Carrots are a versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. They are best known for their benefits for the eyesight, but carrots have also shown to be beneficial for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Carrots belong to a group of vegetables called "taproots". They are unique as they grow downwards in the soil rather than upwards towards the sun. Carrots come in many different shapes and sizes, and vary in the type of phytochemicals they contain, but the most popular are long and orange.
Carrots are an excellent source of carotenes, particularly Beta-carotene. Carrots are also a good source of fiber, manganese, niacin, potassium, vitamin B6 and Vitamin C.
Multiple studies have examined the association between high-carotenoid diets and reduced risk of heart disease. One of those studies followed 1,300 elderly people who ate at least one serving of carrots and/or squash each day. The results showed that those who were on the carotenoid-rich diet had a sixty percent reduction in their risk of heart attacks compared to those who ate less than one serving.
High carotenoid intake has been linked with a twenty percent decrease in postmenopausal breast cancer, and up to a fifty percent decrease in the cancers of the bladder, cervix, prostate, colon, larynx and esophagus. Extensive research in humans suggests that as little as one carrot a day can cut the rate of lung cancer in half.
Research suggests that eating foods rich in carotenoids, like carrots, may aid in making insulin more effective, thus improving blood glucose control.
Beta-carotene helps to protect vision, especially night vision. Beta-carotene's powerful antioxidant actions help provide protection against macular degeneration and the development of cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
Tips on Using Carrots
- Carrots that are deep orange in color contain the most Beta-carotene.
- Avoid carrots that are cracked, shriveled, soft or wilted.
- Carrots are best kept refrigerated, but don't store them with fruits. Fruits produce ethylene gas as they ripen, and this gas will decrease the storage life of the carrots.
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