Are carrots fattening or good for weight loss?

Did you know that carrots are so well loved, there is a whole day dedicated to appreciating them? April 4th is International Carrot Day and is celebrated by carrot lovers.

Some of the health benefits associated with this root vegetable include its ability to help improve your vision, fight off cancer and protect your liver.

Carrots are bursting in nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin K and potassium. They can be sliced up and eaten as a snack, roughly chopped and thrown into rustic salads or used in smoothies such as this one.

But what about when you are trying to lose weight? Should carrots be eaten or avoided?

Nutritional information

1 cup of chopped carrots (128 g) contains:

Calories 52
Fat 0
Cholesterol 0
Sodium 88 mg
Carbohydrates 12 g
Fiber 4 g
Sugar 6 g
Protein 1 g

Like most vegetables, carrots contain very few calories, and this is important when it comes to weight management. Calories are units of energy, and all foods have them, in differing amounts. In general, the more water a food has, the fewer calories it contains. The more fat a foods has, the more calories it contains.

This can be seen using our healthy food finder tool here. For example, 100 g of pumpkin seeds, which contains a lot of fat, has 559 calories. 100 g of cucumber, which is mainly made up of water, has only 15 calories.

The basic equation for weight management is calories in – calories out. If you consume fewer calories than you expend (naturally during the day and when you exercise), you will start to lose weight over time. This is because your body will use its fat stores as a source of energy, to make up for the energy deficit.

The opposite is also true. If you consume more calories than you use up, you will start to gain weight over time; your body will store the excess calories as fat.

The number of calories that you need to consume depends on your gender, age, weight, height and activity levels.

You can use the tool on this page to estimate the number of calories you should be consuming, depending on your goals.

Gender Age Weight Switch to lbs Height Switch to feet and inches Activity Level

This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.

For example, a 50 year old lady who weighs 75 kg, is 160 cm tall and exercises 3 – 5 days a week will need to consume 2,075 calories to maintain her current weight, 1,660 calories to lose weight, and 1,245 calories to lose weight fast.

This makes carrots a great food to eat when you are trying to lose weight. 1 cup of chopped carrots only has 52 calories; so even on a 1,245 calorie diet, they would only contribute to around 4% of total calories. This is one of the main reasons nutritionists recommend that you increase vegetable intake when trying to lose weight.

How else can carrots help you lose weight?

Besides being very low in calories, there are a number of other properties carrots have that could help you burn off excess fat:

Dietary fiber content

Fiber plays a pivotal role in keeping your body healthy. It helps regulate blood sugar, lowers cholesterol levels and maintains bowel health by keeping you regular.

A number of studies have also shown that increasing fiber intake helps with weight management. This study found that over a twelve year period, women who had the greatest increase in dietary fiber intake gained an average of 1.52 kg less than those who had the lowest increase in intake.

This study concluded that a simplified approach to weight reduction is increasing fiber intake. More complex diet programs such as the AHA diet do lead to more weight loss, but by simply upping fiber intake, you can start to lose weight (provided you remain in a calorie deficit).

There are lots and lots of fiber rich foods out there, and carrots are one of them. A cup of chopped carrots contain 4 g of fiber, which helps increase overall intake.

Water content

Consuming enough water is important to your health. Many people are dehydrated without even knowing it and this leads to symptoms such as tiredness. Being dehydrated can also cause you to overeat; a lot of people mistake thirst for hunger and reach out for food. This can lead to extra calories being consumed, thwarting weight loss efforts.

The best way to get sufficient amounts of it is to drink plenty of pure water. Doing so has been shown to help you lose weight. However you can also increase your water intake by eating it. Most fruits and vegetables are mainly made up of water and carrots are no different. In fact, they are made up of 88% water. Eating water rich foods helps prevent dehydration, thereby reducing your chances of overeating.

What about carrot juice?

Carrot juice is nutritious & refreshing and can be enjoyed at any time of the day. A cup of carrot juice contains 93 calories, 1.9 g of dietary fiber, 9 g of sugar and 2.2 g of protein. It is fairly low in calories, so can be a part of a weight loss  diet.

One thing to keep in mind is that carrot juice is relatively high in sugar and contains less fiber than raw carrots do. During the juicing process, a lot of the fiber is stripped away, but most of the sugar remains. When you are trying to lose weight, it is important to monitor your sugar intake.

To reduce the amount of sugar, you can use carrots in a smoothie instead. For example, making a smoothie using a cup of water, a cup of spinach, a medium sized carrot and a small piece of ginger is a nutritious weight loss drink, low in sugar. It also retains all of the fiber found in the spinach and carrots.

Can eating carrots make you fat?

Any food if eaten in abundance, will result in weight gain. If you consume more calories than your body uses up, you start to store fat. However, carrots are so low in calories that you would have to eat an incredibly large amount in order to gain weight.

We are of course talking about raw carrots here. Some dishes such as desserts which use carrots as an ingredient can be high in calories, so you should choose carefully.

Also, as mentioned above, carrots have quite a bit of sugar, so too much should not be eaten. A cup or two per day is perfectly fine.

A personal favourite of mine is cutting carrots lengthwise into 1 cm thick chunks and dipping them in hummus. This makes a great weight loss snack, since hummus is rich in both fiber and protein, both of which help weight loss.

Conclusion

In order to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than what your body burns. Carrots are a low calorie food, making them a good option. They are also rich in fiber and water, both of which help you control your weight.

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