Carrots, as part of the umbelliferae family, are related to a host of other healthy vegetables, such as fennel, parsley, parsnips, anise, caraway, cumin and dill.  While some varieties of carrots are as small as two inches long, others can grow to three feet in length, with diameters ranging from a half inch to well over two inches. 

While the carrot root that is typically eaten has a crunchy and slightly sweet taste, the “greens” on a carrot can also be consumed.  Their faintly bitter taste may require some persistence in order to acquire a taste for the greens.


The family name for carrots comes from the flowering clusters on the plants that resemble umbrellas.  Most people associate carrots as being bright orange, but the reality is that carrots come in many different colors including yellow, red, purple and snow white. 

Until the 15th or 16th century, the only varieties of carrots which were cultivated were those which were purple, red and yellow.

Nutritional Information

To ensure carrots are not losing important beta-carotene isomers, proper storage is required.  Good humidity and refrigeration can solve this problem. 

While most of the research performed on carrots in the past seemed to focus on their important antioxidant properties due to carotenoids (along with spinach and pumpkin), recent research has pointed out that carrots are rich in phytonutrients called polyacetylenes. 

Two of the most important polyacetylenes in carrots are falcarindiol and falcarinol. 

As with many other vegetables, the method used for cooking carrots is a factor in how many of the nutrients are retained.  Steaming is a far better way to cook carrots than boiling, with very little loss of the health-giving properties found in the raw, natural state.

Some of the nutrients found in carrots are quite surprising!  For instance, one cup of carrots contains the following daily recommendation percentages:

  • Vitamin A – 407%
  • Vitamin K – 20%
  • Fiber – 13%
  • Vitamin C – 12%
  • Potassium – 11%
  • Manganese – 8.5%
  • Folate – 5%

Carrots also contain high amounts of valuable antioxidants.  Broken down, these nutrients include:

  1. Carotenoids – alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein
  2. Hydroxycinnamic Acids – caffeic acid, coumaric acid and ferulic acid
  3. Anthocyanindins – cyanidins and malvidins

It is fairly easy to tell which variety of carrots contains what amount of phytonutrients based on their color.  Orange carrots are known to have large quantities of beta-carotene, while red and purple carrots have an extremely rich anthocyanindin content.  Yellow carrots are a great source of lutein. 

Because carrots are pleasant-tasting and easy to eat (raw or shredded on salads), this vegetable should be high on everyone’s list.

Health Benefits

Thanks to modern science, many people are now aware that oxidative damage in human tissues cause aging and some serious health problems.  It is now believed that the interaction between the carotenoids and the phytonutrients may actually be the result of the two working together in a synergistic union to maximize the health benefits for human consumption.

Several studies involving carrots and anti-cancer benefits have been performed in the past several years.  Although some of the research involved the actual ingestion of carrot juice during the studies, other research involved the study of human cancer cells in laboratory settings.  While more research is needed, results thus far show that carrot extracts are useful in preventing the growth of some cancer cells.  These effects were seen with as little as 1.5 cups of fresh carrot juice on a daily basis.

Current research is showing that the polyacetylenes and phytonutrients found in carrots are helping to inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells, particularly when these nutrients are present in their reduced (non-oxidized) form. 

While consuming large quantities of vegetables is a very good way to avoid overeating of sugary foods, carrots offer several other health benefits as well.  In addition to being a source for antioxidants, carrots contain phytonutrients which help protect against cardiovascular disease. 

These polyacetylenes (discussed above) seem to have anti-inflammatory properties as well as anti-aggregatory ones which help prevent the “clumping together” of red blood cells. 

The extremely rich carotenoid properties of carrots helps to prevent the oxidative damage to the polyacetylenes in carrots.  Researchers are just beginning to study the synergistic properties found in carrots.

Many research studies involving vision health focus on the presence of carotenoids in the bloodstream rather than on how the carotenoids enter the body.  Some smaller studies on humans involving carrots and vision health clearly show the benefits of this vegetable’s consumption.  A study at the Jules Stein Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles showed that women who ate carrots at least twice a week had significantly lower levels of glaucoma than those who had carrots once a week or less. 

Another phytonutrient found in carrots has been known to reduce the risk of cataracts in studies performed on animals.  Further research may show the same results on humans.

Vegetables such as carrots can also help reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help decrease the chances of bone loss as one ages.

Cooking Tips

Carrots should be refrigerated with plenty of humidity.  If wrapped in damp paper and then placed in an air-tight container, carrots can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks with very little nutrient loss.

Go easy on the sauces or dips when consuming carrots and other low-calorie vegetables.  Carrots have no cholesterol when eaten alone.  Consuming large quantities of vegetables such as carrots can give a feeling of fullness, aiding in weight-loss diets.


  1. Holford, P. The optimum nutrition bible, Little Brown Group (2004)
  2. Holford, P & Lawson, S. Optimum Nutrition Made Easy How to achieve optimum health, Piatkus Books (2008)
  3. Murray, M.T. et al., Encyclopedia of healing foods, London : Piatkus (2005)
  4. The National Research Council. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed, National Academy of Sciences (1989)
  5. Werbach, M. Nutritional Influences on Illness, 2nd ed, Third Line Press (1993)


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