Carrots are non-starchy vegetables that are generally considered healthy. Are carrots therefore allowed on the keto diet?
While they can’t miss some low-carb pantries, some keto diet advocates think carrots contain simply too many carbs.
For this reason, this article explores the extent to which carrots are suitable for low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet.
Are Carrots Keto?
Carrots are considered one of the most essential cultivated vegetable crops in history and the most popular root vegetable worldwide. Whether eaten raw or cooked, almost all cultures have consumed carrots throughout history.
They get their orange color from antioxidants called carotenoids. One of these carotenoids is beta-carotene, a precursor to the active vitamin A.
Since the carrot itself is the root of the carrot plant, it is considered a root vegetable. However, unlike tubers such as potatoes, which are also root vegetables, carrots are not the storage site for the plant’s natural sugar, known as starch (Zhou et al. 20191).
Nevertheless, they contain carbohydrates to a certain extend.
What makes carrots an easy choice for mainstream diets are their few calories and low-fat content. But these same qualities are not a guarantee for the ketogenic diet.
So can carrots offer any health benefits worth mentioning on a low-carb diet?
Potential Health Benefits of Carrots
Although their health benefits are generally overestimated, carrots do have some favorable properties:
- Blood sugar: Carrots contain pectins, soluble fiber, which has a protective effect similar to apple cider vinegar. They help slow the digestion of carbohydrates and dampen the blood sugar response (Schwartz et al. 19882).
- Gut health: These soluble fibers may also feed beneficial bacteria in the gut and reduce certain disease risks (Slavin 20133).
- Cancer: Carotenoids in carrots have been suggested to have protective effects against prostate, stomach, and colon cancers (Wu et al. 20044; Larsson et al. 20075; Slattery et al. 20006).
While carrots may contain trace amounts of many vitamins, they are not a concentrated multivitamin bomb like beef liver. Nonetheless, they have above-average shares of the following micronutrients (*):
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
In addition, carrots are naturally bursting with beta-carotene. But the potential of beta-carotene is sometimes overestimated, as we will see in a moment.
Downsides of Carrots on Keto
Online media likes to talk about the potential benefits of many foods without considering any disadvantages. Nonetheless, carrots also have negative aspects:
- No true vitamin A: Incorrectly, vitamin A is always found among the nutrition facts of the carrots, although they only contain beta-carotene (provitamin A). Against this background, a study has determined that our body can only absorb 2.25% beta-carotene and convert only 0.03% into active vitamin A (Hickenbottom et al. 20027).
- No miracle cure for eyes and the immune system: Again, marketing misleads us about facts. Truly effective for improving the body’s vision and immune system is only active vitamin A – retinol (Sommer 20148; Huang et al. 20189).
- Not a low-carb veggie: Although they are non-starchy, carrots contain more carbohydrates than vegetables grown above ground. They represent a middle level that may allow you to exceed the 5-10% carbohydrates per day on the keto diet.
Net Carbs in Carrots
While carrots are not as low in carbs as leafy greens, they are also not as high in carbohydrates as other root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, or potatoes.
Since dietary fiber is the number of carbohydrates our bodies cannot digest, they do not harm our carb balance. Hence, you can subtract them from carbohydrates to get net carbs, the crucial metric for keto dieters.
How Many Carbs Are in Carrots?
100 grams of raw carrots provide the following average nutritional values (*):
- Energy: 41 calories
- Protein: 0.93 grams
- Fat: 0.24 grams
- Carbohydrates: 9.58 grams
- Dietary fiber: 2.8 grams
- Net carbohydrates: 6.78 grams
Thus, carrots rank in the reasonable middle ground between low-carb (e.g., spinach with 1.4 grams net carbohydrates*) and high-carb vegetables (e.g., potatoes with 16.8 grams net carbohydrates*).
Are Carrots Keto-Friendly?
Since carrots are foods with a moderate carbohydrate level, you may consume them in moderate amounts on a ketogenic diet.
Depending on your daily needs and degree of fat adaptation, you can consume about 25-50 grams of carbohydrates on the keto diet.
In this case, 25 grams of net carbohydrates are equivalent to about 6 pieces of medium carrots (*).
So, if you don’t eat any carbohydrate sources other than carrots, they won’t be a big drama. In particular, people who have eaten ketogenic for years have higher carbohydrate tolerance limits and rarely need to fear carrots.
For example, I have a hard time eating such large amounts of carrots that they could throw me out of ketosis.
Nonetheless, especially at the beginning of the keto diet, you should budget to get into fat-burning efficiently.
Since the preparation method of carrots hardly affects their carbohydrate content, they can be a food that can bring some variety to the ketogenic diet as long as you don’t overdo it.
Low Carb Alternatives to Carrots on Keto
Finding a good substitute for carrots that is also lower in carbohydrates isn’t always easy.
However, if you know what you want to use them for, some great low carb options emerge:
- Celery: 1.8 grams net carbohydrates per 100 grams (*)
- Asparagus: 1.9 grams net carbohydrates per 100 grams (*)
- Cauliflower: 2.8 grams net carbohydrates per 100 grams (*)
- Cabbage: 3.3 grams net carbohydrates per 100 grams (*)
- Broccoli: 4 grams net carbohydrates per 100 grams (*)
Celery offers a sensational low-carb alternative to replace raw carrots as an on-the-go snack. Likewise, it is also ideal for dipping.
In contrast, cabbage makes a great raw, crunchy alternative in salads, reducing carbohydrate content.
All-rounders like asparagus, cauliflower, or broccoli can replace carrots in soups or as a side dish in countless ways.
You Can Eat Some Carrots on the Keto Diet
Carrots have always impressed with their versatility. You can enjoy them raw, boiled, stir-fried, or roasted. However, since they drastically raise insulin levels without their natural fiber, they are a no-go as a juice.
On the one hand, carrots get more credit than they deserve, but on the other hand, they are not unhealthy at all.
Although carrots contain slightly more carbs than other vegetables, they are allowed on the keto diet if you consume them in moderate amounts.
As long as they are not the essential ingredient, carrots can add variety to the ketogenic diet. For example, they can complement salads or soups that don’t skimp on fat in addition to low-carb vegetables.
The main advantage of carrots is their ease of use as a snack. But if you want to cut the carbs in carrots on the go, replace them with celery stalks.
Carbs in Carrots: Are Carrots Keto? FAQ
Can you eat carrots on a low-carb diet?
You can eat carrots in moderate amounts on low-carb diets.
What Veg has no carbs?
With about a single net carb, spinach is the lowest carb vegetable.
What vegetables can I eat on a keto diet?
You cannot go wrong with above-ground green vegetables on a keto diet. For example, this includes spinach, lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, kale, cabbage, or brussels sprouts.
How many carbs are in 1 medium carrot?
There are about 4 grams of net carbs in one medium carrot.
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