Did you know that the original carrot was small, forked, and was purple or yellow in color? It also had a bitter, woody flavor. It was not until the 16th century that Dutch growers developed the sweet and crunchy orange variety that is popular today. It’s the beta carotene that give carrots their orange color. But farmer’s markets and some specialty stores also offer carrots in other colors, including purple, red, and yellow. Well, enough of the trivia. We are here to discuss the top seven health benefits of carrots.
Health Benefits of Carrots
1. Good for Your Vision
Carrots are a good source of vitamin A. A deficiency in vitamin A may result in xerophthalmia, a progressive eye disease that can develop into night blindness (difficulty seeing when the levels of light are low). So there’s some truth to the belief that this vegetable can help you see better in the dark.
Eating carrots is beneficial because a lack of vitamin A is one of the preventable causes of blindness in children. In addition, carrots contain the antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein, the combination of which may help prevent age related macular degeneration (a type of vision loss).
2. May Reduce the Risk of Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, too many free radicals may increase the risk of some types of cancer. The antioxidant effects of dietary carotenoids (orange, yellow, and red organic pigments that can be found in carrots and other vegetables) may reduce this risk. Two examples of carotenoids are lutein and zeaxanthin.
Prostate cancer – A 2015 studies review suggested a link between a carotenoids-rich diet and a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
Leukemia – In 2011, researchers discovered that nutrients in carrot juice extract can kill leukemia cells and stop or slow their progression.
Lung cancer – In 2011, researchers found out that drinking carrot juice might help prevent the type of damage which leads to lung cancer in smokers. A 2008 meta-analysis meanwhile, revealed that participants with high intakes of carotenoids had a 21 % lower risk of lung cancer, compared to participants in control groups.
3. Digestive Health
According to a 2014 research that gathered data from 893 people, consuming carotenoid-rich foods may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Another study reported that people who eat a high-fiber diet have a lower risk of colorectal cancer, compared to those who consume little fiber.
High-fiber foods promote gut health. A medium carrot contains 1.7 grams of fiber (5% to 7.6% of a person’s daily needs, depending on age). One cup of chopped carrots, meanwhile, provides 3.58 grams of fiber.
4. Diabetes Control
Carbohydrates make up about 10% of a carrot. About 30% of the carbohydrate content is fiber. A medium carrot contains 25 calories. Overall, a carrot is a low-calorie, high-fiber food that is low in sugar. It also scores low on the glycemic index or GI. The index can be used by people with diabetes to determine which foods are likely to raise blood sugar levels.
The GI score of boiled carrots is 39. This means that they’re unlikely to cause a blood sugar spike and are thus generally safe for diabetics to eat. Furthermore, authors of a 2018 review reported that eating a high-fiber diet might help prevent type 2 diabetes. High-fiber foods can also help people afflicted by type 2 diabetes better manage their blood sugar levels.
5. Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Health
The fiber and potassium in carrots are good for cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association encourages people to consume less salt and eat more foods that contain potassium (like carrots). Potassium helps relax blood vessels, lowering the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and other cardiovascular issues. A medium carrot provides about 4% of a person’s daily requirement for potassium.
Meanwhile, a 2017 review reported that people who eat a high fiber diet are less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than people who eat little fiber. Consuming lots of fiber may also help reduce levels of low density lipoprotein (also known as bad cholesterol) in the blood.
6. Immune Function and Healing
Vitamin C is one antioxidant that carrots provide. It contributes to collagen production. Collagen is a component of connective tissue and is essential for wound healing.
Vitamin C is also present in immune cells that help the body fight disease. When the immune system of a person is healthy, it may help prevent a range of diseases. If you are unwell, your immune system has to work harder. This may compromise vitamin C levels.
Experts believe that taking vitamin C may boost immune system function when it’s under stress. For example, consuming vitamin C may reduce the duration and severity of a cold.
7. Bone Health
Carrots contain vitamin K, calcium, and phosphorus. All of these are good for bone health and may also help prevent osteoporosis.
Carrots are a versatile vegetable. You can eat them raw, roasted, boiled, steamed, or as an ingredient in stews and soups. They are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients. Now that you know the health benefits of carrots, shouldn’t you start including them in your diet today?