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Are unpeeled carrots safe?

Carrots are a popular root vegetable that are enjoyed around the world. Many people prefer to eat carrots with the peel still on, believing that it is more nutritious and natural that way. However, some people find carrot peels unappetizing or worry that unpeeled carrots may not be safe to eat. In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at whether eating unpeeled carrots poses any health risks.

Nutritional Value of Carrot Peels

First, let’s examine the nutritional value of carrot peels compared to the flesh. Carrots contain a number of important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The peel contains higher concentrations of certain nutrients than the flesh:

  • Fiber – Carrot peels contain more fiber than the flesh, providing up to 40% of a carrot’s total fiber content.
  • Vitamin C – Carrot peels contain 2-3 times more vitamin C than the flesh.
  • Potassium – Carrot peels have more potassium than the flesh.
  • Beta-carotene – The peel has up to 3 times more beta-carotene than the flesh. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body.
  • Polyphenols – Carrot peels contain higher levels of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant.

So nutritionally speaking, carrot peels contain valuable vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Some studies have found that unpeeled carrots have higher antioxidant activity as well.

Pesticide Residues on Peels

One concern with eating unpeeled carrots is the potential for higher pesticide residues. Carrots are on the “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables most contaminated with pesticides.

When carrots are grown conventionally (not organic), they are treated with pesticides and herbicides to protect the crops. Some of these chemicals remain on the outer surface of the carrots, including the skin or peel.

Multiple studies have analyzed pesticide residues on carrots. Here is a summary of the findings:

Study Key Findings
FDA Total Diet Study 2014-2016 – Organophosphate insecticides chlorpyrifos and malathion were most frequently detected on conventionally grown carrots and in highest amounts.
– Washing and peeling were both effective at removing pesticide residues.
USDA Pesticide Data Program 2018 – More than 70% of conventionally grown carrot samples had detectable pesticides.
– Rinsing under running tap water removed 55% of residues.
– Peeling removed 75% of residues.
European Food Safety Authority 2009 – Found chlorpyrifos, lambda-cyhalothrin, methiocarb residues on the peel.
– Washing and peeling reduced residues significantly.

Based on this data, there is a basis for the concern about higher pesticide residues on carrot peels. However, washing carrots thoroughly and peeling them can significantly reduce pesticide levels.

Microbial Contamination

Some people worry that eating unpeeled carrots mayexpose them to dangerous bacteria, fungi or other microbes. However, there is little scientific evidence to support this concern:

  • Carrots are not commonly associated with foodborne illnesses. Foods more often linked to outbreaks include leafy greens, eggs, poultry and dairy products.
  • Soil contains bacteria and fungi, but few species are proven to cause illness in humans when ingested in small amounts.
  • Any microbes present would be limited to the surface and removed by washing. Bacteria and fungi do not penetrate through the carrot peel into the inner flesh.
  • Peeling carrots has not been shown to significantly reduce foodborne pathogens.
  • Cooking carrots should kill any potentially dangerous organisms.

Proper handling and washing of unpeeled carrots should make the risk of harmful microbes very low. Peeling doesn’t provide added protection in most cases.


For people with food allergies or sensitivities, eating unpeeled carrots could potentially trigger reactions in certain cases:

  • Oral allergy syndrome – Some people have an allergy to birch tree pollen that can cause mouth itching or swelling from eating certain raw fruits and vegetables, including carrots. Peeling raw carrots may help reduce reactions.
  • Latex allergy – Those with latex allergy can have reactions to latex-like compounds in certain foods. Carrot peels have more of these latex-like proteins than the flesh. Peeling can reduce risk.
  • Nickel allergy – Nickel on the carrot surface could cause skin reactions in those with nickel sensitivity. This is not common.

For most people with food allergies, peeled or unpeeled carrots present a low risk. But for those with specific allergies, peeling raw carrots may be beneficial.

Are Carrot Peels Safe to Eat?

Based on the evidence, here are some key takeaways on the safety of eating unpeeled carrots:

  • Carrot peels contain more fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than the flesh.
  • Peels have higher pesticide residues, but washing and peeling can remove most.
  • Risk of illness from microbes on unpeeled carrots is very low.
  • Allergies are a concern for some, but peeling can reduce risks.

Overall, unpeeled carrots are safe for most people to eat, especially if they are washed properly. The nutritional benefits of the peel outweigh potential risks in many cases. However, peeling is recommended for young children, the elderly, or immunocompromised. Those with specific food allergies should also peel carrots to be safe.

Washing and Preparing Carrots

To get the most benefits from carrots, follow these tips for safe handling and preparation:

  • Buy organic when possible to reduce pesticide residues.
  • Scrub carrots thoroughly under running water before eating, using a vegetable brush.
  • For raw carrots, peel if desired or if you have certain allergies.
  • Always peel carrots if they are damaged or cracked.
  • Peel carrots if they are grown in your home garden. Homegrown carrots are more likely to be exposed to bacteria from soil.
  • If peeling, use a vegetable peeler or paring knife and peel thinly to retain nutrients.
  • Avoid cutting carrots in advance and storing, as they lose vitamin C content when exposed to air.
  • Cook carrots properly. Cooking above 115 ̊C or 240 ̊F helps reduce some pesticide residues as well as foodborne illness risks.

With good vegetable cleaning practices, both peeled and unpeeled carrots can be enjoyed safely. Make sure to thoroughly wash carrots, especially if eating them unpeeled.

Health Benefits of Carrots

Carrots are an extremely healthy vegetable due to their stellar nutritional profile. Here are some of the top health benefits of carrots:

  • Vision – Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, providing over 300% DV of vitamin A per serving. This antioxidant is vital for eye health and vision.
  • Cancer prevention – Carotenoids and polyphenols in carrots may help lower risk of certain cancers, including prostate and colon cancer.
  • Heart health – The fiber, potassium, vitamin C and choline in carrots support cardiovascular health.
  • Immune function – Vitamin C, vitamin A and antioxidants in carrots can boost immune defense and prevent infections.
  • Brain health and cognition – Carotenoids may help prevent cognitive decline and improve brain function as we age.

Carrots provide so many important nutrients and health benefits. Enjoy them often as a smart dietary choice.


To summarize, both peeled and unpeeled carrots are safe and nutritious vegetables that can be part of a healthy diet. Carrot peels do contain higher pesticide residues, but washing and peeling helps mitigate risks. Unpeeled carrots provide extra fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Those with food allergies may wish to peel carrots for safety. In general, enjoy carrots prepared either way while washing them thoroughly beforehand.