7 Health Benefits Of Carrots
Carrot (Daucus carota) is a root vegetable belonging to the family Apiaceae. It has green lacy leaves and a long slender root that is edible, with crisp, sweet flesh.
While carrots are usually associated with the orange color, but they actually come in a variety of colors, including purple, yellow, white, and red. In fact, the first carrots cultivated were yellow, purple, and white – not orange in color.
A Brief History of Carrots
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), carrots originated in Afghanistan and Central Asia, possibly Iran and Pakistan. Carrots were first cultivated thousands of years ago in Afghanistan and were initially available only in purple and yellow, dating back to 900 – 1000 AD. White carrots were reported in Europe in the 1700s.
The orange variety of carrots was created by the Dutch by mixing different varieties to honor the color of the contemporary Dutch flag. This carrot quickly became popular and was further developed to become the sweet, succulent orange carrot, which is the most recognized carrot used throughout the world today.
Currently, the purple and yellow wild carrots still exist in the Middle East, white carrots persist in Europe, and the red variety is found in Japan.
Nutritional Value of Carrots
Carrot is a highly nutritious vegetable. Just one cup provides over four times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A and 21 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin K. Carrot is also rich in fiber, vitamin C, vit B6, potassium and manganese.
Moreover, carrots contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant which gives carrots their bright orange color. Many studies have shown that beta carotene supplementation may offer protection against the free radicals, reduce cataracts risk, and slow down the aging process.
Here are the nutritional value of one cup (128 grams) of chopped, raw carrots [source]:
- Calories: 53
- Vitamin A: 21383 IU (428% Daily Value)
- Vitamin K: 16.9 mcg (21% Daily Value)
- Dietary fiber: 3.6 g (14% Daily Value)
- Vitamin C: 7.6 mg (13% Daily Value)
- Potassium: 410 mg (12% Daily Value)
- Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (9% Daily Value)
- Manganese: 0.2 mg (9% Daily Value)
- Thiamin: 0.1 mg (6% Daily Value)
- Niacin: 1.3 mg (6% Daily Value)
- Folate: 24.3 mcg (6% Daily Value)
- Vitamin E: 0.8 mg (4% Daily Value)
- Riboflavin: 0.1 mg (4% Daily Value)
- Calcium: 42.2 mg (4% Daily Value)
- Magnesium: 15.4 mg (4% Daily Value)
- Phosphorus: 44.8 mg (4% Daily Value)
In addition, carrots are extremely versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. They can be eaten raw as a snack, or boiled, steamed, sauteed, roasted or used in breads and cake. They can also be juiced and mixed with various fruit purees for a healthy smoothie.
Health Benefits of Eating Carrots
1. Prevent cancer
Many studies shown that eating carrots may help lower the risk of breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer. Recently, researchers have isolated a compound called falcarinol in carrots that may be largely responsible for anti-cancer benefits.
Falcarinol is a natural pesticide found in carrots that protects roots from fungal diseases. In daily diet, carrots are almost the only source of these compounds.
A study conducted on mice found that those who were fed with either raw carrots or falcarinol had one-third lower risk of developing colon cancer than mice did not fed with them.
2. Improve vision
The retina of the eye needs vitamin A to function. A lack of vitamin A can cause night blindness. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a substance which is converted to vitamin A in the liver. In the retina, vitamin A is transformed into rhodopsin, a purple pigment that necessary for night vision.
In addition, beta-carotene helps protect against macular degeneration and the development of senile cataracts.
3. Prevent heart disease
Studies shown that a diet high in carotenoids are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Also, it is believed that regular consumption of carrots reduces LDL cholesterol levels.
Soluble fiber in carrots can help lower blood cholesterol levels by binding with bile acids – acids composed of cholesterol – in your intestines and transporting them out of your body as waste.
4. Reduce stroke risk
According to a research from Harvard University, people who ate more than six carrots a week are much less likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate only one carrot a month or more.
5. Nourish the skin
Carrot has a strong cleansing properties that are effective in detoxifying the liver, and thus very effective for treating acne that is caused by toxins from the blood.
Carrot is also useful for treating uneven skin tones due to pigmentation. The vitamin A and other nutrients contained in carrot efficiently nourish the skin, prevent dry skin and other skin blemishes.
Carrots contain a lot of beta-carotene, which serves as an antioxidant that helps the body to fight against free radicals. It also help slows down the aging of cells and combat various negative effects associated with aging.
7. Maintain dental health
Carrot can also help clean your teeth after meals. It acts as a natural abrasive that scrubs away plaque and leftover food particles. Additionally, the minerals contained in carrots helps to kill germs in the mouth and prevent tooth damage.
How to Choose and Store Carrots
When buying carrots, look for roots that are smooth, firm, and crisp, with their tops attached – they should be fresh and bright green. Avoid soft, flabby roots, with cuts or mold near the tops. Also, be sure to choose medium sized carrots that taper at the ends. Larger-sized carrots may be woodier and tougher to eat.
To preserve the freshness of carrot roots, remove the tops as soon as you get them home – as they draw away moisture from the root. Then, place them in a plastic bag in the coolest part refrigerator.
Do not wash until ready to use, since the added moisture in the bag could cause spoilage. Using this method will keep them stay fresh and crisp, with minimal nutrient loss, for about 10 days or up to two months if properly prepared or packaged.