So you’ve started to follow the Paleo diet, but once you start researching what you can and can’t eat you may worry that some of your favorite foods are off the table. Of course, you’ve already said goodbye to processed foods, but do you have to give up any particular fruit or vegetables? What about carrots?
Well, we’re pleased to report that carrots are indeed Paleo-friendly!
As a root vegetable, carrots contain a fair amount of carbohydrates (around 7%), and much less protein and fat although they’re not entirely rid of these macronutrients.
B-carotene is responsible for carrots’ orange hue, and this is what our bodies convert into vitamin A. Carrots also contain a lot of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, so while they contain some sugar this doesn’t take them out of the Paleo game.
Carrots can also have medicinal properties too. Ancient cultures used certain foods to treat all sorts of maladies, and carrots were one of those foods. For example carrots have been used to treat digestive problems such as intestinal parasites, as well as tonsillitis and constipation.
Below we’ll go into more detail about the health benefits of carrots, how to prepare and cook them, as well as discuss the possible risks of eating carrots.
Health Benefits of Carrots
Carrots are packed with antioxidants and offer plenty of health benefits. Let’s take a look!
Good for your eyes: This is probably one of the most widely-known health benefits of carrots. They may not help you to see in the dark like the legend says, but their beta-carotene helps to keep your eyes healthy. The beta-carotene also helps to protect your eyes from the sun, and eating carrots lowers your chances of developing cataracts and other eye problems.
Yellow carrots also contain lutein, which is good for your eyes as well. Studies have found that lutein helps prevent age-related macular degenration, which is the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S.
Lowers your risk of cancer: Antioxidants are known for being able to fend off harmful free radicals in your body, which makes you less likely to develop cancer.
The two main types of antioxidants found in carrots are carotenoids and anthocyanins. Carotenoids are what gives carrots their orange and yellow colors, while anthocyanins are responsible for red and purple coloring in some carrots.
Good for your heart: Antioxidants are also good for your heart, while the potassium in carrots helps to regulate your blood pressure. The fiber found in carrots also helps you maintain a healthy weight and reduces your chances of heart disease. Red carrots also contain lycopene that can help to prevent heart disease.
Boosts your immune system: The vitamin C helps your body build antibodies that defend your immune system. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron and prevents you from infections.
Controls diabetes: People with diabetes should eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables like carrots. The fiber can help to keep sugar levels under control, while the vitamin A and beta-carotene can lower the risk of developing diabetes.
Strengthens bones: Carrots contain calcium and vitamin K, which are both very important for bone health.
Are there any risks to eating carrots?
Eating too much beta-carotene can lead you to develop a condition called carotenemia, which turns your skin an orange-yellow color. While it is relatively harmless and is easily treatable, in extreme cases, it can prevent vitamin A from doing its job and have an adverse affect on your vision, bones, skin, metabolism, or immune system.
Too much beta-carotene may also be problematic for those who have hypothyroidism, and who are unable to turn the beta-carotene into vitamin A.
Also, carrots can make some people’s mouths itch. This is called oral allergy syndrome, and it’s when your body reacts to the proteins found in certain fruits and vegetables like they are pollen you are allergic to. But this usually happens when the carrots are not cooked.
When buying carrots, look for firm carrots that don’t have a lot of cracks.
Carrots are so durable that they don’t grow in any particular season, and you can find good-quality carrots all year round.
Baby carrots are just regular-sized carrots that have been cut into smaller pieces, and they are just as nutritious as regular carrots. Baby carrots make excellent snacks, and are great additions to lunchboxes.
To prepare carrots, wash them thoroughly in water and scrub off any dirt. You can also peel them with a vegetable peeler or knife if you wish.
If you don’t like crunchy carrots you can steam, boil or roast them and serve them as a side dish.
Fresh, whole carrots will keep for several weeks in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. If you wish to get rid of the leafy green tops, trim those, then store them in a plastic bag with holes in it.
You can enjoy carrots raw with guacamole or with homemade Paleo-friendly mayo.
To enjoy grilled carrots, grill them whole for about 20 minutes and serve with your favorite herbs.
To enjoy oven-baked carrots, you can chop them for easier eating or leave them whole for a more dynamic presentation. Sprinkle with herbs and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until soft.
To enjoy carrots cooked in a skillet, slice them into thin matchsticks and quickly pan-fry them for a warm side dish.
Remember, it’s not just the roots of the carrot we can enjoy, the tops are pretty delicious too! It’s easy to forget that the green tops of a lot of vegetables are edible.
You’ll often find carrots, radishes, beets, or turnips in supermarkets with no greens at all. But when cooked and served with their greens, these vegetables come alive with earthy, sweet, and peppery flavors. Carrot tops, for example, can be slightly pungent and herbal.
Just cut off the feathery parts and use them to garnish a salad, or add some carrot tops to your pesto for a unique flavor.