Carrots are one of the easiest veggies to incorporate into a busy lifestyle. They are quick and easy to prep for snacking – just remove the tops, wash and store in the fridge – really, no peeling necessary! One thing that consumers should be aware of is the importance of buying organic carrots. Conventionally grown carrots are often a concentrated source of heavy metals, nitrates and pesticides. Eating carrots is a healthy alternative to junk food, and just one carrot can boost your willpower that is in resistance to those processed foods. Consider adding bunch carrots on to your order on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Your body will thank you in the end!
Health Benefits of Carrots:
Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds, and the richest vegetable source of the pro-vitamin A carotenes. Carrots’ antioxidant compounds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer and also promote good vision, especially night vision.
Carotenoids and Heart Disease
When six epidemiological studies that looked at the association of diets high in carotenoids and heart disease were reviewed, the research demonstrated that high-carotenoid diets are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. In one study that examined the diets of 1,300 elderly persons in Massachusetts, those who had at least one serving of carrots and/or squash each day had a 60% reduction in their risk of heart attacks compared to those who ate less than one serving of these carotenoid-rich foods per day.
Beta-carotene helps to protect vision, especially night vision. After beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the liver, it travels to the retina where it is transformed into rhodopsin, a purple pigment that is necessary for night-vision. Plus beta-carotene’s powerful antioxidant actions help provide protection against macular degeneration and the development of senile cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
Carotenoids and Optimal Health
Carrots are by far one of the richest source of carotenoids-just one cup provides 16,679 IUs of beta-carotene and 3,432 REs (retinol equivalents), or roughly 686.3% the RDA for vitamin A. High carotenoid intake has been linked with a 20% decrease in postmenopausal breast cancer and an up to 50% decrease in the incidence of cancers of the bladder, cervix, prostate, colon, larynx, and esophagus. Extensive human studies suggest that a diet including as little as one carrot per day could conceivably cut the rate of lung cancer in half. Remember the study in which heavy long-term cigarette smokers were given synthetic beta-carotene, and it did not appear to prevent them from developing lung cancer? Well, not only is synthetic beta-carotene not biochemically identical to the real stuff found in carrots, but scientists now think that carrots’ protective effects are the result of a team effort among several substances abundant in carrots, including alpha-carotene-another, less publicized carotenoid. A recent National Cancer Institute study found lung cancer occurence was higher in men whose diets did not supply a healthy intake of alpha-carotene.
Carotenoids and Blood Sugar
Intake of foods such as carrots that are rich in carotenoids may be beneficial to blood sugar regulation. Research has suggested that physiological levels, as well as dietary intake, of carotenoids may be inversely associated with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.
Falcarinol in Carrots Promote Colon Health
Although best known for their high content of beta carotene, carrots also contain a phytonutrient called falcarinol that may be responsible for the recognized epidemiological association between frequently eating carrots and a reduced risk of cancers.
Falcarinol provides protection against colon cancer, suggests a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Three groups of laboratory animals in whom precancerous colon lesions (aberrant crypt foci) had been chemically-induced were fed a standard diet, one supplemented with freeze-dried carrots naturally containing falcarinol, or one supplemented with an extract of falcarinol. After 18 weeks, precancerous lesions in the animals given diets containing carrots or falcarinol were much smaller than those in the control animals, and far fewer of the lesions had grown in size or progressed to become tumors.
If you or someone you love is a smoker, or if you are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke, then making vitamin A-rich foods, such as carrots, part of your healthy way of eating may save your life, suggests research conducted at Kansas State University.
While studying the relationship between vitamin A, lung inflammation, and emphysema, Richard Baybutt, associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State, made a surprising discovery: a common carcinogen in cigarette smoke, benzo(a)pyrene, induces vitamin A deficiency.
Baybutt’s earlier research had shown that laboratory animals fed a vitamin A-deficient diet developed emphysema. His latest animal studies indicate that not only does the benzo(a)pyrene in cigarette smoke cause vitamin A deficiency, but that a diet rich in vitamin A can help counter this effect, thus greatly reducing emphysema.
Baybutt believes vitamin A’s protective effects may help explain why some smokers do not develop emphysema. “There are a lot of people who live to be 90 years old and are smokers,” he said. “Why? Probably because of their diet…The implications are that those who start smoking at an early age are more likely to become vitamin A deficient and develop complications associated with cancer and emphysema. And if they have a poor diet, forget it.” If you or someone you love smokes, or if your work necessitates exposure to second hand smoke, protect yourself by making sure the World’s Healthiest Foods rich in vitamin A (carrot’s beta-carotene is converted in the body into vitamin A) are a daily part of your healthy way of eating.
Information Provided by: The George Mateljan Foundation
for The World’s Healthiest Foods
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