carrots

Carrots – the sweet root vegetables and their wonderful hidden health benefits

Posted on Posted in Healthy Eating

For centuries, carrots have been known for improving eyesight and cure many diseases. A myriad of modern day studies have revealed a trove of health benefits that carrots possess, especially a recent study showing these sweet root vegetables hold a powerful force for good health, especially for men.

carrots
Carrot salad (Image: Creative commons)

Historians believe that carrots were first cultivated thousands of years ago in areas what is now Iran and Afghanistan. It had a bitter taste and woody flavor.  Before the fifth century, colors of carrot ranged from black, purple, red, yellow and white. The orange colored carrot we see today, were first developed by Dutch growers in the 16th and 17th centuries who gave it a sweet, aromatic and crunchy form.

Here are some quick facts about health benefits of carrots:

  • Eight ounces of carrot juice can contain as much as 800% of a person’s daily recommended dosage of vitamin A which is necessary for tissue growth.
  • The root vegetable is rich in beta-carotene which is a powerful antioxidant and a naturally occurring pigment that nourishes the eye.
  • An excellent source of Vitamin A, carrots provide 210% of an adult’s daily need. Carrots also provide 6% of Vitamin C, 2% of Calcium needs and 2% of Iron needs for an adult per serving.
  • Carrots kill harmful germs in the mouth and prevent tooth decay.
  • Regular consumption of these root vegetables may help in preventing gastric ulcers and digestive disorders.
  • Carotenoids in carrots help regulate blood sugar.
  • Regular consumption of carrots may improve the appearance of skin, hair and nails.
  • Because of its antiseptic qualities, carrots are used as laxatives, vermicides and as a remedy for liver conditions.
  • Other possible benefits include delaying the effects of ageing and improving immune function.
carrots
Pickled carrots (Image: Creative commons)

Carrots for prostate cancer

According to findings published in the European Journal Nutrition, men who consumed carrots at least three times a week as part of their regular diet, were 18% less likely to develop a prostate tumor. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition suggests that diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer among young men.

Diabetes

The presence of carotenoids in carrots make it a good diet for regulating blood sugar. Insulin resistance in a diabetic patient is inversely affected by carotenoids which lowers the level of blood sugar. Carotenoids also regulate the amount of insulin and glucose that is being used and metabolized by the body.

carrots
Carrot cake (Image: Creative commons)

Blood pressure

A rich source of potassium, these orange root vegetables can regulate blood pressure. Potassium is a vasodilator which relaxes tension in blood vessels and arteries, thereby increasing blood flow and circulation. This process boosts organ function throughout the body and reduces the stress on the cardiovascular system. The coumarins found in carrots have also been linked to reducing hypertension and protecting the well being of heart.

carrots
Carrot soup (Image: Creative commons)

Stroke

People who eat carrot every day have a 68% less chance of having a stroke. When studies were conducted on stroke patients, it showed that the patients who had the highest level of beta carotene had the highest survival rate. This belief of ‘carrot effect’ on the brain has been backed by many studies.

carrots
Carrot juice (Image: Creative commons)

Colon Cancer

A study conducted in Japan suggested that incorporating carrot into the daily diet may help reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.

Leukemia

A 2011 study showed that carrot juice killed leukemia cells and inhibited their progression.

How much is too much

Vitamin A

With 2.356 micrograms of Vitamin A, a cup of carrot juice has more than 2 to 3 times of Vitamin A intake needed in a day since the recommended daily intakes of Vitamin A are 900 micrograms for men and 700 micrograms for women. If consumed for a long period, a high intake of Vitamin A can cause carotenodermia. This is a harmless condition that turns the color of skin into yellow-orange, which goes away when consumption is stopped.

Sugar

A cup of carrot juice contains more than 9 grams of sugar. Since high sugar intake can increase risk of diabetes and obesity, the Harvard School of Public Health recommends limiting consumption of juice to one glass per day.

Carrot: Nutrition facts

Serving size: One medium carrot (128 grams)

Calories ……………………………………………………..  52

Carbohydrates …………………………………………. 12g

Sugar ………………………………………………………… 6 g

Fiber …………………………………………………………. 4g

Protein ………………………………………………………. 1g

Sodium ……………………………………………………… 88 mg

carrots
Indian style Carrot Halwa (Image: Creative commons)

Summary

Our parents have always been telling us, “Eat your carrots” and we know bugs bunny loves it! We should add these tasty roots to our regular diet because carrots contain higher levels of beta-carotene than any other fruit or vegetable. Carrots are very high in Vitamin A, an essential nutrient for good vision. Carrots are also known for protecting from ultraviolet radiation.

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Salahuddin Ahmed is a freelance medical writer and blogger, who has been writing about medicine and health for more than a decade. A former New York transplant, he now lives in his native Dhaka. He received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Louisiana and also earned a diploma on eTechnology from NIIT, Dhaka. A voracious eater, Salahuddin only dines at restaurants that offer free refills on rice.

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