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Secret Side Effects of Eating Carrots, Says Science

There are few reasons not to munch on this nutrient-rich root vegetable.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Carrots are snack-worthy. Crunchy—and a nice alternative to potato chips if you crinkle-cut them—they're delicious and fun to gnaw on raw. Miss out on carrots and you may lose some serious health benefits if you don't make them up elsewhere in your diet.

This orange root veggie is loaded with nutrients: beta-carotene, fiber, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, and other cancer-fighting antioxidants. Beta-carotene, the nutrient that gives carrots their yellow-orange color, is used by the body to create vitamin A, an important vitamin for immune system health and good vision.

You don't have to be a rabbit to make a habit of eating carrots. But, like most anything, portion control is wise; there are some secret side effects of carrots you may not be aware of. Learn about them below. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

You may develop "carotenemia".

carrot sticks

While it may sound scary, it's harmless but kind of weird-looking. Eating too many carrots can deliver high doses of beta-carotene into your bloodstream, turning your skin yellowish, mostly on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Other beta-carotene-rich foods like cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, oranges, and winter squash may trigger the same effect if you eat enough of them. Even taking oral beta-carotene supplements can cause carotenemia, according to The Journal of Dermatology.

Your breast milk may become carrot-flavored.

baked carrots

Women who eat a lot of carrots during pregnancy and lactation may pass the flavor of those root vegetables to their babies. A 2019 review of studies in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found evidence indicating that flavors from anise, garlic and carrots from the maternal diet during pregnancy can flavor amniotic fluid and breast milk. Infants, the studies showed, can detect the flavors in breast milk within an hour of their mothers ingesting those foods.

Several of the studies reviewed found an interesting benefit of the garlic- or carrot-flavored breast milk: the babies were more prone to accepting those flavors later in life and making them part of their diets.

Rashes, swelling and other allergic reactions may occur.

eating carrots

While uncommon in the United States, allergic reactions to carrot pollen and eating carrots afflict up to 25% of people with food allergies in Europe, according to the UK-based World Carrot Museum, yes, there is such a place, which sites a double-blinded, placebo-controlled food study in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

You may lower your risk of developing diabetes.

sliced carrots

The higher amount of carbohydrates in carrots may cause you to avoid them if you are concerned about high blood sugar, but other nutrients in the vegetable probably counteract the effect on blood glucose.

For one, a medium carrot contains about 2 grams of fiber, which slows the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream.

Then, there are those famed carotenoids and their powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are compounds that hamper the cellular damage from free radicals. Many researchers believe the positive effects of antioxidants influence metabolism by reducing inflammation. In one study reported in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases, researchers in the Netherlands analyzed data from nearly 38,000 men and women and found that higher consumption of carrots and specifically the bioavailability of the carotenoids α-carotene and β-carotene (about 10 mg per day) was significantly associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

You may bolster your defenses against cancer and heart disease.

baby carrots

Many, many studies have linked those plant-based compounds called antioxidants to better health outcomes, which is why we constantly hear the reminder to eat more fresh vegetables and fruits and less processed foods. Carotenoids often figure prominently int those studies. For example, a meta-analysis of 69 studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2018 found a strong association between higher blood concentrations of vitamin C., carotenoids, and vitamin E and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancers, and all-cause mortality. Interestingly, only getting those nutrients through diet correlated with reduced chronic disease. Taking antioxidant supplements, including beta-carotene, had no positive effect.

Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff
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