Some vegetables provoke controversy: brussels sprouts and okra, for example. But not carrots. These orange tapered roots topped by vibrant green leaves have universal appeal. Carrots are delicious and nutritious whether eaten raw or cooked to perfection in a yummy stew or cake.
Some people even call the humble carrot (Daucus carota) the perfect health food because it is low in calories and high in fiber plus other essentials.
One large (8-inch) carrot provides a lot of nourishment at a low caloric cost with no saturated fat. Carrots are mainly composed of water and carbohydrates:
- Calories: 30
- 7g Carbohydrates:
- Protein: .68g
- Total fat: <1g
- Saturated fat: 0g
- Fiber (8% DV): 2g
- Sugar: 3.41g
- Sodium: 50 mg
- Potassium: 230mg (7% DV)
- Magnesium: 9mg (2% DV)
- Vitamin C: 4.2mg (7% DV)
- Folate: 14 ug
- Vitamin A: 12028 IU (241% DV)
- Vitamin E: .48 mg (2% DV)
- Vitamin K: 9.5 ug (12% DV)
The powerful antioxidant beta-carotene from carrots lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It is a natural pigment that is used by the body to make Vitamin A. It is high in fiber and has been linked to warding off health problems associated with aging such as gastric and prostate cancers, inflammation, and coronary heart disease.
Vitamin A has known medical benefits. It protects and strengthens eye health and eyesight, bolsters the body’s disease-fighting immune system, and helps cell growth.
Carrots are a good source of lutein and lycopene which help maintain good eyesight and night vision.
The dietary fiber from carrots makes you feel full as it absorbs water inside the digestive tract. Fiber from carrots is both water-soluble and insoluble. The fibrous material acts very much like a scrubbing sponge as it travels from the stomach to the exit portal. Bulky fiber also slows down digestion so the body can take in more nutrients from food consumed.
Dr. Sheela Manglani, a nutritionist from Bangalore, India, was candid in the good these orange root veggies can do for us:
“Raw carrots daily address the problem of constipation. Carrots also help maintain healthy cholesterol and prevent heart diseases. Being rich in potassium they help bring down cholesterol and water retention.”
The full feeling from eating low-cal carrots can help those who want to lose weight avoid eating between meals or bingeing on foods with more calories and fewer nutritional gains. The form of calcium in carrots is easily assimilated by the body and can help remove excess “bad” LDL cholesterol from arterial and blood vessel walls.
Potassium in carrots lowers blood pressure by relaxing the tension in arteries and blood vessels. Blood flow improves as a consequence which lowers elevated blood pressure. Left untreated, high blood pressure (or hypertension) – the long-term elevated force of the blood against your artery walls – can lead to atherosclerosis, strokes, and heart attacks.
Carrots also rank low on the glycemic index (GI), which measures how quickly foods raise blood sugar after eating a meal. The GI ranges from 16 (raw carrots) to 60 for puréed. Cooked carrots fall in-between.
A 2000 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that carotenoid contents in carrots may be involved with lower risks of lung cancer. Other researchers discovered that foods containing carotenoids reduce the risk of mouth, pharynx and larynx cancers.
A 2017 study confirmed that alpha-carotene and bioflavonoids in carrots are linked to lower risks of many types of cancer, including ovarian, colon, lung, laryngeal, prostate, pancreatic, esophageal, breast, leukemia, renal cell carcinoma, and hepatocellular carcinoma.
German scientists published their findings in 2012 that beta-carotene and vitamin C might fight off mild cases of dementia:
“Researchers in Germany have discovered that the serum-concentration of the antioxidants vitamin C and beta-carotene are significantly lower in patients with mild dementia than in control persons.”
Another great thing about carrots is their low, low cost. A one-pound bag of carrots will set you back about a dollar, give or take a few cents.
Recipes featuring carrots abound online and in cookbooks. Take your pick from carrot cakes, muffins, soups, salads, side dishes – even learn how to glaze them. By the way, peeling the nutrient-packed skin from a carrot is a matter of personal preference. Some people eat the tip and base (where the leaves attach) instead of cutting them off.
If you seek the perfect snack food that requires zero prep, munch a crunchy carrot and feel good about doing yourself some good.