Health Benefits of 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 also can taste earthy or bitter.

Nutritional Profile

One serving of carrots is a half cup. One serving has:

  • 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:

What Carrots Can Do for You

Carrots have a wealth of antioxidants and offer many health benefits. Here are the highlights:

They’re good for your eyes. This is probably the best-known carrot superpower. They're rich in beta-carotene, a compound your body changes into vitamin A, which helps keep your eyes healthy. And beta-carotene 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, the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S.

They can lower your risk of cancer. Antioxidants have been proven to fight off harmful free radicals in your body, and that can make you less likely to have cancer. The two main types of antioxidants in carrots are carotenoids and anthocyanins. Carotenoids give carrots their orange and yellow colors, while anthocyanins are responsible for red and purple coloring.

They help your heart. First, all those antioxidants are also good for your heart. Second, the potassium in carrots can help keep your blood pressure in check. And third, they have fiber, which can help you stay at a healthy weight and lower your chances of heart disease.

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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.

When to Avoid Carrots

If you eat too much beta-carotene, it can make your skin turn an orange-yellow color. This condition is called carotenemia. It’s relatively harmless and usually can be treated. But in extreme cases, it 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.

How to Prepare Carrots

Carrots can be part of many popular diets, like vegan, keto, paleo, and more.

To prepare them, 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 like beef stew, chicken pot pie, or stir-fry.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on August 06, 2019

Sources

SOURCES: 

da Silva Dias, J. Food and Nutrition Sciences Vol. 5, Dec. 2014.

The National Gardening Association: "More Colors for Carrots."

U.S. Department of Agriculture Household USDA Fact Sheet: "CARROTS, Fresh."    

U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service: "Basic Report:  11124, Carrots, Raw."

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Vitamin K."

University of California San Francisco: "Increasing Fiber Intake."

Mayo Clinic: "Mayo Clinic Minute: Why You Should Pick Carrots for Good Health," "Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet."

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "5 Top Foods for Eye Health," "Protect Your Health with Immune-Boosting Nutrition."

Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (Cultivate Michigan): "Carrots."

Buscemi, S. Nutrients, Sept.18,  2018.

Khoo, H. Food & Nutrition Research, Aug. 13, 2017.

Stanford Children's Health: "Constipation in Children."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Constipation."

University of Rochester Medical Center: "Beta-Carotene."

Eroglu, A. Journal of Biological Chemistry, March 14, 2012.

Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group, New England Journal of Medicine, April 14, 1994.

Rasmussen, H. Clinical Interventions in Aging, June 19, 2013.

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