Welcome to this week’s Carrot Spotlight!
Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family, named after the umbrella-like flower clusters that plants in this family produce. Carrots are related to parsnips, fennel, parsley, anise, cumin, and dill.
Carrots can be anywhere between two inches or three feet, ranging in diameter from one-half of an inch to over two inches. The biggest carrot recorded is more than 19 pounds, and the longest is over 19 feet!
Carrot roots are crunchy and sweet, and the tops are a bit bitter. While we usually associate carrots with the color orange, carrots can also be white, yellow, red, or purple. And, an interesting fact – purple, yellow and red carrots were the only color varieties of carrots to be cultivated before the 15th century. There are over 100 species of carrots.
Let’s dive into some of the health benefits of carrots:
- A half cup of carrots only contains 26 calories and 214% of your daily requirement of Vitamin A. They also contain Vitamin C, Vitamin K, vitamin B8, pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and fiber.
- Improves vision: Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the liver. Vitamin A is transformed in the retina to rhodopsin, a purple pigment necessary for night vision. Beta-carotene has also been shown to protect against macular degeneration and senile cataracts. A study found that people who eat the most beta-carotene had a 40 percent lower risk of macular degeneration than those who consumed little. Those who consume carrots at least twice per week also have significantly lower rates of glaucoma.
- Helps prevent cancer: Studies have shown carrots reduce the risk of cancer. In carrots, the most important polyacetylenes include falcarinol and falcarindiol. Several recent studies have identified these carrot polyacetylenes as phytonutrients that can help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Falcarinol is a natural pesticide produced by the carrot that protects its roots from fungal diseases. Carrots are one of the only common sources of this compound. A study showed 1/3 lower cancer risk by carrot-eating mice. Another study shows that women who ate raw carrots were five to eight times less likely to develop breast cancer than women who did not eat carrots. Carrot juice intake has also been shown to reduce cancer risk small for participants who consumed about 1.5 cups of fresh carrot juice per day.
- Slows down aging: The high level of beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant to cell damage done to the body through regular metabolism, which helps slow down the aging of cells.
- Promotes healthier skin: Vitamin A and antioxidants protects the skin from sun damage. Deficiencies of vitamin A cause dryness to the skin, hair, and nails. Vitamin A prevents premature wrinkling, acne, dry skin, pigmentation, blemishes, and uneven skin tone.
- Helps prevent infection: Carrots are known by herbalists to prevent infection. They can be used on cuts – shredded raw or boiled and mashed.
- Prevents heart disease: Studies show that diets high in carotenoids are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes. Carrots have not only beta-carotene but also alpha-carotene and lutein. The regular consumption of carrots also reduces cholesterol levels because the soluble fibers in carrots bind with bile acids. Eating a carrot every day reduces the risk of stroke by 68%. The many different kinds of antioxidants found in carrots work together and provide us with cardiovascular benefits that we could not obtain from any of these antioxidants alone if they were split apart and consumed individually. The synergistic effect of carrot antioxidants is a great example of a whole food and its uniqueness as a source of nourishment. Polyacetylenes, specifically Falcarinol and falcarindiol, also have anti-inflammatory properties and anti-aggregatory properties that help prevent excessive clumping together of red blood cells.
- Cleanses the body: Vitamin A assists the liver in flushing out the toxins from the body. It reduces the bile and fat in the liver. The fibers present in carrots help clean out the colon and hasten waste movement.
- Protects teeth and gums: Carrots clean your teeth and mouth. They scrape off plaque and food particles just like toothbrushes or toothpaste. Carrots stimulate gums and trigger a lot of salivae, which being alkaline, balances out the acid-forming, cavity-forming bacteria. The minerals in carrots prevent tooth damage.
- Digestion: Carrots have significant amounts of dietary fiber, and fiber is one of the most important elements in maintaining good digestive health. Fiber also boosts heart health by helping to eliminate excess LDL cholesterol from the walls of arteries and blood vessels.
- Blood Pressure: Carrots are rich sources of potassium, which can relax the tension in your blood vessels and arteries, thereby increasing blood flow and circulation, boosting organ function throughout the body, and reducing the stress on the cardiovascular system. The coumarin found in carrots also has been linked to reducing hypertension and protecting your heart health!
- Immune Booster: Carrots contain a number of antiseptic and antibacterial abilities that make it ideal for boosting the immune system. Not only that, carrots are a rich source of vitamin C, which stimulates the activity of white blood cells and is one of the most important elements in the human immune system.
So next time you have a side of carrots, take a second helping!
Hope you’ve enjoyed this carrot spotlight!
Be sure to stop by Saturday for our carrot recipe. And being that it’s a week before Christmas, it might be a treat!
Stay Healthy J