For many, it’s hard to resist the sweet, crisp crunch of a delicious orange carrot. From carrot sticks to delectable carrot cake, we’ve managed to find quite a few spots to stuff this bright veggie into our lives. Because it’s a vegetable, we can expect it to be a great addition to the Paleo diet—right? But what about its sweet, sugary nature? Maybe we’d be better off ditching carrots after all.
There are two main reasons that carrots play such a central role in the vegetable section of our foods—first, they’ve been cultivated over hundreds of years to encourage that sweet, robust orange root that we enjoy. Originally, they were bred for their leaves and seeds (did you know carrots are related to herbs like cumin?). Second, carrots have been a big part of the cuisine of many cultures of thousands of years. They originated in the area once known as Persia (now the countries around Afghanistan), and careful cultivation and trade has spread them across the globe.
Many people cite carrots’ impressive vitamin A content as a huge reason to include them in your diet. Researchers have confirmed that the beta-carotene in carrots is a major contributor to vitamin A consumption (the oranger the carrot, the better!), and vitamin A is known to reduce damaging oxidation and improve eye health. However, carrots are also sweet, and while delicious, this sugar could pose a problem for insulin regulation. In addition, some forms of carrots (particularly baby carrots) have been washed in a chlorine solution that infuses a small amount of chlorine into the plant. That’s certainly a toxin no one wants to have floating around in their bloodstream!
With both pros and cons to carrot consumption, it can be tough to tell whether they should be a bigger part of the Paleo diet.
What do the Paleo gurus say?
Alison Ver Halen says: “What gives carrots their characteristic orange color is B-carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A. Carrots also contain significant amounts of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and potassium, so just because these roots come with a little sugar, is no reason to exclude them from your diet.”
PaleoGrubs says: “Carrots are a nice food to keep around because they come in many forms, and are easy to take with you while on the go. Drop a bag of baby carrots into your cart on your next shopping run and you’ll see that they make a cool crisp snack you can enjoy anywhere and they won’t weigh you down.”
So are carrots Paleo?
Carrots are a great source of many vitamins and minerals, and they’re easy to store and use anywhere you go. To avoid the chlorine problem, opt for organic carrots—especially whole ones and not pre-packaged baby carrots, which undergo the bulk of the rinsing. Don’t forget you can also eat the carrot tops!