I remember growing up and being told to eat my carrots because they are good for my eyes. Now as I sit here writing this post wearing my glasses that are never far from my face, I start to wonder if… But I guess we shouldn’t look back but always look forward towards what we can do to improve our health. And eating your carrots should definitely be on your list of things to do.
Carrots are actually one of the most nutritious vegetables that can easily fit into your diet. They are an excellent source of beta carotene (which is converted to vitamin A by the body) and vitamins C, D, E, K, B1 and B6. They are also rich in biotin, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, organic sodium and some trace minerals. The known phytonutrients in carrots are lutein, lycopene, anti-oxidants alpha, beta and gamma carotenes, falcarinol, zeaxanthin and xanthophyll. All of these are helpful in promoting healing in the body.
Carrots are by far one of the richest source of carotenoids (one cup provides 16,679 IUs of beta-carotene or roughly 686.3% the RDA for vitamin A). High carotenoid intake has been linked with a 20% decrease in postmenopausal breast cancer and an up to 50% decrease in the incidence of cancers of the bladder, cervix, prostate, colon, larynx, and esophagus. Extensive human studies suggest that a diet including as little as one carrot per day could conceivably cut the rate of lung cancer in half. A recent National Cancer Institute study found lung cancer occurrence was higher in men whose diets did not supply a healthy intake of alpha-carotene.
When six epidemiological studies that looked at the association of diets high in carotenoids and heart disease were reviewed, the research demonstrated that high-carotenoid diets are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. In one study that examined the diets of 1,300 elderly persons in Massachusetts, those who had at least one serving of carrots and/or squash each day had a 60% reduction in their risk of heart attacks compared to those who ate less than one serving of these carotenoid-rich foods per day. In addition, potash succinate, a nutrient found in carrot, is said to have anti hypertensive drug properties, making it useful for those suffering from high blood pressure.
Beta-carotene helps to protect vision, especially night vision. After beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the liver, it travels to the retina where it is transformed into rhodopsin, a purple pigment that is necessary for night-vision. Plus beta-carotene’s powerful antioxidant actions help provide protection against macular degeneration and the development of senile cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
Intake of foods such as carrots that are rich in carotenoids may be beneficial to blood sugar regulation. Research has suggested that physiological levels, as well as dietary intake, of carotenoids may be inversely associated with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.
Although best known for their high content of beta carotene, carrots also contain a phytonutrient called falcarinol that may be responsible for the association between frequently eating carrots and a reduced risk of cancers. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that falcarinol provided protection against colon cancer in laboratory animals.
In addition, these other health benefits are supposed to come from carrots:
- Known to be good for the health of the spleen and stomach.
- Believed to have antiseptic properties and prevent numerous infections.
- Good for healthy skin, hair and bones.
- Its soup is a popular home remedy for diarrhea.
- Its juice helps relieve stress and fatigue and makes you feel energized.