Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants (1). Beta-carotene is a carotenoid that is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for fetal growth and development (2). Folate is also crucial for preventing neural tube defects in babies (3). Carrots are a good dietary source of folate. Eating carrots during pregnancy can benefit both the mother and baby. But how much is considered safe and beneficial? Let’s find out.
How Much Carrot Can You Eat When Pregnant?
As Part of a Healthy and Balanced Diet
There is no specific recommended amount for eating carrots while pregnant. Carrots can be consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, with carrots included in this recommendation (4). One serving is equivalent to:
– 1 medium carrot (61g)
– 1/2 cup of chopped, raw carrots
– 1/2 cup of cooked, sliced carrots
Spreading carrot intake throughout the week can help you reach the goal of 25-30g of fiber per day during pregnancy (5).
Watch for Beta-Carotene Overload
While carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin A, consume them in moderation. Getting too much preformed vitamin A (the type found in animal products) is associated with birth defects. However, beta-carotene from plant foods like carrots has not been shown to increase risks when consumed in normal dietary amounts (6).
As a general guideline, do not exceed recommended vitamin A intake levels:
– Pregnant women: 2,565 mcg RAE/day
– Breastfeeding women: 4,335 mcg RAE/day
1 medium raw carrot has 459 mcg RAE vitamin A and 5.7 mg beta-carotene (7). To reach toxic levels, you would need to eat over 100 cups of chopped carrots in a day!
Max Amount Per Day
There is no defined maximum number of carrots considered safe per day during pregnancy. Eating 3-4 servings of carrots per day as part of a balanced diet is considered safe and beneficial for most women (8). This equates to:
– 3-4 medium carrots
– 1.5 to 2 cups of chopped raw carrots
– 1.5 to 2 cups of cooked sliced carrots
Spread out your intake throughout the week for maximum benefit. The upper limit for vitamin A from carotenoids only is set at 10,000 mcg RAE per day for women ages 14 and up (9). It is nearly impossible to reach this level from eating carrots alone. However, supplementing with beta-carotene or multivitamins high in vitamin A in addition to a high carrot intake can increase your risk. Stick to eating carrots as part of your regular balanced diet during pregnancy.
During Each Trimester
Carrot intake can remain the same throughout all three trimesters, as long as they are consumed as part of a healthy diet and you do not exceed the upper limit for vitamin A. Here are general trimester recommendations:
First Trimester: Aim for at least 2-3 servings of carrots per day as part of your 5 daily vegetable and fruit servings. Carrots are a good source of vitamin K, which helps blood clotting. Your blood supply increases dramatically during the first trimester (10).
Second Trimester: Continue eating 2-3 servings of carrots per day. Carrots can help meet increased calorie and nutrient needs as your baby experiences rapid growth.
Third Trimester: Keep up your carrot intake. Carrots provide fiber, which can help alleviate constipation, a common late pregnancy symptom. They also provide vitamin K and potassium, which are important for regulation and healthy muscle functioning (11).
Spread your servings throughout the week. You can enjoy carrots raw, cooked, roasted, or blended up in soups, smoothies, and sauces.
Nutritional Benefits of Carrots in Pregnancy
Here are some of the top nutrients carrots provide during pregnancy and their benefits:
– Converts to vitamin A in the body
– Vitamin A supports eye health and vision development in babies (12)
– Acts as an antioxidant that can help boost the immune system (13)
– Improves digestive health and prevents constipation (14)
– Helps support a healthy gut microbiome in mother and baby (15)
– Essential for proper blood clotting (16)
– Needed for healthy bone development in babies (17)
– Needed for fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction (18)
– Can help lower high blood pressure during pregnancy (19)
– May help prevent leg cramps (20)
– Folate intake early in pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects in babies (21)
– Carrots contain some natural folate, a good addition to folic acid from supplements
– Carrots contain antioxidants like carotenoids and vitamin C (22)
– These help neutralize free radicals and lower oxidative stress
– May provide protection against infections and inflammation during pregnancy (23)
Ideal Carrots to Eat During Pregnancy
You can enjoy a variety of carrot types during pregnancy. Pick options that appeal to you:
Enjoy fresh, crunchy carrots with hummus, nut butters, guacamole, or salad. Grate them onto soups or tacos. Raw carrots retain the most nutrients like vitamin K, which can be lost in cooking (24).
Cook carrots by steaming, boiling, roasting, or sautéing. Cooking softens carrots and enhances the bioavailability of beta-carotene (25). Use cooked carrots in stir fries, stews, soups, curries, and casseroles.
Juice your carrots or blend them into smoothies. This removes the insoluble fiber but concentrates the beta-carotene, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Limit to 1 small glass per day and combine with whole fruits and veggies.
Opt for frozen packaged carrots or peel and chop fresh carrots and store them in freezer bags. Use frozen carrots to make quick soups, curries, and stir fries. Freezing can slightly lower vitamin C content but retains beta-carotene (26).
Baby carrots are a quick and convenient snack. However, they may have slightly lower beta-carotene levels than full-size carrots (27).
Healthy Ways to Eat More Carrots While Pregnant
Here are creative and healthy ways to eat more carrots during pregnancy:
– Make fresh carrot juice and combine with orange juice and ginger.
– Grate carrots into yogurt, oatmeal, or rice dishes for extra texture.
– Roast carrot sticks and potatoes in olive oil, garlic, and spices.
– Add shredded carrots to coleslaw, chicken or tuna salad.
– Mix carrot puree into tomato sauces, soups, and casseroles.
– Make veggie pancakes or fritters with shredded carrots, onions, and eggs.
– Use raw carrots, celery, and bell peppers with hummus or guacamole for dipping.
– Toss cooked carrot coins or slices into stir fries near the end of cooking.
– Make curry with chickpeas and carrots served over rice or quinoa.
– Layer thinly sliced carrots into sandwiches and wraps.
– Make a veggie tray with carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, and dips like ranch, hummus, or salsa.
– Add shredded carrots to meatballs, meatloaf, omelets, and scrambled eggs.
Are There Any Risks or Precautions With Eating Carrots in Pregnancy?
Carrots are safe to consume during pregnancy for most women. Here are some precautions to keep in mind:
– Excessive intake of carotenoids may cause a harmless condition called carotenodermia, which causes yellow-orange discoloration of the skin (28). This is rare and reversible by decreasing intake.
– High amounts of carotenoids can also turn urine yellow or orange. This is not harmful.
– Limit carrot juice to 1 small glass per day if consuming daily. Juicing removes beneficial fiber and concentrates sugars.
– Raw carrot juice may contain harmful bacteria like E coli or listeria if not properly cleaned. Only consume pasteurized carrot juice.
– Baby carrots are washed in chlorine solution. Rinse before eating if desired to remove chlorine flavor.
– Carrots contain insoluble fiber. If digestive issues arise, try cooked carrots or carrot puree.
– Carrots are goitrogenic vegetables. They may impact thyroid function if consumed in excess. Cooked carrots have lower goitrogens (29).
As long as you follow general guidelines and maximum intake levels of beta-carotene, carrots are very beneficial and safe to eat during a healthy pregnancy. Speak with your doctor about any concerns.
Tips for Purchasing and Storing Carrots
Follow these tips for safely purchasing, preparing, and storing carrots during pregnancy:
– Choose firm, bright orange carrots without green tips or cracks. Avoid limp carrots.
– Smaller carrots may be sweeter while larger carrots can become woody. Choose based on preference.
– Clean carrots thoroughly under cool running water before eating. Scrub well with a vegetable brush.
– Top and tail carrot ends and peel outer layer if desired. Peeling not required if washed well.
– Store raw carrots in an open or perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer, away from apples, pears, and potatoes which release ethylene gas.
– Consume within 2 weeks for best quality and to retain nutrients like vitamin C.
– Cooked carrots can be frozen for 3-6 months. Cool cooked carrots completely before freezing.
– When cooking carrots, limit water to prevent nutrient losses. Steam, roast, or stir fry instead of boiling.
Following proper purchasing, storage, and preparation tips will help retain the maximum nutrient content of carrots during pregnancy. This ensures you and baby benefit as much as possible.
Recipe Ideas Using Carrots
Here are easy and nutritious recipe ideas that incorporate carrots:
Morning Carrot Cake Oatmeal
– 1 cup rolled oats
– 1 small apple, diced
– 1 carrot, grated
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
– 1 tablespoon raisins or walnuts
– 1 cup milk of choice
1. Combine oats, apple, grated carrot, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins or walnuts, and milk in a small pot.
2. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.
3. Remove from heat and let sit for 2 minutes before serving. Top with extra milk and ground cinnamon if desired.
Ginger Carrot Soup
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 onion, diced
– 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
– 1 inch ginger, grated
– 4 cups vegetable broth
– 1⁄4 teaspoon cumin
– Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Sauté onion for 2-3 minutes until translucent.
2. Add carrots and ginger. Sauté for 4-5 minutes until softened.
3. Pour in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until carrots are very tender.
4. Transfer soup to a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy.
5. Return to pot and season with cumin, salt, and pepper.
Baked Salmon with Carrots and Asparagus
– 2 salmon fillets
– 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
– 3 carrots, sliced diagonally
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 lemon, zested
– Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place salmon fillets on prepared baking sheet. Arrange asparagus and carrots around fillets.
3. In a small bowl, combine garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Mix well.
4. Drizzle garlic-oil mixture over vegetables and salmon.
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until salmon flakes easily and vegetables are tender.
6. Serve with lemon wedges.
Carrots are an excellent food to incorporate into your diet during pregnancy. They provide key nutrients like beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin K, potassium, and antioxidants. Aim for 2-3 servings of carrots per day as part of an overall healthy and balanced diet. Spread out your intake throughout the week for maximum benefits.
Enjoy carrots raw, cooked, roasted, juiced, or blended into recipes. While there is no strict limit on daily carrot consumption, aim to stay within the recommended upper limits for vitamin A during pregnancy. This equates to about 3-4 medium carrots per day. Following proper purchasing, prepping, and storage methods will help retain the beneficial nutrients in carrots as well. Incorporate a variety of carrot recipes into your meal plan for delicious ways to eat more of this veggie during pregnancy and beyond.