Are carrots healthy? Are they really a super food for you? You bet they are! Carrots are loaded with vitamins and minerals, simply rich with nutrients that are beneficial to your health. As a powerful antioxidant, carrots help ward off heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. And they taste yummy, too—either peeled and eaten raw as a quick snack or prepared with one of our fast-and-easy recipes.
But as with just about everything in life, carrots come with risk. More about that in a minute. First, let’s review how consuming carrots can help you.
Growing carrots is easy and fun, and eating them is even easier. Just peel and eat a raw carrot for a quick and healthy snack. But, you can quickly ruin some of the health benefits of carrots. Tip: When boiling carrots, don’t overcook them—you’ll know that the carrots are losing beneficial nutrients if the water changes color (it’s the same for broccoli). Wait until the water comes to a full boil to put carrots in the pot, and cook them until tender.
Consuming carrots has many health benefits for you:
Are carrots healthy? Yes, to improve your vision health.
Everyone has heard the age-old wisdom about eating carrots to improve your eyesight, because carrots are full of vitamin A—a half-cup serving of carrots delivers 73% of your daily vitamin A requirement. But many people get plenty of vitamin A from other sources such as milk, cheese, and eggs. Piling on vitamin A with carrots won’t further improve your eyesight if you’re already getting enough vitamin A from other sources. For those who don’t eat dairy products, vegans for example, carrots can be the superfood you need to improve eyesight. Otherwise, your vision health can be improved by consuming carrots because the beta-carotene can help prevent cataracts, and the antioxidants can help treat or prevent macular degeneration.
Lower your diabetes risk.
Non-starchy vegetables such as carrots (and broccoli and cauliflower, too) are great sources of fiber and can help lower your risk of diabetes. High blood-sugar levels can lead to or worsen type 2 diabetes, and carrots are on the low end of the scale when it comes to the glycemic index—a scale of 1 to 100 that measures how much some foods can raise your blood-sugar levels. Here’s a big difference: raw carrots are 16 on the glycemic index, while boiled carrots range from 32 to 49. Both are still low, but raw carrots are the better deal when it comes to consuming a very low-glycemic-index food.
Ease problems with bowel movements.
Got diarrhea or constipation? Well, carrots can help with both conditions. Diarrhea means a lot of uncontrollable loose stools. The fiber in carrots helps add bulk and mass to loose stools, making your bowel movements more regular and comfortable. Constipation happens when food backs up in your colon and won’t easily move through your system. The fiber in carrots, specifically the insoluble fiber, loosens hard feces by binding water in your gut, easing the pain and discomfort from constipation.
Support your immune system.
Carrots contain vitamin C that helps you build antibodies to support your immune system. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb and use iron to help prevent infections. Plus, the beta-carotene in carrots helps support your immune system when your liver converts it to vitamin A, an anti-inflammatory agent. But here’s the trick: at least one study has shown that consuming cooked or puréed carrots is best, because higher levels of beta-carotene were absorbed when carrots were cooked or puréed vs. when consuming carrots raw. Consider a carrot side dish, where the carrots are boiled, then mashed, and mixed with crushed ginger for even more flavor. Plus, ginger itself is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that also support your immune system.
Now what about the risks involved with carrots? It’s hard to imagine that something as healthful as carrots can come with any risks, but here you go:
What is carotenemia?
Eating too many carrots can mean too much beta-carotene in your system, and beta-carotene is what gives carrots their bright-orange color. Too much carotene can discolor your skin and lead to carotenemia. While there are no known serious harmful effects from carotenemia, it can look strange to have your skin turn orange. In extreme cases, carotenemia can keep vitamin A from doing its job and can affect your vision, bones, skin, metabolism, or immune system. And infants can experience carotenemia when consuming too much puréed carrot baby food. For adults, you’d have to consume 1/2 cup chopped carrots every day for months to experience carotenemia. The good news is that it’s treatable and reversible, but it just goes to show you that too much of a good thing can have undesirable effects!
Allergy-sensitive people beware!
Some people are hypersensitive to carrots because of the allergen in carrot pollen. Common side effects include skin rashes, diarrhea, anaphylactic reactions, hives, and swelling. And oral allergy syndrome, which is also known as pollen-food allergy syndrome, can cause an itchy throat, mouth, or ears. If you’re allergic to carrots, you probably already know it. But if you can’t figure out what is causing your side effects, please see an allergy doctor to get tested. Better to know what you should be avoiding than constantly suffering.
So, are carrots healthy? Yes, carrots are a good choice for a healthful diet, just don’t go crazy and eat too many!
Do you want to start growing your own carrots? Believe me, it’s easy and tremendously beneficial! Check out our Crunchy Carrots Guide to learn all about growing your own carrots and enjoying all the health benefits!
What else would you like to know about the health benefits of carrots? Please leave your questions and comments below.