Carrots are delicious and highly medicinal vegetables which are widely consumed all over the world in a wide range of dishes and cultural cuisines. Several kinds of carrots are cultivated including the white, yellow, orange, purple and red carrots although the orange carrots are the ones we commonly see around here.
It’s particularly interesting to note that the taproot of this vegetable is the part we are more familiar with and eat most of the time because of its crunchy texture and delicious taste. However, the green leaves of carrots are also beneficial, for instance in making salads. Furthermore, the health benefits of carrots can be largely due to its rich beta carotene and fibre content. The carotene accounts for the bright orange colour of orange carrots. Beta carotene is absorbed in the intestine and subsequently converted into vitamin A in the liver. In addition, carrots are quite rich in vitamins (K and C), folic acid, pantothenic acid, iron, copper, manganese and potassium which protect the heart. Interestingly, research has shown that the benefits of these nutrients can be maximized when carrots are steamed. From the aforementioned, it is obvious how carrots offer numerous health benefits as discussed below:
1. Lowers Cancer Risk
Recent studies have revealed that carrots may play an important role in reducing the incidence of cancers of the prostate, breast, lungs and colon. This anti-cancer effect is largely attributable to phytonutrients found in carrots such as beta carotene, falcarinol and falcarindiol which possess excellent antioxidant properties and help to mop up free radicals. For instance, among the Japanese, it has been found that colorectal cancer is inversely related to the consumption of beta carotene.
Fortunately, one average-sized carrot contains up to 3mg of beta carotene. In fact, when you consume fibre-rich carrots, you lower your risk of developing colon cancer by up to 24%. Similarly, in a research conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health, it was discovered that beta carotenes also protect against prostate cancer.
2. Enhances Vision
It’s no longer news that vitamin A deficiency leads to night blindness, a condition characterized by poor vision in dim light. Fortunately, one average carrot provides more than double of the daily vitamin A requirements of an adult thus enhancing vision. How? Beta carotene consumed through carrots is first converted to vitamin A in the liver. Subsequently, vitamin A is then converted to rhodopsin, an important pigment for night vision. More still, beta carotene has also been shown to offer protection against senile cataracts and macular degeneration which are important causes of blindness.
According to a study, those who ate sufficient beta carotene had 40% lesser risk of macular degeneration compared to others. Furthermore, a research conducted at Jules Stein Institute of the University of California found that women who ate carrots at least twice in a week were less likely to develop glaucoma than those who ate carrots less than once a week.
3. Regulates Blood Pressure
Carrots are good sources of potassium which has been shown to be cardioprotective. Potassium, being a vasodilator helps to relax the tension in the blood vessels and enhance blood flow, culminating in reduced blood pressure and improved cardiovascular function. Furthermore, coumarin in carrots has also been associated with blood pressure reduction. Evidently, once the blood pressure is within safe limits, dreadful complications of hypertension such as stroke, blindness, heart attack, renal failure and erectile dysfunction are also kept at bay. According to the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers have found that carrots may reduce the risk of heart attack by as much as 32%.
4. Helps in Blood Sugar Control
Carrots have been shown to be beneficial in keeping your blood sugar within normal limits. First, being rich in fibres, carrots help to keep you full and satisfied such that you are less likely to resort to sugary junk foods. Also, carotenoids which are found in carrots tend to prevent insulin resistance, a key component in the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Even in diabetic individuals, carrots enhance insulin function and glucose metabolism which helps to stabilize blood glucose.
5. Aids Digestion
Understandably, because of the high-fibre content of carrots, they usually add bulk to the diet thus stimulating peristalsis and enhancing onward propulsion of food in the intestine. This helps to prevent constipation and protects the gut from toxic substances that may lead to colon cancer.
6. Promotes Oral Health
Carrot is crunchy! Like a tooth brush, as you chew it, it helps to scrape off food particles and plaques in-between your teeth which if left in place can serve as substrates for cavity-forming bacteria. In addition, carrots stimulate production of saliva, an alkaline juice that helps to balance out or neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. This goes a long way to reduce the incidence of avoidable oral diseases like dental caries and halitosis (bad breath).
7. Slows Down the Ageing Process
Ageing is an inevitable physiological process that ultimately sets in in everyone who lives long enough. However, regular intake of carrots slows down the rate at which you age. This is not far-fetched in view of the several antioxidants loaded in carrots. They help to shield the body cells from oxidative injury by mopping up harmful free radicals. Some important antioxidants in carrots include alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, cyanidins, vitamin C, coumaric acid and caffeic acid to mention a few.
With these multiple benefits of carrots to your health, making it part of your regular diet won’t be a bad idea. Carrot is readily available in neighbourhood markets and grocery stores.