Super Food : Carrot

Carrots are perhaps best known for their rich supply of the antioxidant nutrient that was actually named for them: beta-carotene. However, these delicious root vegetables are the source not only of beta-carotene, but also of a wide variety of other health-supporting nutrients.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Carrots are often included among yellow/orange vegetables and analyzed for their health impact. While these studies have not focused solely on carrots per se, they have still provided us with evidence about carrots and their cardiovascular benefits. In one large-scale study from the Netherlands, participants were followed for a period of 10 years and their meal plans were analyzed for fruit and vegetable intake in four color categories: green, orange/yellow, red/purple, and white. Among these four color categories, it was orange/yellow foods—and in particular, foods with deeper shades of orange and yellow—that were determined to be the most protective against cardiovascular disease . Within this dark orange/yellow food group, carrots were determined to be the single most CVD risk-reducing food. Participants who had the least carrot intake had the least amount of CVD risk reduction, even though they still received risk-reduction benefits from their intake of carrots. However, participants who ate at least 25 more grams of carrots (with 25 grams being less than one-quarter of a cup) had a significantly lower risk of CVD. And the groups of participants who ate 50- or 75-grams more had an even more greatly reduced risk of CVD! We’re not sure how any study could better demonstrate how easy it can be to lower CVD risk by making a food like carrot part of the everyday diet. In our website carrot profile, we use one cup (122 grams) as our standard serving size. As such, a single serving of carrots per day would actually exceed the highest level of benefits identified in this study.

Source Of Antioxidant

All varieties of carrots contain valuable amounts of antioxidant nutrients. Included in this category of nutrients are traditional antioxidants like vitamin C, as well as phytonutrient antioxidants like beta-carotene. In most varieties of carrots, beta-carotene is by far the most plentiful antioxidant nutrient, accounting for over 95% of all carotenoids in many carrot varieties. Other carotenoids typically present in carrots include alpha-carotene and lutein. Listed below are some of the more common antioxidant nutrients found in carrots.

Carotenoids

alpha-carotene

beta-carotene

lutein

Hydroxycinnamic acids

caffeic acid

coumaric acid

ferulic acid

Anthocyanins

cyanidins

malvidins

For anthocyanin benefits, you’ll want to select red and purple varieties of carrots.  Anthocyanin content is highest in what are often referred to as “black carrots.” To the naked eye, these varieties can appear almost black in color, but they are actually very deep and dark shades of purple. But it’s important to remember that carrots of all colors will provide you with great antioxidant support.

More Health Benefits

We’ve seen health studies on carrots showing benefits across a wide range of areas, including not only cardiovascular health as described above, but also eye health, liver health, and cancer protection. These studies give us confidence in the ability of carrots to provide support for a wide variety of body systems. However, it is also important to note studies on carrots also have some limitations at this point in the research process. For example, researchers often analyze carrots as part of a larger food group (for example, yellow/orange vegetables) rather than focusing on them specifically. In addition, many of the studies that we have seen on the health benefits of carrots have been conducted using mice and rats rather than people, or depend on analysis of human cell lines in a laboratory setting.

The ability of carrots to provide cancer-protective benefits has been and continues to be an active area of research on this root vegetable. Of special interest in this area are components of carrot called polyacetylenes. Carrots have the ability to take their fatty acids and convert them into molecules called polyacetylenes. These polyacetylenes include molecules like falcarinol and falcarindiol. Polyacetylenes provide carrots with protection from microorganisms, including fungi and bacteria, and they have also shown anti-cancer properties in lab and animal studies. Lymphocytic leukemia and colorectal cancer are two of the cancer types that have been studied in relationship to carrot polyacetylenes.

Studies on the benefits of carrots for eye health have not usually focused on carrots themselves, but on carotenoids as a group of nutrients and carotenoid levels in the bloodstream. However, we have seen some small-scale studies in which participants with greater carrot consumption had lower rates of glaucoma than participants with little carrot intake. (The term “glaucoma” refers to a condition involving damage to the optic nerve that is often associated with excessive pressure inside of the eye). Glaucoma-lowering benefits in one study were associated with two weekly servings of carrots. We have also seen several animal studies on risk of cataracts and intake of carrot extracts. One of these studies identified a specific phytonutrient in carrots—geranyl acetate—as a substance likely to be involved in cataract protection.

source : whfoods.com

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