What are the benefits of Carrots?

how-many-calories-in-fresh-carrots

Although carrots are available throughout the year, locally grown carrots are in season in the summer and fall when they are the freshest and most flavorful. Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family, named after the umbrella-like flower clusters that plants in this family produce. As such, carrots are related to parsnips, fennel, parsley, anise, caraway, cumin and dill. Carrots can be as small as two inches or as long as three feet, ranging in diameter from one-half of an inch to over two inches. Carrot roots have a crunchy texture and a sweet and minty aromatic taste, while the greens are fresh tasting and slightly bitter. While we usually associate carrots with the color orange, carrots can actually be found in a host of other colors including white, yellow, red, or purple. In fact, purple, yellow and red carrots were the only color varieties of carrots to be cultivated before the 15th or 16th century.

What’s New and Beneficial about Carrots

 

  • We are fortunate to have the results of a new 10-year study from the Netherlands about carrot intake and risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)—and those results are fascinating. Intake of fruits and vegetables in the study was categorized by color and focused on four color categories: green, orange/yellow, red/purple, and white. Out of these four categories, orange/yellow (and in particular, foods with deeper shades of orange and yellow) emerged as most protective against CVD. And even more striking, carrots were determined to be the most prominent member of this dark orange/yellow food category. Participants who had the least carrot intake had the least amount of CVD risk reduction, even though they still received risk-reducing benefits from their carrot intake. However, participants who ate at least 25 more grams of carrots (with 25 grams being less than one-quarter of a cup) had a significantly lower risk of CVD. And the groups of participants who ate 50- or 75-grams more had an even more greatly reduced risk of CVD! We’re not sure how any study could better demonstrate how easy it can be to lower disease risk by making a food like carrot part of the everyday diet in such achievable amounts.
  • Much of the research on carrots has traditionally focused on carotenoids and their important antioxidant benefits. After all, carrots (along with pumpkin and spinach) rank high on the list of all commonly-consumed U.S. antioxidant vegetables in terms of their beta-carotene content. But recent research has turned the health spotlight onto another category of phytonutrients in carrots called polyacetylenes. In carrots, the most important polyacetylenes include falcarinol and falcarindiol. Several recent studies have identified these carrot polyacetylenes as phytonutrients that can help inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells, especially when these polyacetylenes are found in their reduced (versus oxidized) form. These new findings are exciting because they suggest a key interaction between the carotenoids and polyacetylenes in carrots. Apparently, the rich carotenoid content of carrots not only helps prevent oxidative damage inside our body, but it may also help prevent oxidative damage to the carrot polyacetylenes. In other words, these two amazing groups of phytonutrients in carrots may work together in a synergistic way to maximize our health benefits!
  • Even people who usually boil carrots have discovered that they taste better steamed! In a recent study examining different methods for cooking vegetables, study participants were asked to evaluate the flavor and overall acceptability of the results. In comparison to boiling, participants in the study significantly favored the flavor and overall acceptability of steamed carrots to boiled carrots. This preference was also expressed by participants who had always boiled carrots in their previous kitchen practices.
  • Not surprisingly, research on the carotenoids in carrots has become fairly sophisticated and we now know that it’s especially important to protect one specific form of beta-carotene found in carrots called the (all-E)-beta-carotene isomer. That form of beta-carotene appears to have better bioavailability and antioxidant capacity than another beta-carotene form called the Z (cis) isomer form. With this new knowledge of beta-carotene specifics, researchers in Victoria, Australia wondered about the stability of (all-E)-beta-carotene under proper storage conditions. What they found was excellent retention of (all-E)-beta-carotene under the right storage conditions. Over several weeks period of time at refrigerator temperatures and with good humidity (as might be provided, for example by the wrapping of carrots in damp paper and placement in an air-tight container), there was very good retention of the carrots’ (all-e)-beta-carotene. While we always like the idea of vegetable consumption in freshly-picked form, this finding is great news and gives all of us more flexibility for incorporating carrots into our diet.

 

Nutrients in
Carrots
1.00 cup (122.00 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value


 vitamin A407.6%


 vitamin K20.1%


 fiber13.6%


 vitamin C12%


 potassium11.1%


 manganese8.5%


 vitamin B68.5%


 molybdenum8.1%


 vitamin B36%


 folate5.7%


 vitamin B15.3%


 phosphorus4.2%


 vitamin B24.1%


 vitamin E4%


Calories (50)2%

This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Carrots provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Carrots can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Carrots, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

  • Health Benefits
  • Description
  • History
  • How to Select and Store
  • Tips for Preparing and Cooking
  • How to Enjoy
  • Individual Concerns
  • Nutritional Profile
  • References

 

Health Benefits

 

Carrots are perhaps best known for their rich supply of the antioxidant nutrient that was actually named for them: beta-carotene. However, these delicious root vegetables are the source not only of beta-carotene, but also of a wide variety of antioxidants and other health-supporting nutrients. The areas of antioxidant benefits, cardiovascular benefits, and anti-cancer benefits are the best-researched areas of health research with respect to dietary intake of carrots.

Antioxidant Benefits

 

All varieties of carrots contain valuable amounts of antioxidant nutrients. Included here are traditional antioxidants like vitamin C, as well as phytonutrient antioxidants like beta-carotene. The list of carrot phytonutrient antioxidants is by no means limited to beta-carotene, however. This list includes:

  • Carotenoids
    • alpha-carotene
    • beta-carotene
    • lutein
  • Hydroxycinnamic acids
    • caffeic acid
    • coumaric acid
    • ferulic acid
  • Anthocyanindins
    • cyanidins
    • malvidins

 

Different varieties of carrots contain differing amounts of these antioxidant phytonutrients. Red and purple carrots, for example, are best known for the rich anthocyanin content. Oranges are particularly outstanding in terms of beta-carotene, which accounts for 65% of their total carotenoid content. In yellow carrots, 50% of the total carotenoids come from lutein. You’re going to receive outstanding antioxidant benefits from each of these carrot varieties!

Cardiovascular Benefits

 

Given their antioxidant richness, it’s not surprising to find numerous research studies documenting the cardiovascular benefits of carrots. Our cardiovascular system needs constant protection from antioxidant damage. This is particularly true of our arteries, which are responsible for carrying highly oxygenated blood.

A recent study from the Netherlands, in which participants were followed for a period of 10 years, has given us some fascinating new information about carrots and our risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In this study, intake of fruits and vegetables was categorized by color. The researchers focused on four color categories: green, orange/yellow, red/purple, and white. Out of these four categories, orange/yellow (and in particular, foods with deeper shades of orange and yellow) was determined to be the most protective against CVD. Within this dark orange/yellow food group, carrots were determined to be the single most risk-reducing food. Participants who had the least carrot intake had the least amount of CVD risk reduction, even though they still received risk-reducing benefits from their carrot intake. However, participants who ate at least 25 more grams of carrots (with 25 grams being less than one-quarter of a cup) had a significantly lower risk of CVD. And the groups of participants who ate 50- or 75-grams more had an even more greatly reduced risk of CVD! We’re not sure how any study could better demonstrate how easy it can be to lower CVD risk by making a food like carrot part of the everyday diet.

Antioxidant nutrients in carrots are believed to explain many of the cardioprotective benefits provided by these root vegetables. The many different kinds of carrot antioxidants are most likely to work together and provide us with cardiovascular benefits that we could not obtain from any of these antioxidants alone if they were split apart and consumed individually, in isolation from each other. The synergistic effect of carrot antioxidants is a great example of a whole food and its uniqueness as a source of nourishment.

Yet in addition to the diverse mixture of carrot antioxidants, there is yet another category of carrot phytonutrient that is believed to help explain carrot protection against cardiovascular disease.That category is polyacetylenes. Polyacetylenes are unique phytonutrients made from metabolism of particular fatty acids (often involving crepenynic acid, stearolic acid and tariric acid). They are particularly common in the Apiaceae/Umbelliferae family of plants (which includes carrot). The two best-researched polyacetylenes in carrot are falcarinol and falcarindiol. Preliminary research on animals and in the lab has shown that carrot polyacetylenes have anti-inflammatory properties and anti-aggregatory properties (that help prevent excessive clumping together of red blood cells). So in addition to the unique mix of antioxidants in carrot, polyacetylenes may play a key role in the cardiovascular protection provided by this amazing food.

Vision Health

 

While you might expect to find a large number of human research studies documenting the benefits of carrot intake for eye health, there are relatively few studies in this area. Most studies about carotenoids and eye health have focused on carotenoid levels in the bloodstream and the activities of the carotenoids themselves, rather than the food origins of carotenoids (like carrots). Still, we have found some smaller scale human studies that show clear benefits of carrot intake for eye health. For example, researchers at the Jules Stein Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles determined that women who consume carrots at least twice per week – in comparison to women who consume carrots less than once per week – have significantly lower rates of glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve often associated with excessive pressure inside the eye). Intake of geranyl acetate – one of the photonutrients that is present in carrot seeds (and sometimes extracted from purified carrot seed oil) has also been repeatedly associated with reduced risk of cataracts in animal studies. However, researchers have yet to analyze the amount of geranyl acetate in the root portion of the carrot and the impact of dietary intake on risk of cataracts.

Anti-Cancer Benefits

 

The anti-cancer benefits of carrot have been best researched in the area of colon cancer. Some of this research has involved actual intake of carrot juice by human participants, and other research has involved the study of human cancer cells types in the lab. While much more research is needed in this area, the study results to date have been encouraging. Lab studies have shown the ability of carrot extracts to inhibit the grown of colon cancer cells, and the polyacetylenes found in carrot (especially falcarinol) have been specifically linked to this inhibitory effect. In studies of carrot juice intake, small but significant effects on colon cell health have been shown for participants who consumed about 1.5 cups of fresh carrot juice per day.

We’re confident that future studies in this area will show carrot intake as being protective against risk of colon cancer. Carrots are simply too rich in digestive tract-supporting fiber, antioxidant nutrients, and unique phytonutrients like falcarinol to be neutral when it comes to support of the lower digestive tract and colon cancer protection.

Description

 

As one of the most popular root vegetables in the U.S. – and widely enjoyed in many other countries as well – carrots almost feel like an old friend for many people who are looking for just the right crunchy snack or addition to a salad. We’ve even seen one study of 8-11 year-old children in France who were given pictures of 54 vegetables and were mostly likely to pick out carrots (along with lettuce and tomatoes) as easily identifiable and likeable vegetables. In the U.S., there seems to be an equal liking for carrots at the other end of the age spectrum as well. Individuals 76 years of age and older eat twice as many carrots as individuals under 40, with the overall average being about 1 cup of carrots per week.

It’s easiest to identify carrots as belonging to the Umbelliferae family of plants, since their leafy greens form an umbrella-like cluster at the top of the root. However, this same family of plants is also commonly known as the Apiaceae family. While the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature accepts both designations, the use of Apiaceae is becoming more and more common in carrot research. This same botanical family includes parsley, anise, celery, parsnips, fennel, caraway, cumin and dill.

The name “carrot” comes from the Greek word “karoton,” whose first three letters (kar) are used to designate anything with a horn-like shape. (That horn-like shape, of course, refers to the taproot of the carrot that is the plant part we’re most accustomed to consuming in the U.S.). The beta-carotene that is found in carrots was actually named for the carrot itself!

Even though U.S. consumers are most familiar with carrots as root vegetables bright orange in color, an amazing variety of colors are found worldwide for this vegetable. (All of these color varieties, however, still belong to the same genus and species of plant, Daucus carota.) Here is a short list of some of the more popular carrot varieties, categorized by color:

  • Orange Carrots
    • Scarlet Nantes (especially valued for its sweetness)
    • Danvers (often raised for processing)
    • Camden (often raised for processing)
    • Other popular varieties include Navajo, Sirkana, Top Cut and Inca
  • Purples Carrots
    • Indigo
    • Maroon
    • Purple Dragon
    • Cosmic Purple
    • Purple Haze
  • Yellow Carrots
    • Sunlite
    • Solar Yellow
    • Yellowstone
  • White Carrots
    • Creme De Lite
    • White Satin
  • Red Carrots
    • Supreme Chateney
    • Red Samurai

 

History

 

The carrot can trace its ancestry back thousands of years, originally having been cultivated in central Asian and Middle Eastern countries, along with parts of Europe. These original carrots looked different from those that we are accustomed to today, featuring red, purple, and yellow coloring rather than the bright orange that we’ve become accustomed to in U.S. supermarkets. Carrots became widely cultivated in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries and were first brought over to North America during this same general time period.

In today’s commercial marketplace, China currently produces about one-third of all carrots bought and sold worldwide. Russia is the second largest carrot producer, with the U.S. following a close third. Many European countries produce substantial amounts of carrots (over 400,000 metric tons) and Turkey, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Australia and Canada are also important countries in the worldwide production of carrots. Within the U.S., about 12,000 acres of carrots for processing are planted each year, resulting in about 320,000 tons of carrots. Over 80% of all fresh market carrot production in the U.S. comes from California, with Michigan and Texas emerging as the next two largest fresh production states.

Currently,U.S. adults average about 12 pounds of carrot intake each year. Approximately 9 pounds are being consumed in fresh form, with the other 3 pounds are being consumed in frozen or canned products. This amount translates into approximately 1 cup of carrots each week in fresh, frozen, or canned form.

How to Select and Store

 

Carrot roots should be firm, smooth, relatively straight and bright in color. The deeper the orange-color, the more beta-carotene is present in the carrot. Avoid carrots that are excessively cracked or forked as well as those that are limp or rubbery. In addition, if the carrots do not have their tops attached, look at the stem end and ensure that it is not darkly colored as this is also a sign of age. If the green tops are attached, they should be brightly colored, feathery and not wilted. Since the sugars are concentrated in the carrots’ core, generally those with larger diameters will have a larger core and therefore be sweeter.

Carrots are hardy vegetables that will keep longer than many others if stored properly. The trick to preserving the freshness of carrot roots is to minimize the amount of moisture they lose. To do this, make sure to store them in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel, which will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form. They should be able to keep fresh for about two weeks. Research has shown that the especially valuable (all-E)-beta-carotene isomer is well-retained in carrots if stored properly. Carrots should also be stored away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause them to become bitter.

If you purchase carrot roots with attached green tops, the tops should be cut off before storing in the refrigerator since they will cause the carrots to wilt prematurely as they pull moisture from the roots. While the tops can be stored in the refrigerator, kept moist by being wrapped in a damp paper, they should really be used soon after purchase since they are fragile and will quickly begin to wilt.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

 

Tips for Preparing Carrots

 

Wash carrot roots and gently scrub them with a vegetable brush right before eating. Unless the carrots are old, thick or not grown organically, it is not necessary to peel them. If they are not organically grown, peel them; most all conventionally grown carrots are grown using pesticides and other chemicals. If the stem end is green, it should be cut away as it will be bitter. Depending upon the recipe or your personal preference, carrots can be left whole or julienned, grated, shredded or sliced into sticks or rounds.

Carrots are delicious eaten raw or cooked. While heating can often damage some of the delicate phytonutrients in vegetables, the beta-carotene as found in carrots has been shown to be surprisingly heat-stable. In fact, carrots’ beta-carotene may become more bioavailable through well-timed steaming. Still, be careful not to overcook carrots if you want to your carrots to retain their maximum flavor and strong overall nutritional value.

The Healthiest Way of Cooking Carrots

 

Of all of the cooking methods we tried when cooking carrots, our favorite is Healthy Steaming. We think that it provides the greatest flavor and is also a method that allows for concentrated nutrient retention. In fact, participants in a recent research study agreed with us. When study participants were asked to evaluate the flavor and overall acceptability of different carrot cooking methods, they significantly favored the flavor and overall acceptability of steamed carrots to boiled carrots. This preference was even expressed by participants who had always boiled carrots in their previous kitchen practices!

To Healthy Steamed carrots, fill the bottom of the steamer with 2 inches of water and bring to a rapid boil. Slice carrots ¼-inch thick and steam for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. For more flavor, toss carrots with our Mediterranean Dressing. (Looking for carrots with extra zing? Try our Carrots with Honey Mustard Sauce recipe.)

How to Enjoy

 

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

 

  • Shredded raw carrots and chopped carrot greens make great additions to salads.
  • Combine shredded carrots, beets and apples, and eat as a salad.
  • For quick, nutritious soup that can be served hot or cold, purée boiled carrots and potatoes in a blender or food processor, and add herbs and spices to taste.
  • Spiced carrot sticks are a flavorful variation on an old favorite at parties or at the dinner table. Soak carrot sticks in hot water spiced with cayenne, coriander seeds and salt. Allow to cool, drain and serve.

 

WHFoods Recipes That Include Carrots

 

  • Asian Chicken Salad
  • Barley Mushroom Soup
  • Carrot Coconut Soup
  • Minestrone Surprise
  • Red Kidney Bean Soup with Lime Yogurt
  • Super Energy Kale Soup
  • 15-Minute Seared Tuna with Sage
  • Poached Halibut with Fennel and Cauliflower
  • Holiday Turkey with Rice Stuffing & Gravy with Fresh Herbs
  • Asian-Flavored Broccoli with Tofu
  • Braised Kidney Beans & Sweet Potato
  • Curried Lentils
  • Miso Stir-Fry
  • Moroccan Eggplant with Garbanzo Beans
  • Primavera Verde
  • Great Antipasto Salad
  • Super Carrot Raisin Salad
  • Carrot Cashew Paté
  • Carrots with Honey Mustard Sauce
  • Garlic Dip with Crudites
  • Minted Carrots with Pumpkin Seeds
  • Minted Green Peas & Carrots
  • Steamed Vegetable Medley

 

Individual Concerns

 

Carrots and Carotoderma

 

Excessive consumption of carotene-rich foods may lead to a condition called carotoderma in which the palms or other skin develops a yellow or orange cast. This yellowing of the skin is presumably related to carotenemia, excessive levels of carotene in the blood. The health impact of carotenemia is not well researched. Eating or juicing high amounts of foods rich in carotene, like carrots, may over tax the body’s ability to convert these foods to vitamin A. The body slowly converts carotene to vitamin A, and extra carotene is stored, usually in the palms, soles or behind the ears. If the cause of the carotenemia is eating excessively high amounts of foods like carrots, the condition will usually disappear after reducing consumption.

Nutritional Profile

 

Carrots are perhaps best known for their beta-carotene content. (The nutrient beta-carotene was actually named after the carrot!) While they can be an outstanding source of this phytonutrient, carrots actually contain a fascinating combination of phytonutrients, including other carotenoids (especially alpha-carotene and lutein); hydroxycinnamic acids (including caffeic, coumaric, ferulic); anthocyanins (in the case of purple and red carrots); and polyacetylenes (especially falcarinol and falcarindiol). Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids). In addition, they are a very good source of immune-supportive vitamin C; bone-building vitamin K; and heart-healthy dietary fiber and potassium. They are a good source of heart-healthy vitamin B6, niacin, folate, and vitamin E; enzyme-supporting manganese and molybdenum; and energy-supportive vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus.

For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Carrots.

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Carrots is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn’t contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food’s in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients – not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good – please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you’ll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food’s nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling.” Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Carrots
1.00 cup
122.00 grams
50.02 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin A 20381.32 IU 407.6 146.7 excellent
vitamin K 16.10 mcg 20.1 7.2 very good
fiber 3.42 g 13.7 4.9 very good
vitamin C 7.20 mg 12.0 4.3 very good
potassium 390.40 mg 11.2 4.0 very good
manganese 0.17 mg 8.5 3.1 good
vitamin B6 0.17 mg 8.5 3.1 good
molybdenum 6.10 mcg 8.1 2.9 good
vitamin B3 1.20 mg 6.0 2.2 good
folate 23.18 mcg 5.8 2.1 good
vitamin B1 0.08 mg 5.3 1.9 good
phosphorus 42.70 mg 4.3 1.5 good
vitamin B2 0.07 mg 4.1 1.5 good
vitamin E 0.81 mg 4.0 1.5 good

 

World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%
Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “What are the benefits of Carrots?”

  1. ninja recipes diyor ki:

    Valuable information. Lucky me I discovered your site by chance, and I’m shocked why this coincidence did not happened earlier! I bookmarked it.