Lori Alton via NaturalHealth365 – Carrots have a well-deserved reputation as a healthy food that can benefit eyesight. These sweet, crunchy root vegetables are extraordinarily high in beta-carotene, the plant pigment responsible for their brilliant orange color. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which is essential for vision. And lutein – another plant pigment in carrots – actually reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older Americans.
While carrots’ most obvious health benefits center on protecting and enhancing vision, they do confer additional gifts – some of which may surprise you!
For example, a recent Japanese study revealed that a carrot-based herbal medicine may help prevent a serious complication of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). And, that’s not all. For more intriguing benefits of carrots, keep reading.
Here Is How Carrots Promote Healthy Weight and Improve the Gut Microbiome
Carrots, botanically known as Daucus carota, mainly consist of water and carbohydrates. However, this doesn’t mean they lack nutritional value – carrots manage to sneak in quite a few valuable vitamins, minerals and nutrients as well. A 100-gram serving (two medium carrots) provides almost 3 grams of fiber, much of it in the form of the soluble fiber pectin. Along with carrots’ natural sweetness, this makes them a satisfying snack that may help prevent binge eating. In addition, insoluble fibers in carrots – including cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignins – help prevent constipation and keep the digestive system moving.
But carrots’ main claim to digestive health is that they contain a powerful natural prebiotic known as arabinogalactan. Prebiotics improve the gut microbiome (the community of beneficial microorganisms in the digestive tract) by encouraging “friendly” bacteria – such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Because the gut microbiome affects immunity, metabolism, and even mood, anything that supports its health is a big “plus.”
But Wait, There Are More Benefits! Carrots Even Protect Against Heart Disease
By contributing fiber to the diet, carrots help support cardiovascular health. In a scientific review published in Nutrients, researchers noted that adequate fiber intake consistently lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. Dr. Somdat Mahabir – a nutrition and disease expert with the National Institutes of Health – agrees, stating that dietary fiber lowers harmful LDL cholesterol and reduces the risk for developing heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. Fiber may also help to reduce levels of inflammatory molecules such as C-reactive protein.
However, carrots’ soluble and insoluble fibers don’t get all the credit for supporting heart health. Carrots are a good source of the essential mineral potassium, which is vital for healthy blood pressure. They also contain vitamin K, which may help to protect against artery-clogging atherosclerosis.
Reduce Your Cancer Risk With Carrots
One of the most remarkable benefits of carrots is their potential to discourage cancer. Their antioxidant compounds – which include beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and polyacetylenes – can help to scavenge harmful free radicals and prevent the oxidative damage that may trigger cancer. In fact, one study showed that women with high levels of circulating carotenoids were at lower risk of developing breast cancer. (Carrots seem to be protective against cancers of the colon, prostate, and stomach as well).
Although experts agree that a diet high in carrots and other antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables helps to prevent cancer, it is possible that carrots may eventually play a role in treating it. In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods, scientists found that carrot juice extracts caused cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (or “cell suicide”) in leukemia cells. The impressed researchers concluded that carrots “may be an excellent source of bioactive chemicals for the treatment of leukemia.”
Carrots May Help Prevent a Serious Complication of COPD
COPD, which currently affects 16 million Americans, can cause severe difficulty in breathing. In addition, COPD can lead to sarcopenia, or muscle wasting and atrophy. While exercise is the only established treatment for COPD, sarcopenia impairs physical activity – causing further deterioration in lung function and leading to a downward spiral in health and quality of life.
However, carrots may be able to come to the rescue. In a promising animal study conducted by researchers at Osaka City University and published in 2020 in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, the team found that a carrot-based Japanese herbal medicine known as “Ninjin’yoeito” helped to prevent muscle atrophy in mice exposed to cigarette smoke. Study leader Professor Kazuhisa Asai called the preparation a potential treatment for COPD-related sarcopenia in humans and expressed hope that the carrot medicine could help break the “vicious cycle of sarcopenia frailty.”
And, while raw carrots are a healthy snack, cooked carrots may be even more beneficial – as their beta-carotene is easier for the body to absorb. Consuming some healthy fat along with carrots is also a good way to increase absorbability. Of course, don’t eat carrots if you are allergic to them. Experts report that allergy to birch and/or mugwort pollen may make a carrot allergy more likely.
Don’t let the cartoonish orange color and everyday appearance of carrots blind you to their amazing benefits. When it comes to discouraging serious conditions such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, and sarcopenia, carrots appear to be “serious medicine.”
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