bowl of shaved carrots repeating into pattern

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It’s not the taste that’s getting users riled up, but the purported health benefits.

TikTok is truly a wealth of knowledge, a place where you can find hacks on super-specific problems like getting candle wax out of a jar to making your flowers last longer. It’s also a destination for endless recipes, as well as cooking hacks (like toning down the spice of a jalapeño). But not all viral recipes on the video platform are created equal, and sometimes there’s much more to a buzzy trend than meets the eye. That’s especially true of #rawcarrotsalad TikTok, where an uncooked vegetable mixture has generated over 8.6 million views on the platform — not for its taste, but for its purported hormonal health benefits. So what’s the deal with the #rawcarrotsalad, and can it really deliver benefits any run-of-the-mill salad can’t?

What is the TikTok #rawcarrotsalad?

While its history may be murky, the actual preparation of the salad is very straightforward. The ingredients are as follows:

2-3 shaved carrots
½ tablespoon melted coconut oil
A splash of apple cider vinegar
Juice of ¼ lemon (to taste)
Celtic or Pink Himalayan salt (to taste)
Cracked pepper (to taste)

As far as preparation goes, the most intensive part is shaving the carrots with a vegetable peeler into thin slices. Then you just mix it all together.

If you read the ingredients and are confused because the carrot salad doesn’t sound particularly delicious, the reason the salad is gaining traction isn’t because of the innovative recipe, but rather, its purported ability to help balance hormones.

Does eating raw carrots really balance your hormones?

TikTok users who are proponents of the salad say that eating it lowers your levels of estrogen. But is eating carrots and apple cider vinegar really going to help with that? While there are users who swear by the salad, the science is mixed.

Sue-Ellen Anderson Haynes, the national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (and herself a registered dietitian), tells CNBC that there hasn’t been research done on the link between raw carrots and estrogen levels. However, Anderson Haynes says there might be something to eating foods with lots of fiber — though not carrots specifically — around your menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels are highest.

“Eating fibrous, raw foods can help your gut to release this extra estrogen,” Anderson Haynes tells CNBC. “The good bacteria in your gut uses the fiber and converts that to substances that enhance gut, reproductive and overall health.” A 2009 study found that a high-fiber diet was associated with decreased hormone concentrations, including a form of estrogen.

Still, even if eating raw carrots does help level out estrogen in the body, it would only do so if an estrogen imbalance was caused by a dominance of the hormone, Melissa Groves Azzaro, a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in hormone balance, fertility, and PCOS, tells CNBC. That would not account for estrogen imbalance caused by, say, a comparatively lower level of progesterone (since eating carrots would not raise progesterone levels) or an issue with the way estrogen is being detoxed in the body. And she says cruciferous vegetables (not carrots) are a better way to eat your way to hormonal balance.

Where did the raw carrot salad start and is it legit?

The raw carrot salad has been making the rounds on TikTok since at least the summer of 2021, and since then, more and more videos using the hashtag have appeared. But the actual salad itself dates back even further. TikTok user @_paige.nicole_, whose video touting the carrot mixture gained over half a million views, tells Newsweek that she learned about it through biologist Ray Peat, who she says “pioneered” the salad.

Peat seems to get his claims about carrots lowering estrogen from his anecdotal experience that he stopped getting migraines after he started eating one raw carrot per day, which caused him to “suspect that the carrot fiber was having both a bowel-protective and an antiestrogen effect.”

Another reason we’re a little suspicious is that much of the information that’s currently repeated about the effects of carrots on estrogen comes from a claim on Peat’s website referencing a study that we cannot locate on the internet. Peat claims the study says “several women who suffered from premenstrual symptoms, including migraine, had their serum estrogen measured before and after the ‘carrot diet,’” and “found that the carrot lowered their estrogen within a few days, as it relieved their symptoms.” But we’re not sure where these findings originated.

Peat doesn’t just claim carrots balance estrogen. In his 1993 book, Nutrition for Women, he recommends eating two raw carrots per day to assist with weight loss, in addition to “eating liver at least twice a week” and “sipping a few ounces of orange juice” as a snack. He also says, “Sleeping less will help keep blood sugar up and fat down, unless the brain is really tired.” (This despite the fact that a 2022 study found that sleeping 8.5 hours per night actually reduced weight.) In his daily diet, Peat also reportedly drinks quarts of orange juice and milk and eats a pint of ice cream. (Not sure how that squares with his health goals.)

Whether or not it really does balance hormones, the raw carrot salad has some devotees on TikTok. Nicole says, “This has definitely become a staple in my diet for balancing the excess estrogen that can peak at different times during my cycle.” Another TikTok user wrote that the salad changed her life.

Bottom line: While you probably shouldn’t rely on this recipe for the benefits Peat claims, if the taste of tart carrots appeals to you, there’s nothing wrong with the salad. Carrots do have a number of nutrients: They’re a good source of beta carotene, dietary fiber, potassium, and antioxidants. Just don’t expect them to work miracles.