Does Boiling Carrots Destroy the Nutrients?

Whether cooked or raw, carrots are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Understanding some differences between cooked carrots nutrition and eating them raw may help you get the most benefits, especially when it comes to the health of your eyes, heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs.

To retain the maximum amount of nutrients in boiled carrots, use a small amount of water and a tight-fitting lid.
Image Credit: Yulia Gusterina/iStock/GettyImages

Tip

To retain the maximum amount of nutrients in boiled carrots, use a small amount of water and a tight-fitting lid. Shorten the cooking time and lower the cooking temperature. Add the nutrient-rich water to soups or sauces.

Calories in Cooked Carrots vs. Raw

Based on the average intake of 2,000 calories, the USDA Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020 recommends that you consume two and a half cups of vegetables every day, which can include both raw and cooked foods. The standard serving size for vegetables is one cup.

The calories in cooked carrots are similar to those in raw carrots. However, keep in mind that one cup of sliced raw carrots weighs 122 grams, while the same amount of sliced cooked carrots weighs 156 grams, according to the USDA. The reason for this difference is that carrots shrink when cooked, so you can fit more of them into a cup.

One cup of sliced raw carrots provides 50 calories. The same quantity of cooked carrots has 55 calories, which is the same amount as the boiled broccoli.

When comparing carbohydrates and fat, the difference is negligible. Cooked carrots have about 1 gram of carbs more than raw carrots per cup. The total fat content is the same — 0.3 grams per cup.

Boiled carrots contain more fiber than their raw counterparts. One cup of cooked carrots contains 4.7 grams, or 19 percent of the daily value (DV) for fiber, compared to raw carrots that contain 3.4 grams, or 14 percent of the DV. If you peel the vegetable, you will lose much of the healthy fiber, which is important for digestive health.

Read more: Should You Eat Fruits & Veggies Raw or Cooked?

Benefits of Cooking Carrots

Boiling carrots not only makes them tastier and easier to chew and digest but also destroys bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. Additionally, it allows phytochemicals and nutrients to be more available and better absorbed by your body, says the Victoria State Government.

The vitamins in carrots that are fat-soluble, including vitamins A, E and K, are heat stable and won't be destroyed by boiling. In fact, cooking can help break down the vegetable's cell walls, freeing up more of the nutrients.

Heating may also increase their calcium levels in carrots. One cup of cooked carrots contains 46.8 milligrams of calcium as compared to 40.3 milligrams in raw carrots, according to the USDA. Calcium is an important mineral needed to maintain strong teeth and bones and to carry out many bodily functions, such as muscle contractions, transporting signals from your nerves to the brain and helping to release hormones, points out to the National Institutes of Health.

These vegetables are a rich source of carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. However, raw carrots have tough cellular walls, and your body can convert less than 25 percent of their beta-carotene into vitamin A, according to a February 2012 review in the Journal of Food Science and Technology.

Cooking partially dissolves cellulose-thickened cell walls, freeing up nutrients by breaking down the cell membranes. This allows for an increase in total carotenoids and a more effective conversion to vitamin A.

Per cup, raw carrots contain 113 percent of the DV for vitamin A, while boiled carrots deliver 148 percent of the DV, says the USDA. Vitamin A is vital for normal vision, reproduction and supporting your immune system. It also helps your heart, kidneys, lungs and other organs work properly.

Disadvantages of Boiling Carrots

When you boil carrots, some vitamins and minerals that are water-soluble are leached out and lost in the cooking liquid.

Vitamin C is an unstable vitamin and it's very susceptible to chemical and enzymatic oxidation during cooking, reports a January 2014 study published in Bioscience Discovery. The loss of vitamin C is caused by thermal breakdown and leaching in the surrounding water. When comparing the various cooking methods, researchers have found that boiling decreased the ascorbic acid in carrots by 33 percent in all samples. Sautéed carrots lost the least amount of vitamin C.

According to the USDA, the vitamin C content in a cup of raw carrots is 7.2 milligrams compared to cooked carrots which contain 5.6 milligrams. That's a reduction of 2 percent of the DV for vitamin C per cup.

Boiling carrots can also diminish the content of B vitamins, which function as coenzymes that help your body convert food into energy. B-complex vitamins are also important for normal appetite, proper vision, healthy skin, nervous system functioning and red blood cell formation, according to Colorado State University.

The B vitamins in carrots are water-soluble and therefore, affected by boiling as a cooking method. Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate and vitamin B6 levels can all decrease.

Another mineral that is water-soluble is potassium, which can also be leached into the cooking water. The USDA lists the potassium content of carrots before cooking as 390.4 milligrams. After cooking, it's 366.6 milligrams per cup.

Read more: Do Vegetables Lose Nutrients When Cooked?

Magnesium salts dissolve easily in water. A September 2017 review featured in the journal
Scientifica
states that boiling vegetables results in a significant decrease in their magnesium levels. Using the same weight measure of 100 grams, the USDA lists the magnesium content in raw carrots as 12 milligrams and cooked carrots as having 10 milligrams.

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