Baby carrots, which are now one of the most popular carrot forms, were not invented until 1986, when a California carrot farmer created them to save some of the broken and misshaped carrots in his harvest.16 Baby carrots are not actually ‘baby’ carrots at all but rather are less-than-perfect carrots that have been shaved down to a smaller size. Not only are baby carrots more expensive than whole carrots, they’re also typically given a chlorine bath to prolong shelf life.
For this reason, I generally recommend purchasing whole carrots instead of baby carrots, and also recommend seeking to find organically grown varieties, as at one time carrots were part of the most heavily pesticide-laden produce list (although they have been removed in recent years). Looking for even more carrot nutrition information and lore? Be sure to read “What Are Carrots Good For?”
Why Eat Carrots?
Carrots are so common in the US that it’s easy to overlook their potentially powerful benefits to your health.
Now a popular snack food to eat with dips or add to fresh vegetable juice, or as an addition to soups and stews, carrots have been valued since ancient times for their medicinal properties. According to the US Department of Agriculture:1
“Thought to be native to central or western Asia (likely Afghanistan), cultivated carrots first arrived in North America with the early Virginia colonists. Carrots are an important member of the parsley family, which also includes celery, anise, and dill.
Like many vegetables, the early history of carrots centered on various medicinal attributes thought suitable for curing a wide range of conditions and maladies.”
Beta-Carotene and More: What Nutrients Are Found in Carrots?
A serving of carrots (one medium carrot or ½ cup chopped) will provide about:
- 210% of the average daily recommended amount of vitamin A
- 10% vitamin K
- 6% vitamin C
- 2% calcium
The high vitamin A content, for which carrots are best known, comes from beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in your liver. Interestingly, there’s a reason why ‘carrot’ and ‘carotene’ sound so alike. The word carotene was devised in the early 19th century by a German scientist after he crystallized the compound from carrot roots.
Carrot seed oil also contain potassium, vitamin B6, copper, folic acid, thiamine and magnesium. I generally recommend eating carrots in moderation because they contain more sugar than any other vegetable aside from beets,
However, when eaten as part of an overall healthy diet, the nutrients in carrots may provide you with protection against heart disease and stroke while helping you to build strong bones and a healthy nervous system.
From Heart Disease to Cancer: What Does the Research Say About Carrots?
There’s good reason to include carrots in your regular diet, as the science is very strong that they may help reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Eating more deep-orange-colored fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). In particular, carrots are associated with a 32 percent lower risk of CHD, leading researchers to conclude:2
“… a higher intake of deep orange fruit and vegetables and especially carrots may protect against CHD.”
The consumption of carrots has also been associated with a lower risk of heart attacks in women.3
Antioxidants in carrots, including beta-carotene, may play a role in cancer prevention. Research has shown that smokers who eat carrots more than once a week have a lower risk of lung cancer,4 while a beta-carotene-rich diet may also protect against prostate cancer.5
The consumption of beta-carotene is also associated with a lower risk of colon cancer6 while carrot juice extract may kill leukemia cells and inhibit their progression.7
Carrots also contain falcarinol, a natural toxin that protects carrots against fungal disease. It’s thought that this compound may stimulate cancer-fighting mechanisms in the body, as it’s been shown to cut the risk of tumor development in rats.8