The Science Behind the Raw Carrot Salad
The raw carrot salad has been buzzing on Tiktok and other social media channels in recent months. Making claims of better digestion, PMS-like symptoms, and even mood. All thanks to balanced hormones, estrogen in particular.
Is there any truth to these claims? Can raw carrots affect hormones? As someone whose blog is named after carrots, I became curious about these claims. In this article, we explore the science behind the raw carrot salad, in an attempt to decipher fact from false advertisement.
What is the raw carrot salad?
The recipe is simple. A few washed and grated carrots, combined with some coconut oil, a splash of apple cider vinegar with a dash of sea salt.
Despite its recent trend on social media, the raw carrot salad is nothing new. Countries and cultures around the world have made variations of a grated and dressed raw carrot salad. Even Chick-Fila offered a carrot raisin salad (based on a traditional Southern dish) up until 2014.
The components of a salad dressing require only a few simple ingredients: oil, acid, and a touch of sweetness.
The raw carrot salad needs no added sugar, the carrot naturally balances the apple cider vinegar and coconut oil all on its own. It’s a refreshing fun side dish, best accompanied by other foods rather than consumed on its own.
Who was Ray Peat?
The raw carrot salad was popularized by Dr. Ray Peat, who began his study on hormones back in 1968. Despite his online cult following, most of his articles come off as opinions with little referenced research to back his claims. Of the research he does reference, most are severely outdated. For example, the majority of his blog articles date back to 2006.
Would I call him a quack though? Not necessarily. A Ph.D. in biology has more merit to me than most self-subscribed “health coaches” online. It’s also fair to point out, that peer-reviewed research is greatly influenced by money and who will fund the research. We can only imagine how much there is left to explore, questions left unanswered or kept out of the public- thanks to monetary influence.
While some of his articles are mind-numbing to read through, some are not complete falsehoods. His belief in coconut oil is well-founded, and coconut oil has regained acceptance and popularity in the United States after decades of industry propaganda pushing vegetable oil instead.
Suggesting a salad comprised of carrots, a little coconut oil, salt, and apple cider vinegar? Not harmful hogwash, with many of his clients reporting better gut health and lessened PMS symptoms. Perhaps we can find the science to back these claims?
What’s the fiber in carrots that helps balance hormones?
After extensively reading medical and scholarly articles trying to find the “unique” carrot fiber, I have not been able to pinpoint what fiber gives the raw carrot salad such hype. Nor do Ray Peat and his followers. The carrot (Daucus carota) though is one of the most complete vegetable genome to be analyzed and assembled. This research has shown that of the 32,113 genes within the carrot, 10,530 genes were exclusively unique to the carrot. Perhaps somewhere within these unique genes is where raw carrot enthusiasts find relief from their symptoms.
What I have found is research on cellulose, which may back up the raw carrot salad claims.
Cellulose is a specific type of insoluble fiber found in these vegetables worth noting. Similar to chia seeds, these raw carrot fibers absorb water in the gut and swell into a gel form; providing a laxative effect by stimulating contraction in the intestines. This movement helps the gut microbiome. In addition, insoluble carrot fibers bind to heavy metals, chemicals, and pesticides; eliminating unwanted irritants from the digestive system. Flushing out these chemicals and heavy metals reduces the chance of cancers and other disorders within the GI tract.
Insoluble fibers lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels by attaching to dietary lipids, reducing their absorption by being flushed out of the digestive system before having the opportunity to enter the bloodstream. Insoluble fibers such as cellulose have a similar effect on xenoestrogens; endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as phthalates, bisphenol-A (BPA), and phytoestrogens.
A recent study conducted in 2021 has shown that xenoestrogens wreak havoc on the gut microbiome.
Big culprits of xenoestrogen include:
- Conventional meat treated with hormones
- Fragrances and additives used in household goods
Eliminating most of these hormone disruptors is easier than it looks. Eliminating boxed processed foods and cooking from scratch helps cut down your exposure to inflammatory ingredients. When your hormones are out of whack, many problems can arise. Weight issues, especially excess weight around the midsection, are considered early warning signs. Also, look out for frequent bathroom trips, and feel the need for a nap after meals. Migraines and sensitivity to certain fragrances are also other warning signs.
While raw carrot salad does not have such powerful input on the body’s naturally endogenous hormones, eating a raw carrot salad regularly is nutritious with few complications. It is not some magical elixir that targets estrogen exclusively but does in fact help balance out other hormones like progesterone and testosterone. In a study conducted in 2001 (Reducing Bioavailable Sex Hormones through a Comprehensive Change in Diet: the Diet and Androgens (DIANA) Randomized Trial), postmenopausal women were given new diets significantly higher in vegetable protein.
The subjects were mostly overweight, carrying a significant amount in their midsections. This marked high insulin levels and whacked-out hormones. The uptake in plant fibers though showed to have positive results in regard to androgen and testosterone levels.
Increasing insoluble plant fiber was beneficial in balancing hormones and reducing breast cancer risk. Carrots alone do not have this cellulose fiber, but many vegetables and nuts do.
So if you’re allergic to carrots, there are other options for you.
What other fruits and vegetables contain cellulose?
- Brussel Sprouts
Do not expect miracles through a simple raw carrot salad, a healthy body is sustained by the regular elimination of toxins and nourishing the cells with what it needs. Cooking carrots changes the fibrous structure, which is still beneficial but does not bind as well to chemical disruptors as a raw carrot does.
The Raw Carrot Salad
Why not use baby carrots?
Now that we’ve learned that cellulose is not exclusive to carrots, let’s dispel myths about baby carrots.
Some people argue not to use baby carrots in the raw carrot salad because full-sized carrots only have unique fibers required for hormone balance. This is false.
Contrary to rumors, baby carrots are no different from regular-sized carrots outside of preparation. The reason why it’s not recommended to use them is that they are pre-peeled and soaked in a chlorine preservative. This is to maintain color and freshness but significantly alters the flavor.
Don’t believe us? Simply do a side-by-side taste comparison, and you will notice the difference!
Our Raw Carrot Salad Recipe
We use large organic carrots shaved into beautiful ribbons. Then we add coconut or olive oil, a splash of apple cider vinegar. Then we like to incorporate ginger and turmeric, in addition to salt and pepper. Delicious as is, or throw in some chopped pecans and golden raisins!
Final Thoughts on the Raw Carrot Salad
One thing we do appreciate about this trend, besides improving the popularity of carrots, is it reminds the younger generations of the value and benefits of simple foods. In the Western world, most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables each day. Even worse, most vegetable intake comes from less healthy preparations like deep-fried, microwaved, or just plain overcooked. Taking the time to have some fresh raw produce, a bit of heart-healthy olive or coconut oil, spices, and apple cider vinegar- are wonderful healthy habits. Carrots are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants called carotenoids. Increasing raw fiber intake like cellulose helps improve the microbiome. If those guys are happy, then the whole system tends to run smoothly too.
These are all good things, and we’re all for it.
Just don’t eat too much and start to turn orange!