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Nutritionist explains all about carrots and their benefits for health

Nutritionist explains all about carrots and their benefits for health Illustrative photo (Freepik)
Author: Maria Kholina

Many approach carrots with prejudice due to their perceived high carbohydrate content, which may be undesirable for those watching their weight. However, this root vegetable is actually very rich in vitamins, fiber, and highly beneficial, explains nutritionist Anastasiia Holoborodko.

About carrots

"Carrots have a peculiar reputation of a common and slightly boring root vegetable. Carrots consist of water and carbohydrates. The latter are always chains of sugars linked together. However, carrots are a somewhat good source of fiber: a medium-sized carrot contains 2 grams. Fiber acts as a buffer and slows down the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream," explains the nutritionist.

Carrots often have a low glycemic index (ranging from 16 to 60 depending on maturity and variety), indicating how quickly products raise blood sugar levels after eating. The lowest GI is in raw young carrots, slightly higher in cooked ones, and the highest in puree.

"Pectin is the primary form of soluble fiber in carrots. It's a good prebiotic, providing a habitat for beneficial microflora. Soluble fibers can lower blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of sugar and starch. They nourish beneficial bacteria in the intestines," says Holoborodko.

Carrots also contain insoluble fibers – cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. They can reduce the likelihood of constipation and contribute to regular bowel movements.

Vitamins in carrots

Carrots contain many beneficial substances, including:

  • Vitamin A – essential for vision support and important for growth, development, and a robust immune function.
  • Vitamin B, formerly known as vitamin H, plays a crucial role in fat and protein metabolism.
  • Vitamin K1 – important for blood clotting and, in conjunction with vitamin D, supports bone health.
  • Potassium – a vital mineral for controlling blood pressure.
  • Vitamin B6 – part of the B-vitamin group, B6 is involved in converting food into energy.
  • Carotenoids – compounds with potent antioxidant activity linked to improved immune function and reduced risks of heart disease, degenerative diseases, and some protection against certain types of cancer.
  • Beta-carotene – the main carotenoid in carrots, converted to vitamin A. It's fat-soluble, so it's advisable to consume it with fats.

Key plant compounds in carrots include:

  • Beta-carotene: orange carrots are super-rich in beta-carotene. Absorption is stronger (up to 6.5 times) when carrots are cooked.
  • Alpha-carotene – an antioxidant, partly converted to vitamin A like beta-carotene.
  • Lutein – one of the most common antioxidants in carrots, crucial for eye health.
  • Lycopene – a bright red antioxidant found in many red fruits and vegetables, including red and purple carrots. Lycopene reduces the risks of cancer development and supports heart function.
  • Polyacetylenes – recent studies found bioactive compounds in carrots that may help protect against leukemia and other types of cancer.
  • Anthocyanins – powerful antioxidants present in dark carrots.