Carrots are a highly touted health food, and for good reason.
They are nutritious, low-calorie, whole food that is also delicious and enjoyable to eat in a cooked or raw state.
But is it healthy to eat raw carrots?
Is it better to eat carrots cooked or raw?
You’ve probably heard that raw vegetables are healthier to eat because more of their nutrients are preserved.
You may have also heard the contrary claim, which is that your body is more likely to absorb the nutrition when you eat cooked vegetables.
Both of these claims are true in some instances — it depends entirely on the type of vegetables being cooked, and the type of cooking.
For example, water-soluble vitamins (like vitamins B and C) are usually leached out of vegetables when cooked in water.
This is why you often hear the recommendation to cook vegetables with the least amount of water possible, using a method like blanching, roasting, or microwaving.
Or, better yet, make soup! The nutrients will be lost into the water or broth, but you will then drink the liquid, so it turns out to not be a loss after all.
With fat-soluble vitamins, on the other hand (like vitamins A, D, and K), eating raw vegetables on their own is not the best strategy to get all the nutrition.
For example, carrots contain high levels of the plant form of vitamin A (beta carotene).
If you eat them raw, they still contain the same amount of vitamin A, but your body will not necessarily have the capability to break it down into a usable form unless you eat some dietary fat along with the carrots.
This is when roasting carrots in oil may be useful, or if you prefer eating them raw, dip them first into a fat-containing sauce (try guacamole, a cheese sauce, or a mayonnaise-based sauce!).
What happens when you eat raw carrots?
In contrast with carrots, which are perfectly safe to eat raw, white potatoes have a compound that is toxic when consumed raw.
This compound is known as a glycoalkaloid, and eating too many glycoalkaloids can lead to drowsiness, itchiness, and digestive issues.
Usually, glycoalkaloids are deactivated to a significant degree by the cooking process.
While raw carrots don’t contain any potentially toxic compounds, it is true that eating too many of them over a long period of time can lead to your skin turning orange.
This is due to an overconsumption of beta carotene, which affects the pigmentation of your skin.
Although turning your skin orange is usually undesirable, there don’t seem to be any known harmful effects from consuming too many carotenoids.
It should also be noted that the amount of raw carrots needed to actually turn your skin orange is extremely high, and this is usually only attainable by frequently drinking carrot juice, or smoothies that have large amounts of carrots.
If you are simply eating raw carrots in their original, un-juiced form, you shouldn’t even be capable of eating enough of them to turn your skin orange.
Carrots are delicious, but as is true with many whole foods, it’s difficult to over-indulge in them when they are in their original, unprocessed form.
This is one of the things that makes whole foods a good choice for people who are looking to lose weight.
If you make it a point to eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and meats as close to their unprocessed form as possible, your body’s satiety mechanisms will likely function well and let you know when you should stop eating.
If you’re eating most of your carrots in juice or smoothie form, however, the large amount of processing will make it much more difficult for your body’s satiety mechanisms to let you know when you’ve had enough.
When in doubt, opt for chewing your food instead of blending or juicing it!
Can you eat raw carrots without peeling them?
First of all, we should distinguish baby carrots from regular carrots.
Baby carrots do not need to be peeled, because of the way they have been processed.
Baby carrots are actually hunks that have been cut out of larger carrots that are usually deformed in some way.
For this reason, baby carrots don’t come with the tougher outer layer that regular carrots do, and have no need to be peeled at all.
Regular-sized carrots usually do have tough skin still intact when you buy them.
There shouldn’t be any harm in eating the peel — it’s all a matter of taste preference.
When eating carrots raw, you’ll likely notice that unpeeled carrots have a bit of a rough exterior.
If you’re picky about the textures of the food you eat, you may be turned off by this, and you may prefer to peel the carrots instead.
If you don’t mind the texture and flavor of the skin, however, you can skip the peeling altogether and save time!
If you opt to skip the peeling step, however, you may want to wash and scrub the carrots just a bit before eating, to ensure that no dirt and debris remain on the skin.