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Carrot is a root vegetable obtained from the biennial plant, Daucus carota. Belonging to the aromatic family- Apiaceae, it has been used for its crunchy taste and myriad health benefits since ancient times.

According to some historians, carrots were first used for medicinal purposes and gradually transitioned to be used as food. They were probably grown first in Asia.

The earliest variety of this vegetable dates back to the 10th century. They are believed to be quite different from the carrots of present times and are known to have been purple or white in colour. The orange coloured variant of this plant was developed in Central Europe in 15th and 16th Century. Curious isn't it.

Did you know?

Anthocyanins and Carotenoids are the two major antioxidant pigments found in carrots. These are responsible for the varied colouration in carrot varieties.

Orange carrots are high in alpha and beta-carotene which are a rich source of provitamin A. The yellow colour of the carrots is due to the presence of lutein. High concentration of the pigment lycopene contributes to the red colour of the carrots. On the other hand, carrots which are rich in anthocyanins are purple in colour.

The white-fleshed cultivars have a very small amount of pigments and hence the absence of colour. The red coloured varieties have a high content of lycopene. For the orange and yellow coloured varieties, the carotene content increases with their growth. There is more carotene present in the cortex than in the core. 

Went a bit overboard with colours, right? But it's quite interesting that the same pigments which are responsible for filling all those colours in carrots also exhibit some health benefiting properties. Anthocyanins, for example, are excellent for remedying pain and inflammation and beta-carotene is what makes carrots to be the best friend to your eyes. And that is not even the beginning of what this bright taproot has to offer.

Some basic facts about carrot:

  • Scientific Name: Daucus carota L.
  • Family: Apiaceae
  • Common Name: Carrot, Gajar
  • Sanskrit name: गृञ्जनं Gṛñjanaṁ
  • Parts used: The taproot is the most edible part of a carrot and the green leaves can be used as salad.
  • Native Region and Geographical Distribution: Carrot is commonly grown in Britain and Ireland, especially in the coastal areas. It is also cultivated in temperate parts of Europe and Southwest Asia, but its origin is believed to be from western Asia from where it was sent to Europe several hundred years ago. In other parts of the world, including Australia and North America, carrot is an introduced alien species. In India, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are major producers of carrot.
  • Fun fact: Eating too many carrots can turn your skin orange. It is a medical condition called carotenemia which turns your skin into a funny, cartoon-like orange colour. The condition is generally harmless.
  1. Carrot nutrition facts
  2. Carrots health benefits
  3. Carrots uses and storage
  4. Carrots side effects
  5. Takeaway

Besides beta-carotene and carotenoids, carrots contain vitamins such as Vitamin C, Vitamin K, pyridoxine (B6), thiamine (B1), folates(B9) and riboflavin (B2), all of which are extremely essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy growth.

A single raw carrot contains about 41 kcal of energy and about 88g of water per 100 g. It is also a rich source of dietary fibre, potassium and Vitamin A. 

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 g of carrot contains the following values:

Nutrients Value per 100 g
Water 88.29 g
Energy 41 kcal
Protein 0.93 g
Fats 0.24 g
Carbohydrates 9.58 g
Fibres 2.8 g
Sugars 4.74 g
Minerals Value per 100 g
Calcium 33 mg
Iron 0.30 mg
Magnesium 12 mg
Phosphorus 35 mg
Potassium 320 mg
Sodium 69 mg
Zinc 0.24 mg
Vitamins Value per 100 g
Vitamin C 5.9 mg
Vitamin B1 0.066 mg
Vitamin B2 0.058 mg
Vitamin B3 0.983 mg
Vitamin B6 0.138 mg
Vitamin B9 19 mg
Vitamin A 83 mg
Vitamin E 0.66 mg
Vitamin K 13.2 µg
Fats/ Fatty acids Value per 100 g
Saturated 0.032 g
Monounsaturated 0.012 g
Polyunsaturated 0.102 g

Carrot benefits for eyes

Carrots are best known for their benefits in maintaining eye health. Did you ever wonder why? Carrots are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A. which is important for vision. Studies suggest that beta-carotene of carrot replenishes vitamin A thus preventing vision loss. It has also been claimed to exhibit a protective action against, eye infections, senile cataract and macular degeneration.

According to a recent study, beta-carotene present in carrots can reduce the risk of night blindness.

So, munch on a bowl of carrots the next time you get a food craving.

Carrots benefits for brain

We all know the traditional use of carrots for improving vision and eye health, but did you know that it is also known as a nerve tonic in folk medicine? Fresh and dried carrot roots are taken to relieve nervousness and improve brain function in the USA and Brazil.

Cognition and memory are two of the primary brain functions. These keep us going about the day to day functions. However, both these attributes tend to decline with age. Studies indicate that carrot seed extracts improve cognitive function which includes thinking, learning, perceiving and remembering.are anti-Alzheimer agents as they have memory enhancing properties.

This was claimed to be mediated by a reduction in the acetylcholinesterase (an enzyme) activity in brain thereby improving brain function. According to a preclinical study published in Pharmacology online, administration of 200-400 mg/Kg of carrot extracts significantly reduces amnesia and hence it may have some clinical significance in Alzheimer’s related memory loss.

(Read more: How to increase brain power)

Carrots benefits for liver

Extensive research has been done on the hepatoprotective properties of carrots. Lab-based studies indicate that the antioxidant effects of carrot can be helpful in preventing liver damage and liver cell injury.  In a preclinical study, carrot juice administration was found to increase monounsaturated fatty acids and DHA levels (a type of omega 3 fatty acid) in liver. The study concluded that carrot juice may be helpful in improving fatty liver disease.

Alcoholic liver disease is caused due to an overconsumption of alcohol wherein, the liver tissues slowly start to scar ultimately leading to cirrhosis. In a recent study, carrot consumption was claimed to increase antioxidant status while reducing liver cell damage and inflammation thus alleviating the risk of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.

Carrots for pain and inflammation

Inflammation and pain is the natural response of our bodies against injury. However, long-term inflammation increases the risk of chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Animal-based studies demonstrate the anti-inflammatory effect of carrot seed extracts.

Another study claimed that the anti Inflammatory benefits of carrot seeds are significantly comparable to those of commercial anti Inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen, Celebrex, and aspirin. Both these studies also emphasise on an additional analgesic effect (pain relieving) in these extracts.

Not only do carrot seeds possess inflammation reducing benefits but also the anthocyanins, the pigments responsible for the colour of purple carrots has also been found to improve inflammation. It has been further indicated that these anthocyanins downregulate the expression of certain inflammatory cytokines thereby preventing damage to body cells.

(Read more: Inflammatory disease treatment)

Carrots for wound healing

Carrot is one of the many plants studied for their skin healing properties. In vivo (animal-based) studies demonstrate that topical treatment with carrot extracts decreases wound area and increases the rate of wound contraction and wound tensile strength.

It was further reported that the wound healing properties of carrot may be due to the presence of flavonoids and polyphenols.

(Read more: Open wounds treatment

Carrots for heart health

Carrots exert a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases. This is a result of the combined actions of the polyphenols and dietary fibre present in it. Studies suggest that regular consumption of carrots reduce the levels of cholesterol while increasing antioxidant levels. Together these prevent lipid peroxidation and atherosclerosis, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Vitamin C and Vitamin K present in carrots do wonder to our heart. While vitamin C adds to the antioxidant effects of carrots, vitamin K aids in keeping blood clotting in check which results in preventing heart attack and stroke. Additionally, carrot consumption has been found to reduce homocysteine levels (a type of amino acid) in the body, which otherwise are a risk factor in heart diseases.

However, more studies are still needed to confirm the cardioprotective effects of carrots in humans.

Carrots for diabetes

When it comes to the antidiabetic effects of carrot, the research had been quite contradictory. It was known to have a fairly high glycemic index (raise in blood sugar upon ingestion) and was not recommended to diabetics. However, with the progression in research, this claim has been totally denied. Studies indicate that not only does carrot have a much lower glycemic index than previously anticipated but cooking does not alter it much either.

Another study found that falcarinol and falcarindiol are the chemical compounds responsible for the anti-diabetic potential of carrots.

According to a recent study, vitamin A rich carotenoids present in carrots help manage diabetes.

Carrots have antimicrobial properties

Microorganisms are one of the major causes of diseases and food spoilage. Various chemical-based drugs and preservatives are currently available that not only prevent microbial growth but they also actively fight against some infections. However, most synthetic chemicals aren’t as beneficial to our bodies. Consistent efforts are being made worldwide to find natural substitutes to most of these drugs. Carrot is one such plant. In vitro (lab-based) studies have found that carrot essential oil mediates an inhibitory action against Campylobacter, a common food-borne pathogen.

Besides, carrot extracts also exhibits inhibitory actions on various other bacteria and yeast including Escherichia coli and Candida spp.

Additionally, Carrots also have antifungal properties which attribute to the pigment Carotol found in them. They are believed to fight fungal attacks and inhibit their growth.

Carrots for cancer

In the search of a natural drug for cancer treatment, a lot of fruits and vegetables have been studied for their potential anti-cancer properties. Carrot is one such vegetable. Several studies suggest the anticancer potential of carrots. Lab studies have found that carotenoids present in carrots reduce the risk of prostate cancer and bladder cancer. According to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, carrot consumption was associated with a significantly lower risk of lung cancer in smokers. Though, it did not show a similar effect in non-smokers.

A recent meta-analysis indicates that regular consumption of carrots is very useful in preventing gastric cancer.

However, just the consumption of fruits and vegetables does not seem to have an evident anti-cancer benefit and more studies are needed to devise methods and dosage of administration to reap maximum benefits from dietary sources.

The tap-root is the most edible part of a carrot, however, the green leaves can be used as salad. It is crunchy to eat and is sweet flavoured. It can be taken raw, as a vegetable, as a snack with a side dip, or added to vegetable juices. Alternatively, some people like to have the boiled, steamed variety in stews and soups. Stir-fried carrots are also one of the common dishes across the globe. The sweet taste of carrots enables it to be used in carrot cakes, puddings and jams.

Interestingly, some studies believe that cooking carrots might increase their nutritional benefits. One such study suggests that cooked carrots have higher levels of phenolic acids and beta-carotene when compared to raw carrots.

Carrots, in general, should be stored in cool places. While storing them in the refrigerator, they should be wrapped around with a paper towel or a sealed plastic bag. Certain vegetables and fruits such as potatoes, pears, apples release ethylene gas. Hence, carrots should be kept away from them as the gas might turn them bitter.

Carrot is one of the most nutritious vegetables and safe when eaten as such. However, its safety is ambiguous when used as a medicine.

  • Carrot is safe to be consumed when pregnant or when breastfeeding. But, excessive carrot intake during breastfeeding can negatively impact foetal brain development
  • Carrot is believed to lower blood sugar levels. This characteristic of carrot might interfere with the medications used by diabetic people and cause the levels of blood sugar to go down. Thus, it is often recommended to diabetics to monitor the sugar levels and eat less carrot.
  • Carrots may cause allergic reactions to those who are intolerant to birch, celery, mugwort. Allergic symptoms may vary from itchy eyes, runny nose, and swelling of various body parts.
  • Large amounts of carrot juice might possibly be harmful to teeth. A research was conducted on 142 children and it was found that 36 of these children were fed different brands of carrot juices and/or acid containing beverages after they turned 1 year old. As a result, their maxillary anterior teeth were completely destroyed and had to be extracted.
  • In a case study, a 48-year-old man was reported to suffer from liver dysfunctions and skin discolouration upon excessive carrot consumption. However, the condition alleviated itself after stopping carrot consumption.

There is a bundle of good reasons for one to include carrots in his/her daily diet. They have remarkable benefits to health and heart. In comparison to other vegetables, carrots provide us with significant amounts of provitamin A due to the carotenoids found in them. Additionally, being rich in phenolic compounds, vitamins, polyacetylenes they help in reducing the risk of numerous diseases. The antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and hepatoprotective effects are noteworthy. And the best part is that they are delicious and can be had in numerous ways. 

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