Carrots are amazing; they are full of nutrients and an excellent source of vitamins B and C and calcium pectate, an extraordinary pectin fibre that has been found to have cholesterol-lowering properties.
The carrot is an herbaceous plant that is about 87% water, rich in mineral salts and vitamins. The high level of beta-carotene is very important and gives carrots their distinctive orange colour. Also, most of the goodness is actually in, or just below the skin, so be aware of this when preparing and eating carrots.
Carrots are rich in antioxidants: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, phytochemicals and glutathione, calcium and potassium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E, which are also considered antioxidants, protecting as well as nourishing the skin. Carrots also contain copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and sulphur.
Carrots can improve the appearance of the skin, hair and nails and when taken daily it can lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Carrot juice, when taken every day prevents bodily infections and is claimed to be valuable for the adrenal glands (the small endocrine glands situated above the kidneys). Carrot can help improve eye health (pro-vitamin A). Carrots can regulate blood sugar and can promote colon health because it is rich in fibre.
Other major minerals present in carrot include chlorine, sulphur, phosphorous and magnesium. The chlorine present in carrot is vital for the proper functioning of liver provides a cleansing and antiseptic effect on the digestive and circulatory systems. The three minerals calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are essential for ensuring the strength of bones. Phosphorus is essential for the health of skin, hair and nerves. Sulphur also forms a major ingredient of insulin, the hormonal function of which is to convert carbohydrates into energy.
Carrots contain a lot of beta-carotene, which the body changes into vitamin A, which is important in strengthening the immune system, keeping the skin, lungs and intestinal track healthy and promoting healthy cell growth. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant, and antioxidants are important in the fight against heart disease, studies have found that high doses of beta-carotene may lower the risk of heart disease by as much as 45%.
According to an article in NCI Cancer Weekly (Nov. 13, 1989), Michiaki Murakoshi, who leads a team of biochemists at Japan’s Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, claims that alpha-carotene may be more powerful than beta-carotene in inhibiting processes that may lead to tumour growth. Murakoshi indicates that neuroblastoma (cancer) cells coated with carotenoids experience a drop in N-myc activity compared to untreated cells. N-myc is a gene that codes for cell growth-stimulating proteins and can contribute to cancer formation and growth. Alpha-carotene was found to be about ten times inhibitorier toward N-myc activity than beta-carotene. Murakoshi concludes that all types of carotenoids should be studied for possible health benefits.
The carrot contains more than 490 phytochemicals (plant, or fruit derived chemical compounds). Beta-carotene is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the carrot, and helps the immune system to target and destroy cancer cells in the body. It also prevents DNA variation and fat oxidation, and protects cells against free radicals.
Carrots also contain calcium, potassium, vitamin B and C. Calcium helps prevent the narrowing of the blood vessels resulting from the contracting of the muscular wall of the vessels. Potassium promotes a regular heartbeat and vitamin B improves metabolism while vitamin C protects cells against free radicals and strengthens blood vessel walls.
Carrots also possess strong antiseptic qualities; can be used as a laxative, vermicide (worm expelling agent), and poultice and for the treatment of liver conditions. Carrots contain cholesterol-lowering pectin. U.S. Department of Agriculture research suggests two carrots a day may lower cholesterol 10 up to 20%.
Scientists have isolated a compound called falcarinol that is found in carrots and has been found to reduce the risk of cancer, according to researchers at Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences (DIAS). Kirsten Brandt, head of the research department, explains that isolated cancer cells grow more slowly when exposed to falcarinol.
Furthermore, according to Swedish researchers, eating plenty of carrots can lower your risk for lung cancer. A recent study from Newcastle University found that although non-smokers have a lower risk of developing lung cancer than smokers do, non-smokers who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables can decrease that risk even more. (University Of Newcastle Upon Tyne (2005, February 18). Carrot Component Reduces Cancer Risk. ScienceDaily. June 15, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050212184702.htm)
According to a study published in the October 6 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, squeezing 9 to 10 servings of fruit into your daily diet can reduce the risk of stroke by 31%. That finding is based on research conducted by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass. They looked at 75,596 women ages 34 to 59 over 14 years and 38,683 men ages 40 to 75 over an eight-year period. All study participants were free of heart disease, cancer and diabetes when the study began.
Each fruit or vegetable serving in addition to consuming 9 to 10 servings daily was associated with an additional 6% reduction in risk. The lowest risk for stroke was among those who ate high quantities of cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and collard greens. Green, leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and juices were also linked to a lower stroke risk.
To conclude, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, like all nutrients found in vegetables and fruit, have health benefits. The 1995 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released by the U.S. government, states that “The antioxidant nutrients found in plant foods (vitamin C, carotene, vitamin E, and the mineral selenium) are presently of great interest to scientists and the public because of their potentially beneficial role in reducing the risk of cancer and certain other chronic diseases.” In addition, Taiwanese researchers have found that certain stir-fried vegetables such as carrots can absorb high quantities of fat. Dr Peter Hoagland with the USDA Center in Philadelphia found that simply eating two medium sized carrots daily could reduce cholesterol levels by 10-20%. Carrots also contain a small amount of lecithin which is helpful in lowering cholesterol levels. Not only does the carrot physically resemble ginseng, but scientific and clinical studies have demonstrated that carrots provide many of the same protective and therapeutic benefits of ginseng, but at a fraction of the cost.