Are carrots healthier with the skin on?

Carrots are an incredibly healthy vegetable that can be enjoyed with or without the skin. Many people prefer peeling carrots before eating them, but research shows that leaving the skin on provides additional nutritional benefits. This article explores whether carrots are healthier when eaten with the skin on or peeled.

Nutritional Differences Between Peeled and Unpeeled Carrots

Carrots contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that provide health benefits. The outer skin of carrots contains higher concentrations of certain nutrients than the inner flesh. Leaving the skin on means you’ll get more of the following nutrients:

  • Fiber – Carrot skins contain a type of fiber called insoluble fiber which helps promote digestive health.
  • Vitamin C – Carrot skins provide 6% more vitamin C per gram compared to peeled carrots.
  • Potassium – Important for heart health, carrot skins have 11% more potassium than peeled carrots.
  • Antioxidants – Up to 50% of a carrot’s antioxidants are found in the skin, including carotenoids like beta-carotene.

So in terms of specific nutrients, unpeeled carrots have an edge over peeled ones. However, both forms are extremely healthy.

Do the Skin’s Nutrients Get Absorbed?

While carrot skins contain more nutrients, some people argue that the tough outer layer of the skin is indigestible. So does eating the skin actually provide any added nutrition?

Research shows that we can in fact absorb and benefit from the nutrients in carrot skin:

  • The skin is mostly made of insoluble fiber, which isn’t digestible but provides health benefits as it moves through your digestive tract.
  • Soluble fibers like pectin in the skin can be digested and provide nutrients.
  • Cooking carrots whole breaks down the cell walls, allowing the skin’s nutrients to be absorbed during digestion.
  • Chewing well and thorough cooking softens the skins, enabling better nutrient absorption.

While we don’t absorb 100% of the skin’s nutrients, we can absorb enough to make a nutritional difference.

Potential Downsides of Unpeeled Carrots

Although carrot skins provide extra nutrition, there are a few potential downsides to leaving them on:

  • Pesticide residue – Carrot skins may contain higher pesticide levels if not washed properly.
  • Heavy metal accumulation – Carrot roots can uptake lead and cadmium from the soil. These metals concentrate in the outer layers.
  • Tough texture – Older/larger carrots may have outer skins too tough to chew easily.
  • Digestive issues – Some find carrot skins irritating to digest. Individual tolerance varies.

However, these concerns can be addressed by:

  • Washing carrots thoroughly.
  • Peeling only larger/older carrots with tougher skins.
  • Cooking carrots whole to soften the skins.
  • Avoiding carrot skins if they cause digestive upset.

Nutrition Content Per 100g of Peeled vs. Unpeeled Carrots

Here is a comparison of the nutrition content in 100g of medium carrots, peeled vs. unpeeled:

Nutrient Peeled Carrots Unpeeled Carrots
Calories 35 41
Fat 0.2g 0.3g
Fiber 2.4g 3.6g
Vitamin A 528mcg RAE (66% DV) 1024mcg RAE (128% DV)
Vitamin C 5.6mg (6% DV) 7.6mg (8% DV)
Potassium 222mg (5% DV) 280mg (6% DV)

As shown, unpeeled carrots provide more fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium compared to peeled carrots. The percentage daily values are also higher.

Impact on Blood Sugar Levels

Carrots have a low glycemic index, meaning they don’t cause large or rapid spikes in blood sugar. Some research shows that leaving the skin on further lowers the carrot’s glycemic index:

  • The fiber in carrot skins helps slow digestion, resulting in a more gradual rise in blood sugar.
  • Polyphenols in the skin improve insulin sensitivity, which helps normalize blood sugar.
  • One study found raw whole carrots reduced blood sugar response by 47% compared to peeled, cooked carrots.

Slower carbohydrate absorption from unpeeled carrots makes them a better choice for diabetics and those looking to maintain stable blood sugar.

Effects on Digestive Health

Fiber is important for promoting gut health and regularity. Since carrot skins are a concentrated source of fiber, leaving them on may aid digestion.

Specifically, the insoluble fiber in skins:

  • Adds bulk to stools to prevent constipation.
  • Helps maintain digestive regularity.
  • Reduces risk of diverticulitis and hemorrhoids.
  • Feeds beneficial gut bacteria in the colon.

However, too much insoluble fiber from skins can potentially cause gas, bloating or loose stools in some individuals.

Impacts on Heart Health

The nutrients found in higher amounts in carrot skins may also promote heart health. For example:

  • The antioxidant carotenoids can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage to arteries.
  • Higher potassium levels help counteract effects of sodium to lower blood pressure.
  • Insoluble fibers lower LDL “bad” cholesterol while raising HDL “good” cholesterol.

By leaving the skins on, you maximize these heart-healthy benefits of carrots.

Impacts on Cancer Risk

Carrots contain the antioxidants carotenoids and polyacetylenes, which have anti-cancer effects:

  • Carotenoids like beta-carotene may inhibit growth and development of certain cancer cells.
  • Polyacetylenes block the formation of new blood vessels that feed tumors.
  • These compounds concentrate in carrot skins more than the flesh.

Carrot skins may therefore provide greater protective effects against cancer development compared to peeled carrots.

Impacts on Vision Health

Orange pigments called carotenoids in carrot skins can promote healthy vision:

  • Lutein and zeaxanthin filter blue light and protect the eyes from damage.
  • Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A to maintain the cornea and conjunctiva.
  • Carotenoids also slow development of age-related macular degeneration.

With up to 50% more carotenoids, unpeeled carrots are better for maintaining proper vision as you age.

Allergies and Intolerances to Skins

Most people can eat and digest carrot skins without problems. However, some individuals may have negative reactions:

  • Oral allergy syndrome – Raw carrot skins contain proteins that may cause itching, swelling of lips/mouth.
  • FODMAP intolerance – Carrot skins contain oligosaccharides that can ferment in the gut and cause gas, bloating, diarrhea.
  • Irritable bowel diseases – Insoluble fibers in skin may aggravate symptoms of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • Diverticulitis – Carrot skins could get lodged and block already inflamed pouches in the colon.

Those with digestive issues should be cautious about eating carrot skins and monitor for any symptoms.

Tips for Eating Carrots with Skins On

Here are some tips to enjoy carrots with the skins on while minimizing potential downsides:

  • Purchase organic carrots or thoroughly scrub skins of conventionally grown carrots.
  • Peel carrots if skins seem damaged, old, or are covered in dirt.
  • Cook carrots whole instead of cutting to soften the skins.
  • Roast or boil carrots until skins are tender enough to chew easily.
  • If chewing skins raw, grind thoroughly with your teeth to digest properly.
  • Start by eating peeled carrots if you have IBS or digestive issues.
  • Monitor any symptoms if skins cause gas, abdominal pain, bloating or changes in bowel habits.


Research clearly shows that leaving the skin on carrots provides additional fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. We can absorb and benefit from many of the extra nutrients in the carrot peel. Unpeeled carrots also have potential benefits for blood sugar control, digestive health, heart disease risk, vision, and cancer risk.

However, carrot skins could pose some concerns like pesticides, heavy metals, texture, and digestive problems in sensitive individuals. These issues can be mitigated by buying organic, peeling only older/tougher carrots, thoroughly cooking carrots whole, and closely monitoring any negative reactions.

Overall, for most people, leaving the peel on this crunchy root vegetable optimizes its nutritional value and health benefits. But peeled carrots are still incredibly healthy and nutritious if the texture or digestibility of the skins is a problem.

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