Baby carrots can be enjoyed in so many ways: as a healthy snack, with a dip, as a side dish or mixed into soups and stews, the possibilities are endless.
To launch our Nutrition Sleuth series, we rounded up the top 3 myths about baby carrots to shed some light on whether or not it’s really okay to crunch down on these tasty morsels. We sat down with Moira Cockburn, Food Scientist and Professor at George Brown College, to answer and verify some of the questions we had.
Myth #1: Baby Carrots are grown in the perfect 2-inch form that we know them as.
Baby carrots aren’t actually grown this way. They are cut from larger carrots and then polished and washed by machines. This is why they are so uniform in shape and size. A farmer in California, Mike Yurosek, first invented this practice in 1986. At that time, about 70% of carrots were going to waste (due to over production/ or from carrots that were not fit to sell) so Yurosek decided he wanted to find a way to reduce this waste and thus, invented the baby cut carrot. Baby carrots have since become hugely popular across North America and can be found in most grocery stores. Canadian Farms Produce, a smaller Canadian company also produces baby carrots, in addition to the American baby carrot giants Grimmway and Bolthouse Farms, all of which you can find in your local grocery store. Nowadays, baby carrots are cut from a specific hybrid carrot that is sweeter and more slender. They are harvested prematurely and planted closer together in order to ensure they grow thinner. The waste from these hybrid carrots is minimal, and is used for shredded carrots, compost and cattle feed.
Myth #2: Baby Carrots are high in sugar so people with diabetes or looking to lose weight should avoid them.
Since baby carrots are cut from larger carrots, it is impossible for them to have a drastically different nutrient profile than their larger counterparts. However, since they are harvested prematurely, they do not have as high of a proportion of nutrients compared to larger carrots. Baby carrots contain about 4g of natural sugar per ½ cup. They contain no added sugars (the type those trying to lose weight and/or control their diabetes should be careful to not overconsume). Naturally occurring sugars are present in most fruit, vegetables and dairy. All of these foods are brimming with valuable nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between natural sugars and added sugars since nutrition facts tables categorize both under “Sugars”, but you can always check the ingredients list to help determine whether or not there is added sugar.
Baby carrots are loaded with nutrients - one ½ cup serving of baby carrots, (about 8 carrots) - has only 30 calories. They are a great source of vitamin A, which is important for good vision, and they provide some Vitamin C and Iron as well. Like regular carrots, baby carrots are mostly water, (88%), and provide some fiber and protein, and like most vegetables, contain very little fat. One ½ cup serving of baby carrots fulfills Health Canada’s recommendation of one orange vegetable daily. Besides being a healthy choice that are completely acceptable as part of a healthy diet for anyone with diabetes or looking to lose weight, and since they come pre-washed, they are convenient for quick snacks on the go.
Myth #3: Baby Carrots are unsafe to eat because they are soaked in a toxic chlorine bath.
Despite their nutritional benefits, baby carrots have been criticized for being “unsafe” due to part of their cleansing process, which uses a chlorine bath. If you are unfamiliar with the standard food safety practices, the thought of consuming a product that has been soaked in chlorine might sound unhealthy and toxic. However, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), a chlorine bath is routinely used on finished fruit and vegetable products to prevent bacteria from growing that could lead to foodborne illness. As well, Moira assured us that the chlorine bath only contains a small amount of chlorine, which is added to water in compliance with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulation. It is a standard practice and is used for both regular and organic fresh produce in Canada as well as products imported from the US and other countries. The carrots are in contact with the chlorine bath for no more than 5 minutes and for additional safety measures, are rinsed with water to remove excess chlorine after the bath, and then packed up for consumption.
Sometimes you may notice a white film that develops on the outside of baby carrots. All carrots, including baby carrots contain a lot of water. When they are peeled, and cut, baby carrots are exposed to the air, and have a better chance of becoming dehydrated. When this white film called ‘blush’ starts to develop, this is completely safe to eat; it is simply the carrot drying out. To prevent the likelihood this will happen, Moira shared that you should store your baby carrots in a cool and humid environment, like your refrigerator. You can also soak the carrots in some water for a few minutes if blush has formed, and this will help to rehydrate them, thus reducing the blush.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Always remember how important it is to check the facts and get the right information from a credible source. Canada has strict regulations regarding the food that is available to purchase, as well as the food safety practices used in production. So please enjoy your baby carrots as often as you’d like and be sure to try out this recipe for delicious Maple Glazed Baby Carrots!
Let us know what your favourite way to crunch down on baby carrots are in the comments section below!
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About our author:
About our contributor:
Moira Cockburn is a Food Scientist and brings with her over 18 years of hands-on research and development experience in consumer package foods. Currently, she is the Program Coordinator, as well as Professor within the Culinary Management Nutrition program at George Brown College, Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. Moira received a B.Sc. at M.Sc. in Food Science from the University of Guelph. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 416.415.5000 (x3024)
Carrot Museum. (n.d.). Baby Carrots. The Origin and Evolution of Baby Carrots. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from: http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/babycarrot.html
CFIA, (2011). Vegetable Inspection Manual: Carrots. Retrieved October 25 18, 2016, from: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables/quality-inspection/vegetable-inspection-manuals/carrots/eng/1303762739912/1303762802189#s9
CFIA, (2014). Code of Practice for Minimally Processed Ready-to-Eat Fruit and Vegetables Part III Processing Controls. Retrieved September 18, 2016, from: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables/food-safety/minimally-processed-ready-to-eat-fruit-and-vegetab/eng/1413673339210/1413673388676?chap=4
Grimmway Farms. (2013). Baby Carrots. Retrieved September 30, 2016, from: http://www.grimmway.com/carrots/product/baby-carrots/
Health Canada (2016). Canadian Nutrient Profile - Baby Carrots. Retrieved November 10 2016 from: https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do