As any rabbit knows, carrots are a fun, delicious and nutritious food. This root crop grows underground and is easily recognizable by its long, pointy shape and distinct orange color, although breeding programs have now developed varieties in shades of yellow, white, purple and red. Whether you serve them cooked, raw or as a part of other dishes, there are numerous benefits to including carrots in your diet.
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Calories and Fat
A single serving of carrots is about 1 cup, 128 grams, and contains 52 calories. Carrots have no fat and no cholesterol. As a low-calorie, low-fat food, carrots are a good choice for people watching their weight. As a healthful and easily accessible vegetable, they can be used as one of the USDA's five recommended servings of vegetables per day.
Carrots are mostly carbohydrates, with 12 grams per serving. Of the carbs in carrots, 4 grams are fiber. Carrots contain 1 gram of protein. They are also a low sodium food, containing 88 milligrams of this nutrient in 1 cup, an amount equal to only 4 percent of the recommended daily allowance.
Where carrots really shine is as a source of vitamin A. One cup of carrots provides a whopping 428 percent of the recommended daily intake. Other micronutrients found in carrots include calcium, thiamin, niacin, iron, vitamin B-6, vitamin E, riboflavin, folate, manganese, vitamin C, vitamin K, choline, phosphorus and potassium. A 1-cup serving of raw carrots also provides 4 grams of fiber. Adults need 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day, but the National Institutes of Health reports that most get roughly half that amount.
The glycemic load of a food indicates how rapidly one serving will be converted into sugar by the body. The glycemic load of carrots is 3 out of a scale of 100, indicating that a single serving of carrots will have little effect on blood glucose levels. Low-glycemic-load foods are especially important for diabetics and those embarking on a weight loss plan that involves attention to the glycemic index, such as the Sout Beach diet.
The high levels of antioxidants in carrots, especially vitamin A, help promote good health overall and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Carrots' big claim to fame in the health department, however, is their effect on vision. The high doses of vitamin A, a type of carotenoid, work synergistically with other components in carrots to improve vision overall, but are especially beneficial to night vision. Another phytonutrient in carrots, falcarinol, has been linked to protection from colon cancer.