How to Get the Best Value from Fresh Carrots (Image: jackmac34/Pixabay/CC0)

Healthy Living Help: How Many Calories are in a Carrot?

Carrot sticks are good for you. We’ve known that forever. Right? I can remember when I was just a little girl, being thin was really the “in” thing. I mean uber thin. Like Twiggy thin. All the women were dieting so they could be thinner – even though most of them were pretty darned thin by today’s standards. It seems like half the teenage girls and women at that time were living on “diet platters” consisting mainly of carrot sticks, celery, and cottage cheese.

Carrot sticks were a dieter’s best friend. Everyone knew that they were low in calories, even though most of us had very little idea what a calorie was! Most of us didn’t understand that a calorie is just a measurement of energy. And we had no idea how many calories were in a healthy meal, let alone how many we needed to consume in a day.

We just had this vague idea that eating too many calories made you fat. So, of course, the best possible thing was to consume as few calories as we could. Notice that nobody ever talked about our minimum caloric needs. But then again, this was before most of us had ever heard of eating disorders like anorexia. And malnutrition was something that happened in faraway places like Ethiopia – wherever that was!

But let’s get back to the carrot sticks.


Have you ever been told a carrot has ‘negative’ calories? (Graphic made in Canva using a public domain photo by Pixabay user klimkin)
Are carrots really a negative calorie food?

How Many Calories Were in Those Carrot Sticks?

Carrot sticks were supposed to be really low in calories. Nobody talked about carrots being very healthy (even though they are.) It was just important that, as food goes, they were low-cal. So eating lots of carrots was good for you. It could help to make you really skinny. And of course, the only way to eat them was raw. Who knew why? It just seemed healthier somehow.

Girls as young as 7 or 8 were being asked if they could “pinch an inch” and were bombarded with messages about dieting to get thinner. Carrot sticks were one of the few foods we didn’t feel guilty about eating. So inevitably, they became the stuff of urban legends.

Some people said carrot sticks had only 5 calories each. I heard people say a whole carrot had 15 calories. Eventually, people started saying that the calories from eating raw vegetables like cauliflower and carrot sticks didn’t “count.” And that led to people saying that it took more calories to chew and digest the carrot than the vegetable actually supplied! Thus was born the legend of the “negative calorie” food.



Are Carrot Sticks a ‘Negative-Calorie’ Food?

People who promote the idea of negative-calorie foods say that some foods actually supply fewer calories than your body needs to handle the work of chewing, digestion, and processing of nutrients. They also say that some foods, mostly low-carb vegetables like carrot sticks, can boost your metabolism.

If you’ve watched popular TV shows that present this theory, you may have seen dramatic demonstrations of a woman eating a huge meal of beautiful, raw vegetables. The TV segment includes before and after measurements of this woman’s metabolism, plus some cool calculations that are supposed to prove that eating these vegetables sped up her metabolism so she was burning calories more efficiently after eating her carrot sticks, cucumber, celery, and fruits. There’s also an impressive demonstration that involves fire, which you just know is going to leave an impression in the viewers’ minds.

But did you notice that there was never any comparison to show what happens to this same lady’s metabolism if she ate a meal prepared from ingredients that aren’t on the list of negative-calorie foods? Ever wonder why not?

What Science Says About Negative Calorie Foods

If you search for scientific studies that prove some foods have a negative-calorie impact, you’re going to have a tough time finding any. What you will discover is that evidence-based discussions of negative-calorie foods like carrot sticks explain that your body does use some calories to digest food.

Your body needs about 5-15% of the calories you eat to break down the foods you eat and to make use of their nutrients. That applies to all the foods you eat, not just the ones that are high in water and fibre and low in fat. And a far greater percentage of your daily calorie intake goes to cover physical activity and your basic metabolic rate, or BMR.

Never mind, though! The dieters have always wanted to hear stuff like this. It makes you feel better about eating platters of rabbit food and curdled milk. It rewards you for passing up the foods you really wanted to eat, in favour of the carrot sticks or the trendy cabbage soup.  And as far back as the 70s, myths like this have made all of us little girls feel there was at least one “safe” food that we wouldn’t be chastised for eating when our bodies were hungry.

Carrot sticks are a dieter's friend (Image: cocoparisienne/Pixabay/CC0)
Carrot sticks are a dieter’s friend. They are low in calories, fat and sodium, and have no cholesterol. They are also packed with nutrients, and they taste great!


The Truth About Calories and Carrots

Despite all the hype, those carrot sticks really are good for you. A medium carrot has just 25 calories – a bit more than legend had it in the 70s, but still very reasonable. It has just the teensiest amount of polyunsaturated fat, no cholesterol or trans fat, and low sodium. It also supplies enough vitamin A for two whole days!

Carrots are a source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins C and B6. And one medium carrot fulfills the daily requirement that we eat one dark orange vegetable or fruit.

Carrots are one of the least expensive vegetables on your grocer’s shelf. They are versatile and they store well, and they are really easy to prepare. Raw carrots are the easiest, of course. Just wash them well and cut off the ends before eating (keep these for your soup bag, instead of throwing them away.) There’s no need to peel them unless the skins are really thick and nasty.

Preparing Carrot Sticks Ahead of Time

Carrot sticks are a great thing to have in your fridge. If they’re already prepared, you’ll be more likely to reach for them instead of an unhealthy snack like chips. And your kids are more likely to pack them in their school lunches or to grab a handful when they’re hungry after school.

Some people worry that cutting carrots ahead of time will rob the carrots of vital nutrients. But actually, it’s not that bad. Prepare what you need for a few days at a time and store carrot sticks and other cut vegetables in an airtight container in the fridge. As long as you keep your carrots cool, and away from water and light, they’ll hold their nutrients pretty well.


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Carrot sticks are the ultimate diet food. But is it true it takes more calories to digest a carrot than that carrot actually supplies? Learn how many calories are really in a carrot – and how many nutrients too! | Kyla Matton Osborne (@Ruby3881) | 24 Carrot Diet
Carrots are a low calorie snack – but not really a “negative calorie food”
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Original content © 2015-2018 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter
Public domain images by Pixabay users jackmac34, cocoparisienne, klimkin, and Public Domain Pictures

This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

Carrot Sticks for Weight Loss: Are the Stories You Hear All True?
Article Name
Carrot Sticks for Weight Loss: Are the Stories You Hear All True?
Do carrot sticks really count as a negative-calorie food? Carrots are a classic diet food & they are low in calories. But they're loaded with nutrition too!
Kyla Matton Osborne
24 Carrot Diet
24 Carrot Diet
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38 thoughts on “Healthy Living Help: How Many Calories are in a Carrot?”

    1. Macros are definitely as important as the calories. If you eat 100 calories of processed, sugary food, your body doesn’t get the same benefits as if you’d eaten 100 calories of low fat plain yogurt, baked potato, or whole grain bread. Recommendations for balancing macronutrients vary a bit, but carbs should make up the greatest portion of the calories you eat in a day.

  1. I love carrots so much, I actually grow my own! I think it’s the perfect snack, especially when you are busy and on the go all the time. I just love that crunch!

    1. I do think that, of all the vegetables we commonly eat in North America, carrots and celery are probably the best for snacking on the go! I love the crunch of carrots and the juiciness of celery. Both are easily trimmed (keep the trimmings for your soup bag, and cook up some homemade soup stock!) And they’re so easy to eat while you’re running around 🙂

  2. At home, we proved that carrot is a healthy one!
    When my brother was hospitalized and needs his foods to be osterized (yeah like your favorite shakes) carrots was the basic ingredients to his foods. For a span of one week, my brother skin is more beautiful than mine! Glowing, soft and smooth, gosh I envy him! hahaha

    That day, I love carrots even more.

    1. That’s a great reminder of how healthy carrots are! I’m glad your brother didn’t need to eat that way for a prolonged period, Blair. But it sounds like he got his vegetables, one way or another 🙂

  3. I guess this is never a question that I lost sleep over, since I feel like it is something you could find out easily enough. However, you definitely add alot of detail and need-to-know info for carrots. Love it!

    1. Thanks so much, Aireona! My aim is to help people check health claims, discover new foods and reconnect with others that they might have stopped eating for whatever reason, and just generally enjoy eating delicious, nutritious food 🙂

    1. Your dogs have good taste, Andrea! A while ago, I saw a video of a little dog who picked his own snacks out of the garden, LOL! It was so cute to see him picking veggies and munching on them 🙂

  4. I love to put a tray of carrot sticks out on the counter with a few other veggies 15 minutes or so before dinner will be ready. The kids (and hubby) are usually so hungry they sort of subconsciously start eating them! It’s how I avoid battling my kids over eating their veggies! LOL

    1. My mother always used to cook her carrots with a little brown sugar glaze. I love glazed carrots, even today. But we only eat them once in a while. Try combining carrots with a sweeter food for your love. Or maybe look into carrots that are a bit sweeter? Some cultivars are naturally sweeter than others. I’ve also learned that the baby-cut carrots sold in North America are actually cut from a carrot variety that was selected for its sweet taste. So if your honey prefers sweeter carrots, try cooking with the baby-cut carrots 🙂

  5. I adore carrots, I feel they are quite underrated as a vegetable sometimes. I really enjoy roasting them. This article was really very interesting!

    1. I love roasted carrots too, Elizabeth. I really don’t make them often enough. We actually had a winter vegetable saute with supper last night, and the carrots in it caramelized just as they would if we had roasted them. It was so lovely! They came out tender and sweet, and so delicious 🙂

    1. Yes, definitely! There is a lot of info out there that is inaccurate or out of date. Or people use a known fact, but misinterpret it. Then the misinformation goes viral. It’s so important to learn to read the scientific literature for yourself – or at least to find a trusted source to refer to when you want to check whether a health or diet claim is true.

    1. Oh yes, and there’s so much more info to read about carrots! Have you read my post about purple carrots? I also plan to share more about specific types of carrots you can grow in your garden, and perhaps even about the GMO carrots that are being developed for the market 🙂

  6. Carrots are so delicious! You should try them slightly pickled and with a Turkey Bacon Club Sandwich. I recently tried that and I thought, game changer. And with these added benefits, can’t hurt!

  7. I actually love carrots and enjoy eating them! They’re kind of sweet. And their crunchiness makes it seem like you’re eating chips. Thanks for sharing more about their nutritional value. Also, good to know they’re one of the most affordable veggies because we like to stick to budget.

    1. I do have plans to compile a lot of this information in a number of ways, including e-books, Barb. I’m glad to see that folks like you are finding it useful 🙂

      It is certainly true that cooking can reduce water content, thereby increasing carotene content in a serving of carrots. That same process of cooking can also break down tissues inside the carrot, making the carotene more bioavailable. The trade-off is that cooking can reduce quantities of water-soluble vitamins and other micronutrients in the carrots. So cooking until just fork tender is probably the best way to go. And because vitamin A is fat soluble, it’s important to add a small amount of healthy fat to help our bodies better use it. A little salad dressing made with olive oil, or a tiny bit of butter on some cooked carrots, goes a long way!

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