There are few superfoods that deliver the nutritional value and health benefits of the ordinary (make that extraordinary) carrot. While their fiber and beta carotene content top the list, carrots are also a vital source of antioxidants and a rich spectrum of vitamins and minerals that become all the more important if we want to age gracefully. This article discusses:
- The many very important health benefits of carrots
- Why we can’t eat enough of them and need to juice
- Why carrots become even more important as we age
Carrots: what aren’t they good for?
Initially cultivated many centuries ago as a medicinal remedy for treating a wide variety of ailments, carrots are not only tasty, but also ridiculously nutritious. They literally deliver a smorgasbord of health benefits:
- Heart health. High cholesterol is a major factor for heart disease. Researchers at the Wolfson Gastrointestinal Laboratory in Edinburgh, Scotland reported that cholesterol level dropped by 11% on average when study subjects consumed seven ounces of raw carrots every day for three weeks. A study conducted at the Mario Negri Institute of Pharmacological Research in Italy found that those who ate more carrots had a one-third lower risk of heart attack than those who ate fewer carrots.
Carrots also contain coumarin, which has been found to reduce hypertension and enhance heart health. And the abundant fiber in carrots binds to cholesterol in the colon, helping to transport it out of the body so it is not reabsorbed.
- Blood pressure. Carrots are a rich source of potassium, which can relieve tension in blood vessels and arteries and increase blood flow and circulation. This is important because high blood pressure has been linked to heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis—a disease that causes plaque buildup in arteries.
- Immune system. A rich source of vitamin A, beta-carotene helps to improve the immune system that helps our bodies fight off infectious organisms and other viruses. Carrots are also a rich source of vitamin C, which stimulates white blood cell activity, and strengthens the body’s defense against foreign substances including bacteria.
- Cancers. Studies have revealed that carrots reduce the risk of lung, breast, colon and prostate cancer. Researchers recently discovered that carrots contain falcarinol and falcarindiol, which they believe are the anti-cancer properties. Carrots are one of the few readily available sources of falcarinol.
A study discovered that smokers who did not consume carrots had three times the risk of developing lung cancer than those who eat carrots more than once weekly. Researchers found that eating fiber-rich carrots reduces the risk of colon cancer by as much as 24%. Another study revealed that women who ate raw carrots were five to eight times less likely to develop breast cancer than women who ate their carrots.
And, a study conducted by the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health found that beta-carotene might help to ward off prostate cancer.
- Digestive health. Just like many other vegetables, carrots contain ample dietary fiber, which promotes good digestive health. Fiber reduces the likelihood and severity of digestive problems including acid reflux and constipation and protects the stomach and colon from diseases including colorectal cancer. Fiber also adds bulk to stools, helping them to pass smoothly through the digestive tract and clean out the colon.
- Stroke. Many studies have explored what has been dubbed the “carrot effect” on the brain. Among stroke patients, those who had the highest levels of beta carotene also had the best survival rates. And one study found that eating just one carrot daily reduces stroke risk by 68%.
- Diabetes. The potassium, manganese and magnesium in carrots help to stabilize one’s blood sugar level, helping to reduce the risk or manage the effects of diabetes.
- Bones and skin. The potassium in carrots helps to improve the health of our bones. Potassium also helps to enhance skin tone, reduce dryness and blemishes and boost hydration to keep skin moisturized. The beta-carotenoids in carrots help the skin to minimize sun damage. And carrots’ anti-inflammatory properties help to tone and revitalize skin.
- Teeth and gums. Just like a toothbrush and toothpaste, raw carrots literally clean your mouth and teeth, removing plaque and food particles. Carrots stimulate the gums and trigger saliva, which fends off bacteria that can cause cavities. And carrots contain minerals that help to prevent damage to our teeth.
The rich nutrients in carrots strengthen the body’s ability to fight toxins and bacteria that enter the body through the mouth and nestle among gums and teeth unless fended off by the power of the carrot.
- Healing. When applied to inflammation, cuts and wounds, raw or grated carrots promote quick healing.
Why we should eat and juice
Over time, farming practices and other factors have caused a dramatic decline “of 5% to 40% or more in minerals, vitamins, and protein in groups of foods, especially in vegetables,” according to Donald R. Davis, author of the landmark book, Declining Fruit and Vegetable Composition: What is the Evidence.
And we cannot eat enough raw fruits and vegetables daily to compensate for lower nutritional value because our bodies can’t handle that much fiber.
As a result, we need to supplement our raw diet with nutritious juices. And, by doing so, we actually gain greater nutritional value than from even the best organic produce. As Dr. H. E. Kirschner, M.D., says in his book, Live Food Juices, “…The power to break down the cellular structure of raw vegetables, and assimilate the precious elements they contain, even in the healthiest individual is only fractional, not more than 35%, and in the less healthy, down to 1%. In the form of juice, these same individuals assimilate up to 92% of these elements.”
Juicing enables us to bathe our cells in the ample living nutrition we need to achieve and optimal health. And juicing carrots has some special benefits:
- Detoxification. Carrot juice cleanses and removes many toxins from the liver. Vitamin A in carrots reduces bile and fat in the liver. This is important because a liver that functions optimally prevents fat accumulation and aids in speedy digestion, helping to prevent obesity and its many health risks including diabetes.
- Cancer. The carotenoids in carrot juice are said to diminish instances of breast, prostate, bladder and colon cancer.
- Brain health. Carrots and carrot juice are believed to enhance brain health by helping to diminish the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and other forms of cognitive decline.
- Skin. Carrot juice contains healthy nutrients that can reduce conditions including rashes and dermatitis and problems caused by vitamin A deficiency including eczema. Drinking carrot juice during the hot summer months acts as a natural sun block because the antioxidants and carotenoids in carrots help to protect and condition the skin to protect it against the sun and even heal sunburn.
- Vitamin K in carrot juice helps blood to clot.
Hallelujah Diet recommends drinking vegetable juice consisting of about 2/3 carrot and 1/3 greens to reduce the sugar content of the juice rather than just juicing carrots alone.
Why carrots become more important as we age
Vision. Opthalmologist Jill Koury, MD, tells us that if we are deficient in vitamin A, the outer segments of our eyes’ photoreceptors may deteriorate and impair vision. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which gets converted into vitamin A in the liver. Vitamin A turns into a purple pigment in the retina that we need to see at night.
Beta-carotene has also been shown to protect against macular degeneration, a common eye disease among the elderly, which occurs when the center of the retina deteriorates and cannot function properly. A study revealed that people who consume the most beta-carotene had 40% less risk of macular degeneration than those who consumed too little. Carrots are, of course, a rich source of beta-carotene.
Slows aging. The high level of beta-carotene in carrots has still another benefit: beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant, which helps to slow the aging of cells. Given the fact that nothing impacts vibrant health more than healthy cells, this is a particularly important reason to eat and juice plenty of carrots well into old age. Vitamin C helps to maintain the skin’s elasticity and reduce visible signs of aging. And vitamin A attacks free radicals, which also helps to minimize signs of aging including wrinkles and uneven skin tone.
The bottom line
Carrots are considered one of the ultimate health foods. Whether consumed raw or liquefied with greens in a good quality juicer, this tasty vegetable helps the body from head to toe—including promoting hair growth and healthy nails!