Being both delicious and inexpensive, it’s hard to imagine a healthy snack or meal that isn’t graced by the humble carrot. It’s ever-present nature, long shelf life, and versatility all contribute to carrots being a perennial favorite veggie for all ages and walks of life. In fact, carrots are the second most popular vegetable eaten in the United States, second only to potatoes for sheer bulk consumed.[adsense]
The brilliant orange color of most carrots stems from the presence of beta carotene, a complex pigment also found in pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Notable as the precursor of the essential Vitamin A, it has myriad applications to whole body health. Celebrated as an effective radical-combatting antioxidant, it has been the focus of extensive studies researching it as a potent cancer-fighting nutrient.
Even though present in all dark orange vegetables, carrots have been shown to contain the highest concentration of the most bioavailable- the most easily absorbed- forms of this phytonutrient. These unique manifestations (in the forms of falcarinol and falcarindiol) are especially of interest in cancer research and treatment.
In scientific and medical studies, carrot extract has been shown to effectively kill or inhibit the growth of leukemia, colon, and lung cancers, making it a common choice in anti-cancer diets. One broad study of long-time smokers showed that individuals who did not eat carrots, or ate them less than once a week, were three times more likely to develop lung cancer than their carrot-loving peers.
Beta Carotene vs Cardiovascular Disease
Beta carotene also has the impressive benefit of helping to avert cardiovascular disease. Instances of coronary heart disease were proven to be 32% lower in those who regularly ate carrots. Another long-term study, this time at Harvard University, showed that daily beta-carotene intake helped with the prevention of strokes, being especially successful when applied in older populations.
In a large sample of middle-aged subjects, those who ate at least six carrots a week were significantly less likely to be affected by a stroke than those who ate one carrot a month or fewer. They also had the lowest LDL (bad cholesterol) to HDL (good cholesterol) ratio in the study- a phenomenon also attributed to the high fiber content and low glycemic index of carrots.
The high concentration of Vitamin A in carrots has also been observed to combat the dangerous thickening of arterial walls that contributes to cardiovascular disease (a process known as hypertrophy). In conjunction with its impressive Vitamin C content, the beta carotene in carrots can help repair and improve cellular interactions within the heart tissue itself.
Carrots For Brain Health
Perhaps some of the most exciting carrot-related health benefits are the ones that have long-term effects on the brain and nervous system. Carrot extract has been found to assist with the treatment of symptoms of cognitive dysfunction similar to those found in deteriorative processes like Alzheimer’s disease.[adsense]
Regular consumption of carrot extract was the focus of an eighteen year long Harvard University medical study. Mental deterioration was measured in male subjects who consumed a 50 mg beta-carotene supplement every other day. Compared to the control group who received a placebo, their rate of mental decay was delayed significantly, proving the protective function of Vitamin A in brain health.
Carrots are also rich with a phytonutrient called luteolin, which is gaining popularity for its positive effects treating age-related memory loss in specific and overall functional brain performance in general.
Beautiful Inside And Out
Carrots aren’t just good for repairing and maintaining our insides, though. Consuming carrots regularly has long been a route to naturally assist our body’s production of collagen. This vital and multitasking protein makes up our skin, hair and nails. The beta carotene found in carrots is essential to maintain their optimal health and elasticity. Simultaneously it also repairs wrinkles, helps with scar healing, and corrects uneven skin tone.
The Vitamin C in carrots also contributes to vibrant skin, fighting free radicals as effectively for your outside as it does for your insides. As an overall effect, carrots prevent skin from drying out and losing its luster while protecting it from blemishes and acne. The collagen that builds nails and hair is stronger and shinier for being reinforced by the potent combination of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and potassium.
An Easy Choice For A Healthier Lifestyle
Much more impressive than their humble, mundane manifestation would let on, carrots are impressive powerhouses of secret nutrients and surprising benefits. Whether eaten raw or cooked, carrots are a versatile addition to any healthy diet, enhancing soups, stews, roasts, and salads.
Packed with vitamins, fiber, and phytonutrients, a diet featuring carrots manifests wide-reaching positive effects on overall vitality and well-being. In general, eating carrots as part of a healthy lifestyle is simply a sensible choice. Given the alternatives, the inexpensive, delicious snack eaten at least once a day is a reasonable way to help maintain and defend our bodies while helping us achieve a more beautiful exterior.