Carrots are tasty vegetables that come in a variety of colors.
Purple carrots are especially eye-catching and provide unique health benefits specific to purple fruits and vegetables.
All types of carrots are highly nutritious, but purple carrots are especially rich in powerful antioxidants known to fight inflammation and benefit certain health conditions.
This article reviews the benefits of purple carrots and gives you tips on how to add these vibrant vegetables to your diet.
History and Nutrition
Though most people envision an orange vegetable when picturing a carrot, carrots were originally purple or white.
In fact, the first evidence of carrots being used as a food crop was in the Iranian Plateau and the Persian Empire in the 10th century AD—these ancient carrots were purple and white (1).
The modern, orange carrot likely originated from a new breed of yellow carrots, which were developed as a result of a genetic mutation.
Red and purple carrots are considered Eastern varieties, while yellow, orange or white carrots are known as Western-type carrots.
The Eastern-type carrots have been largely replaced by the orange Western types that are common in today’s grocery stores.
All carrots—independent of their color—are packed with a variety of nutrients, such as fiber, potassium, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin A and certain B vitamins (2).
Additionally, they’re relatively low in calories, with 1 cup (128 grams) of raw carrots delivering just 52 calories.
What makes purple carrots nutritionally unique is their content of the antioxidants anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins belong to the polyphenol family of antioxidants and are found in purple fruits and vegetables like blackberries, grapes, purple potatoes, purple cabbage, and purple carrots (3).
Antioxidants like anthocyanins help protect your body from oxidative stress, which refers to an imbalance between reactive molecules called free radicals and antioxidants in your body.
Oxidative stress has been linked to health conditions such as cancer, mental decline, heart disease, and aging (4).
Purple carrots are loaded with nutrients like fiber and potassium. In addition, like other other purple fruits and vegetables, they contain potent antioxidants called anthocyanins, which benefit your health.
Contain Powerful Antioxidants
Anthocyanins are polyphenol antioxidants that have many impressive health benefits.
Diets high in anthocyanin-rich foods—such as purple carrots—may protect against certain health conditions, especially those related to inflammation.
Anthocyanins act as anti-inflammatory agents by reducing potentially harmful compounds like pro-inflammatory cytokines. Reducing these compounds may lower your risk of certain conditions like heart disease (5).
For example, a review of 24 studies showed that people who eat anthocyanin-rich diets had significantly improved blood flow and better blood vessel function than those who did not (6).
Poor blood flow and inadequate blood vessel function are common causes of heart disease—which is why improving these risk factors may lower your risk of certain heart conditions.
Another large study in more than 34,000 women associated eating 0.2 mg of anthocyanins per day with a significantly reduced risk of heart disease (7).
Anthocyanins have also been shown to protect against mental decline.
A review of seven studies demonstrated that certain mental outcomes—including verbal learning and memory—improved in children, adults, and older people after eating anthocyanin-rich foods (8).
Additionally, population studies suggest that an increased intake of anthocyanin-rich foods lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes (9, 10).
Aside from anthocyanins, purple carrots contain other polyphenol antioxidants, such as chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid. In fact, purple carrots provide, on average, nine times more polyphenol antioxidants than carrots of other colors (11).
Polyphenols have been shown to promote health and reduce your risk of heart disease, mental decline, and certain types of cancer (12).
Purple carrots are particularly rich in anthocyanins, which are antioxidants shown to protect against heart disease, mental decline, and diabetes.
May Have Anticancer Effects
Studies show that the potent antioxidants found in purple carrots possess cancer-fighting properties.
A 12-week study in which rats were exposed to a cancer-promoting compound found that rats fed a diet supplemented with purple carrot extract had less cancerous development than those on a normal diet (13).
Similarly, test-tube studies observe that anthocyanins may inhibit the growth and spread of breast, liver, skin, blood, and colon cancer cells (14).
A study in 923 people with colorectal cancer and in 1,846 people without cancer noted that women with high intakes of purple vegetables and fruits had a lower risk of colorectal cancer than women who ate less purple produce (15).
Easy to Add to Your Diet
Purple carrots are not only nutritious but also versatile and tasty vegetables that can be used in a variety of dishes.
They’re similar in taste to other carrot varieties and can be used in the same ways.
Here are some ways to add purple carrots to your diet:
- Chop, grate, or shave and add to salads.
- Roast — whole or sliced — with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Cook and add to homemade hummus.
- Grate and add to baked goods.
- Slice and serve with a tasty dip.
- Add to juices and smoothies.
- Dehydrate slices and enjoy as a healthy alternative to potato chips.
- Dice and add to stir-fries and other dishes.
- Spiralize and toss with pesto.
- Grate and toss with olive oil and fresh herbs to make a slaw.
- Add to soups, stews, and broths.
- Steam and coat with a flavorful spice mix like harissa.
There are many ways to enjoy purple carrots. They can be baked, added to smoothies, or enjoyed raw.
The Bottom Line
Purple carrots contain an impressive array of vitamins, minerals, and powerful plant compounds that may benefit your health in many ways.
Though all types of carrots are nutritious and healthy, purple carrots contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins that have impressive effects on your health.
Eating purple carrots may improve heart health, encourage weight loss, and reduce inflammation and your risk of certain cancers.
These brightly colored veggies not only pack powerful health benefits but can also add color and flavor to many of your favorite dishes.