As the temperature starts to dip, the time for root vegetables is upon us. Crispy, crunchy and delicious on its own, carrots are one of the most popular vegetables and can be enjoyed year-round. Colorful and packed with antioxidants, this crunchy vegetable superstar has a lot to offer. Check out these five health benefits of carrots!
Like other vibrant fruits and vegetables, carrots are rich in antioxidants such as alpha- and beta-carotene, vitamin C, cyanidins and lutein. Different varieties of carrots carry differing amounts of specific antioxidants. Orange carrots are rich in beta-carotene, yellow carrots contain more lutein, and red and purple carrots have higher levels of anthocyanins.
Sometimes stereotypes are true—such as the stereotype about carrots being good for our eyes. While eating lots of carrots won’t improve your vision, carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which the liver converts to vitamin A—an important nutrient for maintaining healthy eyes. Lack of vitamin A can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, dry eyes and, in extreme cases, blindness. Carrots also contain lutein, an antioxidant that helps prevent macular degeneration.
Eating carrots has been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer by up to one-third. Falcarinol, a natural pesticide found in carrots that prevents the growth of fungal diseases, is responsible for the root vegetable’s anti-cancer benefits.
Thanks to their high antioxidant content, carrots can help prevent cardiovascular disease. A ten-year study from the Netherlands found that eating dark orange/yellow foods offer more protection for our hearts than does eating green, red/purple and white foods, and that of the orange/yellow foods available, carrots offered the most protection from cardiovascular disease. Falcarinol and other polyacetylenes (a type of phytonutrient) also have anti-inflammatory properties and can prevent red blood cells from clumping together, helping to promote heart health.
Vitamin A helps the liver secrete bile and flush toxins from the body, aiding a natural detox regime. The high fiber content of carrots also helps to regulate the digestive system.
Try these recipes for carrots:
(And for something a little sweet, try this homemade carrot cake recipe.)
Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.