8 Amazing Health Benefits of Carrots
Carrots are inexpensive, available throughout the year, and versatile. They can be consumed whole and raw with dips, shredded in a salad, boiled or steamed, and even grated and used in carrot cake. However the benefits of carrots also include improving your overall health.
"Eat your carrots!" is blurted after the vegetable has been avoided at the dinner table. Hearing "Because they're good for you!" just is not too persuasive, especially to children. Carrots are low in cost, available throughout the year, and versatile. Carrots can be consumed whole and raw with dips, shredded in a salad, boiled or steamed, and even grated and used in carrot cake. Not convinced yet? The majority of carrots' benefits are attributed to their high amounts of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, even though the quantity of other nutrients they contain are admirable. These eight amazing health benefits of carrots should land them on your dinner plates and snack bags, pronto!
Vitamin A helps to protect the eye's surface and is needed to form a protein called rhodopsin found in the eye, both of which contribute to good vision. As darkness falls and light dims, rhodsopsin activates and allows the eyes to adjust to the changes. Night blindness, or having trouble seeing in the dark, can be a sign of vitamin A deficiency. Not eating carrots will not directly cause blindness but their consumption has the ability to improve and maintain vision.
2. Disease Prevention
Carrots are antioxidants, a protective chemical that fights against and stabilizes free radicals in the body. Free radical exposure from pollutants, sugar metabolism, and medications (to name a few) can damage the body and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and other medical conditions. A study conducted at the University of Arkansas discovered a 34% antioxidant increase in carrots after immediately cooking, indicating processed carrots may provide greater antioxidant properties than raw carrots. However, carrots still exhibit antioxidant properties in all its forms so keep the carrot sticks and hummus as a snack.
3. Weight Loss
In a nutshell, losing weight can be achieved when calories burned exceed calories in. Carrots have a lot of bang for their buck; meaning a wide variety of nutrients for minimal calories, a concept also known as "nutrient-dense." Think of it this way: A cup of candy is basically a cup of sugar without any nutrients, containing at least 500 calories depending on the candy. A cup of carrots has approximately 50 calories and all sorts of nutrients.
Carrots contain dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble, that contributes to a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Specifically, insoluble fiber increases stool bulk and promotes movement through the GI tract. Rapidly increasing dietary fiber can result in GI distress and unpleasant symptoms. To minimize havoc, increase fiber slowly while increasing water intake.
5. Blood Sugar Control
Soluble fiber, the other form of fiber, can be thought of as a gel after absorbing water from the GI tract. Soluble fiber can slow sugar absorption and improve blood sugar levels. While soluble fiber plays a role in sugar control, insoluble fiber could reduce the development of type 2 diabetes.
6. Cell Differentiation and Growth
This concept may sound a little complex. In reality, cell differentiation is the process of an immature cell growing into a specific, mature cell. Think about it as a small child growing and learning to find their own identity as an adult. For example, keratinocytes (a fancy word for immature skin cells) transform into mature epidermal cells. In a vitamin A deficiency, the keratinocytes are unable to mature and can result in drying, scaling, and hardening of the eyes, skin, gastrointestinal tract, and trachea through a process called keratinization. Eat carrots to promote healthier skin inside and out.
7. Blood Clotting
Carrots contain vitamin K. Vitamin K is most recognized for its key role in blood clotting. Blood clotting is crucial for minimizing blood loss after injury and can even be lifesaving.
8. Bone development and growth
Maintaining bone mineral density is a balancing act. Even though the mechanisms are currently unclear, there has been evidence showing vitamins A and K are contributed to bone health. However, it is important to note too much vitamin A has been shown to interfere with vitamin D. Working together, vitamin D and calcium are the most critical nutrients in achieving optimal bone strength and density.
All of these processes are critical to achieving and maintaining a healthy, working body. So care about carrots and reap the amazing health benefits!
Cook Your Carrots for More Antioxidants, University of Arkansas Researchers Say. University of Arkansas News. 2010. Available at: http://news.uark.edu/articles/9483/cook-your-carrots-for-more-antioxidants-university-of-arkansas-researchers-say.
Vitamin A (Retinoid) Benefits for Vision and Health. WebMD. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-vitamin-a
Gropper SS, Smith JL. Vitamin A and carotenoids. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 6th ed. Belmond, CA.: Wadsworth; 2012:371-386.