good for You?
Yes, carrots are good for you, as they’re chock full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support immunity; support heart, kidney, and liver health; and provide other health benefits, making them an excellent addition to your diet.
They're low-calorie and versatile snacks, too. You can easily add carrots to your diet for a tasty and nutritious treat, like a healthier bread or dessert.
One serving of carrots, which equals half a cup, contains:
- 25 calories
- 6 grams of carbohydrates
- 2 grams of fiber
- 3 grams of sugar
- 0.5 grams of protein
Carrots are a great source of important vitamins and minerals. A half-cup can give you up to:
- 73% of your daily requirement of vitamin A
- 9% of your daily vitamin K
- 8% of your daily potassium and fiber
- 5% of your daily vitamin C
- 2% of your daily calcium and iron
Baby carrot calories
When you hear “baby carrot,” you may picture the peeled, perfectly cut carrots popular in party platters and lunch boxes. Each piece is around 4 calories. But there’s another, less processed type of baby carrot.
Actual baby carrots are simply carrots that are harvested before growing to full maturity. They’re about 3 to 4 inches long and resemble tiny versions of their fully grown counterparts. The baby carrots that most people know, on the other hand, are made by cutting up and shaving down broken pieces of mature carrots.
Baby carrots in a 100-gram serving contain 35 calories. These carrots are equally high in essential nutrients as regular, mature carrots, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and more.
Cooked carrots nutrition
Carrots cooked without salt, in a 100-gram serving, contain:
- 35 calories
- 0.8 grams of protein
- 8.2 grams of carbohydrate
- 0.2 grams of fat
- 3.5 grams of sugar
- 30 milligrams of calcium
- 10 milligrams of magnesium
- 30 milligrams of phosphorus
- 235 milligrams of potassium
- 58 milligrams of sodium
Carrots have a wealth of antioxidants and offer many health benefits. Here are the highlights:
They may lower your risk of cancer. Carrots contain antioxidants, which have been proven to fight off harmful free radicals in your body. Free radicals damage cells, possibly contributing to cancer. The two main types of antioxidants in carrots are carotenoids and anthocyanins. Carotenoids give carrots their orange and yellow colors, while anthocyanins cause the red and purple coloring.
They help your heart. All those antioxidants are also good for your heart. The potassium in carrots also can help keep your blood pressure in check.
Red carrots also have lycopene, which helps prevent heart disease.
They boost your immune system. The vitamin C in carrots helps your body build antibodies that defend your immune system. Vitamin C also helps your body take in and use iron and prevent infections.
They can help with constipation. If you’re having trouble going to the bathroom, try munching on some raw carrots. With their high fiber content, they can help ease constipation and keep you regular.
They can help control diabetes. Non-starchy vegetables, including carrots, are essential parts of a healthy diet for people with diabetes. The fiber in carrots can help keep blood sugar levels under control. Loaded with vitamin A and beta carotene, carrots can lower your diabetes risk, evidence suggests.
They can strengthen your bones. Carrots have calcium and vitamin K, which are important for bone health.
They might help you lose weight. Carrots have very few calories per serving. Also, the fiber in carrots can help you feel full, so you won’t eat as much, reducing calorie intake overall and supporting weight loss.
They can help lower cholesterol. Studies have also linked eating carrots to lower cholesterol.
They are good for your teeth and gums. Think of them as nature’s toothbrush. They scrub your teeth as you chew, removing harmful plaque buildup from the enamel. They also remove surface stains, leaving you with a brighter smile.
Carrot benefits for your skin
Carrots are loaded with beta carotene, a pigment that your body changes to vitamin A. Vitamin A is a nutrient that helps maintain healthy skin, and not having enough of it increases your risk of skin problems like hyperkeratosis, a condition that causes dry, scaly skin. As an antioxidant, beta carotene may help protect the skin from sunburn and help slow down skin aging by improving elasticity, hydration, texture, wrinkles, and age spots.
Vitamin C in carrots is also important for its skin health-promoting benefits. It helps the body make collagen, a protein that supports skin structure, elasticity, strength, and cell turnover. It also protects the skin from UV damage.
Are carrots good for your eyes?
Yes, they are. A carrot’s benefit for eye health is probably its best-known superpower. Beta carotene in carrots helps keep your eyes healthy. It helps protect your eyes from the sun and lowers your chances of cataracts and other eye problems.
Yellow carrots have lutein, which is also good for your eyes. Studies have found that it can help with or prevent age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in the U.S.
Risks of Carrots
In extreme cases, overeating beta carotene from carrots can keep vitamin A from doing its job and affect your vision, bones, skin, metabolism, or immune system.
Too much beta carotene also may cause problems for people who can’t change it to vitamin A, such as people who have hypothyroidism.
For some people, eating carrots can make their mouths itch. That’s called oral allergy syndrome or pollen food allergy syndrome (PFAS). Your body reacts to the proteins in certain fruits and vegetables as if they were pollens you’re allergic to. You might also have a scratchy throat; itchy ears; hives in the mouth area, lips, mouth, tongue; and throat swelling. It doesn't tend to happen with cooked carrots.
Carrots can become contaminated during production and packaging, with pathogens that cause foodborne illness like salmonella, shigella, hepatitis A virus, norovirus, and Cyclospora cayetanensis. Thoroughly clean and cook your carrots to reduce your chances of becoming ill from eating them.
Do carrots turn you orange?
If you overeat beta carotene, it can make your skin turn an orange-yellow color. This condition is called carotenemia. It’s relatively harmless and unlikely to cause any serious problems. You can treat it by reducing how many carrots and other carotene-containing foods you eat. You can speak with a dietitian about changing your diet to treat it.
How to Store Carrots
Fresh, whole carrots can be kept fresh for up to 2 weeks in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. If the leafy green tops are still attached, trim those first. Then, store them in a plastic bag with holes in it.
How to Use Carrots
Carrots are a universal food item, most popularly grown and eaten in China, followed by the U.S. They can be a part of various popular diets, such as vegan, keto, and paleo. They also feature as a main ingredient in cuisines from around the world, including gajar ka halwa (India), morkovcha (Korea), and carrot cake (U.S.).
To prepare carrots, wash them thoroughly in water and scrub off any dirt. You can peel them with a vegetable peeler or knife if you'd like, but you don't have to.
From there, you might slice them into sticks and eat them with hummus or a yogurt-based dip. If you don't like crunchy carrots, you can steam, boil, or roast them and serve them as a side dish. They also work well in savory dishes such as beef stew, chicken pot pie, and stir-fry.
Carrot roots are the actual carrots people eat. They are high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, carotenoids, and dietary fiber. You can have them raw or cooked, as a snack, side dish, or juice.
The carrot top is the area of the carrot that has leaves. Carrot tops are a nutritious and spicy ingredient in salads like panzanella (as a substitute for parsley) or sauces like chimichurri.
Glazed carrots are a tasty and easy-to-prepare side dish. Follow these steps:
- Using clean hands, wash, peel, and cut 1 pound of carrots into 1-inch pieces.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of margarine in a pan on low heat and add the carrots. Stir them until they're coated.
- Add a cup of water, plus a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the carrots. Cover the pan and let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the carrots are tender.
- Drain the water, then add 2 teaspoons of sugar to the carrots.
- Cover your pan and shake it on the burner for 1 minute.
- Finally, uncover and cook for 1 more minute until the carrots look glazed, but not brown.
How long to boil carrots
It’s best to cook carrots for the shortest time possible to preserve their nutritional value. Boiling, in particular, may lower some of the antioxidant activity in carrots and nutrients like vitamin C. But it makes it easier for the body to absorb the carotene in them.
You can boil carrots for 5-10 minutes until tender.
How to Grow Carrots
Carrots thrive in well-drained and fertile soils with plenty of sunlight. Before planting, add organic matter and fertilizer to the soil you’re using. Sow the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. When seedlings have three to four true leaves, space them around 3 inches apart in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Water the carrots frequently and uniformly for them to grow well. Keep an eye out for insects and diseases, and control them as needed. Harvest them when the leaves are fully grown.
How to grow carrots from carrot tops
You can grow carrots from carrot tops by cutting off the top of the carrot and regrowing only the leaves. This means the taproot, or carrot itself, can't be regrown.
You can start this process by placing a carrot top in a glass of water, allowing new fibrous roots to grow, and later moving it to soil. Once a flower grows on the carrot top, you can take its seeds and plant them to form a new carrot.
How to grow carrots in containers
While carrots need space to develop, it’s possible to grow them in pots or planters. Choose a container that is deep enough for the kind of carrot you’re planting. Follow instructions on your seed packet. Most containers will still need good compost, full sun, and regular watering to successfully grow carrots.
How long do carrots take to grow?
Carrots can take anywhere from 55 to 80 days to grow, depending on the type.
Carrots are a universally loved and eaten vegetable, and for good reasons. They contain many nutrients that help keep you well and are easy to add to many of your everyday meals, raw or cooked. Consuming too many carrots may cause unwanted side effects, but there's limited risk even if you eat carrots often.
Is it good to eat carrots every day?
You can have carrots daily and as part of a healthy, balanced diet. You are unlikely to get carotenemia (turning your skin an orange-yellow color) unless you eat too many carrots and other carotene-rich foods too often.
Is chewing on carrots good for you?
Yes. Carrots can help scrub your teeth as you chew, removing harmful plaque buildup from the enamel. They also remove surface stains, leaving you with a brighter smile.
Are raw carrots better for you?
Raw carrots can be a nutritious and filling snack, and their fiber can help ease constipation. But if you eat them cooked, your body can better absorb the beta carotene in them, and it reduces your chances of getting sick from a contaminated carrot.