Are Carrots Healthy? The Health Benefits of Carrots Explained
- Where Do Carrots Come From And How Are They Grown?
- Carrots For Vision Explained
- Carrots For Heart Disease Explained
- Carrots For Cancer Explained
- Carrots For Skin And Hair Explained
- Carrots For Weight Loss & Diabetes Explained
- How To Incorporate Carrots Into Your Diet
- Is Carrot Juice As Healthy As A Plain Carrot?
How deliciously sweet, a colourful addition to any salad or food – and incredibly good for you, too!
That’s right, I’m talking about carrots! You’ve probably heard that carrots are good for your vision – that may or may not be true! But! There’s a whole host of benefits these modest vegetables have to offer. We’ll cover the ins-and-outs of carrots and their health benefits – from vision benefits and far beyond – here in our Carrot Health Benefits feature!
Where Do Carrots Come From And How Are They Grown?
The domestic carrot, or simply the carrot, as you probably know it, originated in Central Asia. They are called ‘domestic carrots’ because they are domesticated from the wild carrot, which is originally from Persia.
Interestingly, carrots were first grown for their leaves and seeds as opposed to the orange root we recognize today. Carrots were originally purple and thin, or white, and were often used interchangeably with parsnips.
Today, you can find red, yellow, black, purple and white varieties, in addition to the orange sort. To grow the best kinds of carrots, you’ll need to do more than just sprinkle a bit of water on them every now and then.
Carrots need lots of sunlight and very fertile soil to grow best, and you’ll want to remove any kind of obstacle that could stunt their growth, such as stones. It’s also not a good idea to use fresh manure for growing carrots, as this will cause your carrots to ‘fork’ – send out other roots.
The best temperature for growing carrots (the root) is around 59 – 65 degrees F. Carrots are able to germinate at lower temperatures, but do so faster at higher temperatures, so you will want to have a soil temperature of at least 50 degrees F for the best carrots. They need about 1 inch of water per week, with weeds removed regularly to help them grow.
So, no, they aren’t easy customers, and they require a lot of patience; carrots are a biennial plant, meaning that they take two years to complete their biological cycle. But you’ll agree that they’re definitely worth it once you’re enjoying the fruits of your labour: delicious, sweet carrots!
Carrots For Vision Explained
This article begs the question: do carrots improve your eyesight, like your parents always told you? In a word: not exactly (okay, I cheated, that was two words).
While they don’t actually improve your eyesight per se, they do help strengthen different areas of your eye, which can only be a good thing for your eyesight. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which gets turned into Vitamin A in your body.
Deficiency in Vitamin A could lead to cataracts (when the eye lens becomes clouded over), Xerophthalmia (a disease which causes dryness in the eyes and tear ducts), and Macular Degeneration, also called Age-related Macular Degeneration or AMD (damage to the macula, which is found in the retina).
It’s certainly important to be getting sufficient Vitamin A; however, most people do get enough Vitamin A in their diet, so you needn’t worry. However, it should be noted that people in developing countries are often deficient in Vitamin A. This can lead to eye damage and diseases, so this discovery might be important to them.
On the other hand, it has also been pointed out that the study that discovered the link between Vitamin A and the above eye diseases/damage used very large doses of Vitamin A, far more than what you would be including in your diet, making it difficult to determine the extent to which eating carrots can help against eye damage.
In summary: carrots are not going to make you have supervision and if you wear glasses or contacts, don’t expect to be discarding of them too soon. However, due to their beta-carotene content, they can help protect your eyes against certain progressive diseases known to cause eye damage and blindness, so they are helping your eyes, even if they aren’t strictly improving your vision.
Carrots For Heart Disease Explained
They might not be giving you X-ray vision, but carrots are great for your heart health. Carrots contain carotenoids (that should be easy to remember); antioxidants that fight against free radicals which can cause heart disease. It’s commonly known that high levels of LDL cholesterol help plaque buildup in the arteries, which in turn slows blood flow to the heart and can cause heart disease.
The fiber in carrots helps to lower LDL cholesterol levels, resulting in better heart health. How do they achieve this? Bear with me here:
In your body, there are molecules known as bile acids which help to form micelles – other molecules that incorporate cholesterol from your food into your body. Soluble fibre (which carrots are a great source of) combines in your body with bile acids, which effectively prevents them from helping form micelles.
To break it down into simple language:
- More carrots = more soluble fiber.
- More soluble fiber = bile acids can’t help form micelles.
- Less micelle production = less cholesterol incorporated into your body.
- Less cholesterol incorporated into your body = clearer arteries.
- Clearer arteries = easier blood flow, and…
- Easier blood flow = healthier heart. (Phew!)
In addition, the Vitamin A that your body gets from carrots boosts your immune system and fights against infections, diseases, and other complications like hypertrophy (when the walls in the heart’s chamber get thicker).
The Vitamin C and Vitamin K content in carrots are also doing wonders for your heart. Vitamin K helps control harmful blood clotting (which could cause a heart attack) and Vitamin C lowers your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
With that many vitamins, it’s no wonder that carrots are known to be good for your heart!
Carrots For Cancer Explained
Studies have shown a surprisingly positive link between carrot consumption and fighting cancer. People’s success stories of tumours not only stopping to spread but actually disappearing have been too pressing to ignore.
While I’m not suggesting that carrot juice will cure cancer in everyone, it definitely helps with pain, at the very least. Carrot juice can be incorporated into the patient’s diet on its own, or together with other treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. Some of the believed anti-cancer benefits of carrots are:
● The chemicals in carrots such as falcarinol and luteolin (a flavonoid) stimulate the body’s reaction to fight off foreign cancer cells and kill them.
● Luteolin can also prevent tumours from getting stronger.
● Beta-carotene and polyacetylenes – compounds found in carrots – have been proven to inhibit the growth of leukaemia cells.
● Carrots are known to contain anti-inflammatory compounds, and inflammation is a serious cause for cell growth and cancer progression. The anti-inflammatory compounds also reduce pain.
● Carrot juice supports the positive effects of radiation and chemotherapy.
The effects of carrots for cancer still need much further study, but from the research that is already available, carrots are giving hope to those with cancer that a cure might be on its way in the (hopefully near) future.
Carrots For Skin And Hair Explained
By now, I’m sure you’re beginning to get the picture that carrots are a great start to a healthier life. But did you know that eating carrots can have advantages for your skin and hair, too? That’s right and it’s mostly thanks once again to the beta-carotene, or Vitamin A, that we keep on mentioning.
Carrots can help reduce wrinkles, give skin a natural healthy glow, heal scars and wounds and protect skin from the sun’s harmful rays. They’re great for both oily and dry skin (how many beauty products can boast of that, huh?!) and are said to help people with both skin types keep their complexion under control – with Vitamin A being the saviour for oily skin, and potassium helping people with dry skin (both of which are, needless to say, found in carrots).
Because of the antioxidants and carotenoids in carrots, your skin is being protected from UV rays, and if you already have sunburn; well, it’s on its way out. You can also choose to apply raw carrot to a cut or wound; carrots contain anti-inflammatory properties and are therefore a natural remedy for various kinds of inflammation and skin afflictions.
The Vitamins A and C in carrots work to give your skin a plumper, more youthful appearance. Vitamin C helps boost collagen production, keeping your skin healthier, and Vitamin A is an antioxidant, meaning that it helps fight against free radicals which cause the kinds of skin damage associated with ageing, like pigmentation and wrinkles; and it also helps against blemishes like pimples, acne and rashes.
You can choose to eat your carrots, drink a cup of carrot juice, or even apply a face mask of grated carrots and honey to get the maximum skin benefits from these cheery roots.
Now let’s talk about the hair.
Not only are fine lines and wrinkles signs of ageing, but so is grey hair and hair loss. For some, these ageing symptoms come earlier than others and can be a cause of aggravation. People can also suffer from hair loss for reasons other than ageing. The good news is that carrots can help with both hair loss and premature grey hair! (But you knew I was going to say that.)
Remember that Vitamin A we talked about? Well, we aren’t done with it yet. Vitamin A helps with sebum production, which means healthier and stronger hair. Vitamins C and E in carrots assist with blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles, which helps your hair grow faster, thicker and shinier, as well as fighting off those early grey hairs.
The secret to this miracle veggie’s success lies in the nutrients it contains, such as potassium, phosphorous, fibre, and a whole host of vitamins like Vitamin K, C, A, B1, B3, and B6. All these help with hair growth, protection and repair, as well as preventing hair loss or damage.
Carrots For Weight Loss & Diabetes Explained
A Carrot really is a dieter’s best friend and while a cup of them will keep you full between meals due to its fibre content and fluid density, it’ll only give you 50 calories – only 3 percent of the recommended 1500 calorie-diet for women trying to lose weight healthily.
The vitamins and minerals also provide your body with essential nutrients that can be hard to come by when you’re limiting your food intake. Another way carrots help you to lose weight is because they are 88% water. Many people who are mildly dehydrated think that they are hungry, when they are, in fact, thirsty. Eating carrots will help your body keep hydrated, and thus you won’t feel as hungry that often.
Many diabetics tend to keep away from carrots, due to their higher sugar content which they fear could raise their blood glucose levels. However, if you have diabetes, skip the cookie and munch on carrot sticks instead – they have a low-moderate GI (Glycemic Index), and are not as high in carbohydrates (which the body turns to sugar) as people think they are.
They take a relatively long time to digest, which also lowers the effects they could have on your blood sugar. While it’s true that carrots should be eaten in moderation for those who are watching their sugar intake, a cup of raw chopped carrots daily is perfectly fine. For people with diabetes, carrots are best in their raw form, not juiced – or at least steamed if you can’t handle them raw.
How To Incorporate Carrots Into Your Diet
I happen to love carrots, but taste is a personal thing, and carrots might not be a veggie that you enjoy eating. If you can’t see yourself munching on raw carrot sticks (which, by the way, you could dip into a healthy dressing/ranch or peanut butter to make it more palatable), there are plenty of other ways to add this fabulous root into your regular diet.
● Salads. If you can handle a bit of carrot, but not a whole lot of it all at once, why not try adding diced or grated carrots to a salad full of other vegetables that you do enjoy? This way, when you eat a forkful of salad, you aren’t just tasting carrot, but you’re getting the flavour from the other vegetables as well. Eating carrots in their raw form is the best way to take advantage of all their goodness, so this is probably one of the best ways to incorporate carrots into one of your daily meals.
● Soups. Carrots make a great addition to soups like vegetable, sweet potato or butternut squash soup.
● Juices. Even if you won’t drink plain ol’ carrot juice, add an apple to the mix for a healthy, sweet drink to start off your day.
● Fritters. Grated zucchini, grated carrots and corn make for delicious fritters, perfect for a meal or snack. Just add a bit of flour, egg, grated cheese and a couple spoons of low-fat yoghurt, and pan-fry. Yum!
Is Carrot Juice As Healthy As A Plain Carrot?
While juicing doesn’t affect the nutrients of carrots, it’s a lot easier to down a cup of carrot juice (the equivalent of around six carrots) than it is to eat six carrots in one go, assuming you’re human and not a bunny.
Therefore, it’s probably better to drink carrots rather than eat them, purely because you will likely end up ingesting more carrots. It’s also easier for people who don’t have strong teeth (like very young children or elderly people) to drink carrots rather than eat them in their raw form. And people who find the hardness of raw carrots distasteful might be more partial to carrot juice.
The one downside to juicing carrots over enjoying them as they are is that you do lose the insoluble fibre content. But juicing does not completely cancel out the fibre; you still get the soluble fibre, and you can use the leftover pulp (which contains the insoluble fibre) in other dishes, or add it to your carrot juice if that doesn’t bother you.
A cup of carrot juice has more protein, more sugar and more calories than a raw carrot, so carrot juice will give you more energy. You’ll also get far more minerals (like potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium) and vitamins, like Vitamin A, C, E, and B vitamins like B, B2 and B6; in a glass of fresh carrot juice than you’ll get from a raw carrot. On the flipside though, if you’re really watching those calories, raw carrot may be the smarter option for you, due to its lower sugar content.
One side effect of drinking too much carrot juice: orange-tinted skin. You know how young babies tend to get orange noses because their diet consists of mostly mushed carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato? You don’t want that to happen to you. So make sure that you’re keeping your carrot juice drinking under control, and include many other vegetables and foods in your diet.
Nyeh…..what’s up, Doc? I’m sure your doctor would agree that incorporating carrots into your diet is a smart way to go. From your appearance to your weight to your heart health, this bright veggie adds a pop of colour and sweetness to your favourite dish, while keeping your body in tip-top health.
And really, what more could you ask for in a food? So go ahead and add that carrot to your salad or stir-fry, or down a glass of fresh carrot juice together with your morning toast. It’s delicious, it helps keep you full, and it’s guaranteed to be good for you!