When a recipe calls for fresh carrots, you probably go to your grocery store and grab a pile of the orange vegetables to slice up and enjoy. If you’ve ever noticed some darker, purple carrots hanging out near the orange ones you’re used to, you may be curious as to how they got their unique hue and whether they’re worth adding to your cart, too.
Don’t worry, purple carrots don’t get their color from any unnatural dyes. Surprisingly enough, purple was actually the original color of carrots back when they first started being cultivated. It wasn’t until the 1500s that orange varieties appeared in Spain, Italy, and Germany, according to Popular Science. “Nobody’s really sure how the orange carrot came to take over most of the world,” author Sarah Fecht explains. “Early reports suggested that purple carrots had a better flavor […] but might have fallen out of favor because they tend to leach a dark pigment onto whatever they’re cooked with.” The Carrot Museum (yes, a real thing that exists online, based in the United Kingdom) describes purple carrots as having a more peppery flavor than orange ones. But aside from providing color and new flavors to your meals, there are plenty of other perks you can count on from these violet veggies.
A 2001 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry claims, “compared to orange carrots, purple carrots contain twice the amount of alpha and beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A.” They also contain 20 percent less sugar, which is great for anyone on low-carb or low-sugar diets. The purple pigment also provides powerful antioxidants known as anthocyanins. The Carrot Museum cites Dr. Hazel MacTavish-West, a food scientist based in Australia with more than 25 years of experience, as who claims research has shown “eating a purple carrot a day has the potential to protect against cardiovascular disease, inhibit cancer cells, and reverse negative effects of a high-fat diet.” That’s a lot of healthy benefits packed into such a humble vegetable! Chances are you won’t actually feel like eating purple carrots every single day, but adding them to your recipes throughout the week can definitely give you a few extra nutritional boosts to your diet.
We also aren’t saying you should ignore orange carrots from here on out. They have tons of their own benefits, too, of course. But mixing things up with some purple carrots now and then can help dish up some variety for your taste buds along with your health.
Now go ahead, get cooking up some deliciously purple plates of food!