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Are Purple Carrots Healthier? Nutrition, Benefits and Uses

Health + Wellness
Allison Achauer / Moment / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Carrots are tasty vegetables that come in a variety of colors.


Purple carrots are especially eye-catching and provide unique health benefits specific to purple fruits and vegetables.

All types of carrots are highly nutritious, but purple carrots are especially rich in powerful antioxidants known to fight inflammation and benefit certain health conditions.

This article reviews the benefits of purple carrots and gives you tips on how to add these vibrant vegetables to your diet.

History and Nutrition

Though most people envision an orange vegetable when picturing a carrot, carrots were originally purple or white.

In fact, the first evidence of carrots being used as a food crop was in the Iranian Plateau and the Persian Empire in the 10th century AD—these ancient carrots were purple and white (1).

The modern, orange carrot likely originated from a new breed of yellow carrots, which were developed as a result of a genetic mutation.

Red and purple carrots are considered Eastern varieties, while yellow, orange or white carrots are known as Western-type carrots.

The Eastern-type carrots have been largely replaced by the orange Western types that are common in today's grocery stores.

Nutrition

All carrots—independent of their color—are packed with a variety of nutrients, such as fiber, potassium, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin A and certain B vitamins (2).

Additionally, they're relatively low in calories, with 1 cup (128 grams) of raw carrots delivering just 52 calories.

What makes purple carrots nutritionally unique is their content of the antioxidants anthocyanins.

Anthocyanins belong to the polyphenol family of antioxidants and are found in purple fruits and vegetables like blackberries, grapes, purple potatoes, purple cabbage, and purple carrots (3).

Antioxidants like anthocyanins help protect your body from oxidative stress, which refers to an imbalance between reactive molecules called free radicals and antioxidants in your body.

Oxidative stress has been linked to health conditions such as cancer, mental decline, heart disease, and aging (4).

Summary

Purple carrots are loaded with nutrients like fiber and potassium. In addition, like other other purple fruits and vegetables, they contain potent antioxidants called anthocyanins, which benefit your health.

Contain Powerful Antioxidants

Anthocyanins are polyphenol antioxidants that have many impressive health benefits.

Diets high in anthocyanin-rich foods—such as purple carrots—may protect against certain health conditions, especially those related to inflammation.

Anthocyanins act as anti-inflammatory agents by reducing potentially harmful compounds like pro-inflammatory cytokines. Reducing these compounds may lower your risk of certain conditions like heart disease (5).

For example, a review of 24 studies showed that people who eat anthocyanin-rich diets had significantly improved blood flow and better blood vessel function than those who did not (6).

Poor blood flow and inadequate blood vessel function are common causes of heart disease—which is why improving these risk factors may lower your risk of certain heart conditions.

Another large study in more than 34,000 women associated eating 0.2 mg of anthocyanins per day with a significantly reduced risk of heart disease (7).

Anthocyanins have also been shown to protect against mental decline.

A review of seven studies demonstrated that certain mental outcomes—including verbal learning and memory—improved in children, adults, and older people after eating anthocyanin-rich foods (8).

Additionally, population studies suggest that an increased intake of anthocyanin-rich foods lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes (9, 10).

Aside from anthocyanins, purple carrots contain other polyphenol antioxidants, such as chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid. In fact, purple carrots provide, on average, nine times more polyphenol antioxidants than carrots of other colors (11).

Polyphenols have been shown to promote health and reduce your risk of heart disease, mental decline, and certain types of cancer (12).

Summary

Purple carrots are particularly rich in anthocyanins, which are antioxidants shown to protect against heart disease, mental decline, and diabetes.

May Have Anticancer Effects

Studies show that the potent antioxidants found in purple carrots possess cancer-fighting properties.

A 12-week study in which rats were exposed to a cancer-promoting compound found that rats fed a diet supplemented with purple carrot extract had less cancerous development than those on a normal diet (13).

Similarly, test-tube studies observe that anthocyanins may inhibit the growth and spread of breast, liver, skin, blood, and colon cancer cells (14).

A study in 923 people with colorectal cancer and in 1,846 people without cancer noted that women with high intakes of purple vegetables and fruits had a lower risk of colorectal cancer than women who ate less purple produce (15).

Other studies show similar results in both men and women (16).

Additionally, research suggests that diets high in all types of carrots may protect against breast cancer.

A review of ten studies in 141,187 women associated a high intake of all types of carrots with a 21% decreased risk of breast cancer (17).

What's more, diets high in vegetables in general—including carrots—have been linked to an overall reduced risk of cancer (18).

Summary

Eating purple carrots may reduce your risk of certain types of cancer including colon and breast cancer.

May Promote Weight Loss

Population studies demonstrate that people who eat vegetable-rich diets tend to weigh less than people who eat fewer vegetables (19).

This is because vegetables like carrots are low in calories yet highly nutritious, making them aweight-loss-friendly food.

Replacing high-calorie, processed snacks and meals with vegetable-based meals and snacks can help reduce your overall calorie intake and lead to healthy weight loss.

Purple carrots are a good source of soluble fiber, which helps reduce your appetite and food intake by increasing hormones that produce feelings of fullness like peptide YY (20)

A study in 100 women found that those who ate 1.6 cups (200 grams) of whole carrots at lunch felt significantly fuller and ate significantly less throughout the rest of the day compared to women who did not eat whole carrots (21).

What's more, a large study in more than 124,000 people associated an increased intake of anthocyanin-rich foods, such as purple carrots, with greater weight loss in both men and women (22).

Summary

Purple carrots are highly nutritious and low in calories. Replacing high-calorie, processed foods with more vegetable-based dishes may help you lose weight.

May Benefit Certain Medical Conditions

Research indicates that purple carrots may benefit certain medical conditions, including metabolic syndrome and inflammatory intestinal conditions.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a condition characterized by a cluster of symptoms, including excess belly fat and high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.

Metabolic syndrome increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality (23).

The anthocyanins found in purple carrots may help lower cholesterol and reduce high blood sugar—two symptoms of metabolic syndrome (24).

Animal studies show that purple carrots may improve other symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome as well.

A study in rats with metabolic syndrome found that a diet high in purple carrot juice improved or reversed all metabolic-disease-related symptoms, including fatty liver, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and heart muscle stiffness (25).

Another 8-week study noted that rats with metabolic syndrome on a high-fat diet supplemented with purple carrots experienced greater improvements in blood pressure and insulin resistance than rats in the control group (26).

Although these results are promising, more human studies on the effects of purple carrots on metabolic syndrome are needed.

Colitis and Inflammatory Intestinal Conditions

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is defined as chronic inflammation in all or part of the digestive tract.

Test-tube and animal studies show that purple carrots may benefit certain inflammatory bowel conditions, such as ulcerative colitis.

One study demonstrated that mice with colitis fed purple carrot powder had reduced blood levels of pro-inflammatory proteins, such as tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-6, compared to other treatments (27).

A test-tube study examining the effects of purple carrot extract on reducing intestinal cell inflammation had similar results (28).

The researchers in these studies concluded that the anti-inflammatory properties of purple carrots were likely due to their powerful anthocyanin antioxidant content.

Summary

Animal and test-tube studies show that purple carrots may be effective at reducing symptoms of metabolic disease and improving inflammation related to IBD.

Easy to Add to Your Diet

Purple carrots are not only nutritious but also versatile and tasty vegetables that can be used in a variety of dishes.

They're similar in taste to other carrot varieties and can be used in the same ways.

Here are some ways to add purple carrots to your diet:

  • Chop, grate, or shave and add to salads.
  • Roast — whole or sliced — with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Cook and add to homemade hummus.
  • Grate and add to baked goods.
  • Slice and serve with a tasty dip.
  • Add to juices and smoothies.
  • Dehydrate slices and enjoy as a healthy alternative to potato chips.
  • Dice and add to stir-fries and other dishes.
  • Spiralize and toss with pesto.
  • Grate and toss with olive oil and fresh herbs to make a slaw.
  • Add to soups, stews, and broths.
  • Steam and coat with a flavorful spice mix like harissa.

Summary

There are many ways to enjoy purple carrots. They can be baked, added to smoothies, or enjoyed raw.

The Bottom Line

Purple carrots contain an impressive array of vitamins, minerals, and powerful plant compounds that may benefit your health in many ways.

Though all types of carrots are nutritious and healthy, purple carrots contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins that have impressive effects on your health.

Eating purple carrots may improve heart health, encourage weight loss, and reduce inflammation and your risk of certain cancers.

These brightly colored veggies not only pack powerful health benefits but can also add color and flavor to many of your favorite dishes.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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