Interesting Facts and Life Saving Health Benefits of Carrots

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There are over 100 different species of carrots. A vegetable that comes in a rainbow of various colors like red, yellow, purple, white, and of course the popular orange. Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables in the world. This root vegetable can be found in a wide variety of different cuisines from Japanese to Ethiopian to Caribbean to South American. Carrots are universal because its crunch packs a nutritional explosion of vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenols, and antioxidants. The health benefits of carrots are undeniable, even former Prime Minister Winston Churchill tipped his hat to the almighty carrot.
 

Did you know carrots helped save London during the Nazi aerial attacks during World War II?

In most wars, there’s a point where food supplies become scarce. Nazis blocked food supplies coming into the United Kingdom and luxury items such as meat, sugar, and butter weren’t available. Civilians were encouraged to grow gardens and use carrots as sweeteners. Soon enough, carrots were in full surplus throughout the country and thus commenced the rapid rise of carrot popularity and birthed carrots greatest known health benefit: stronger vision

The Royal Air Force (RAF) swore by the superior health benefits of carrots and locked in on how carrots improved vision. During World War II, the RAF revolutionized air attacks by applying radar devices onboard planes. At night, when aerial attacks were blindly raining down on towns south of London, British pilots were battling back and clipping Nazi wings in total darkness. How? Well, Vitamin A improves night vision. UK’s Food Ministry put forth one of the most impressive wartime myths saying British pilots were on a strict diet of heavy carrot consumption. The carrot propaganda spiraled further into encouraging civilians to do their part in the war effort and consume and dig for carrots. They used posters stating, “Dig on for victory” or “Carrots keep you healthy and help you to see in the blackout.” They even created Dr.Carrot who carried a briefcase with “Vit A” written on it. Ironically Dr.Carrot wore glasses though, which brings up the first question [1] [2]:

Do carrots really improve your vision?

When you slice a carrot, take a long look at what it looks like. It’s a little uncanny carrots resemble an eye. Well it's true, they do help your eyes. The beta carotene that give carrots it’s orange coloring and its name is linked to incredible health benefits, especially when it comes to eye health.

It’s time to magnify the health benefits of carrots:

Beta carotene is an organic compound found in plants and when digested the body converts it into Vitamin A in the liver. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, which means the body stores it for long periods of time usually in your fatty tissue or liver. Water soluble vitamins tend to be the kind you get in multi-vitamins rich in Vitamin Bs and C which sometimes turn your urine neon colors. Fat Soluble vitamins like Vitamin A are crucial to how the body operates. This also means fat soluble vitamins take a little longer to utilize in the body, which means greater chance of toxicity. But more on that later.[3]

Humans need Vitamin A especially for vision. This is where the health benefits of carrots truly get its notoriety. Many eye diseases are connected to Vitamin A deficiencies. Especially because many of these are preventable. For example, xerophthalmia is a disease that causes night blindness. Remember that story about the Royal Air Force having exceptional night vision?[4] Vitamin A is transformed in the retina to produce pigments necessary to see the full spectrum of light. And as we age, so do our eyes. To make sure those retinas don’t break down and we maintain our central vision and photoreceptors are working efficiently, the Vitamin A in carrots can slow down age related macular degeneration.[5]

So by eating carrots your eyes can become a little stronger, especially at night, and benefit your eye health as you age. You could jump to the conclusion that one of the health benefits of carrots is that it keeps you young.

Do carrots keep you looking young?

Carrots have many health benefits, and dermatologist, physicians, and beauty industry professionals all preach about the strong antioxidants carrots contain. There’s even a skincare line titled “Yes to Carrots,” that’s how powerful carrot antioxidants are.[6] So what makes carrots the golden ticket to the fountain of youth? Well, beta carotene is a part of a larger string of antioxidants called carotenoids. Carotenoids are potent antioxidants and the big players involved are beta carotene, alpha carotene, polyphenols, lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin.[7]

Ever hear the phrase “you are what you eat?” Well, when it comes to carrots high levels of carotenoids gives your skin a nice healthy orange glow. It actually helps balance out skin tones and heals blemishes. Antioxidants also possess photoreceptive properties and help combat free radicals within the body. Carrots can help protect your skin from sun damage by helping protect it against ultraviolet radiation. The carotenoids help protect and repair cellular damage. However, carrots are not a replacement for ointments or sunscreen but a little added protection can never hurt. And it starts from the inside and works its way out. Dermatologists have noted that carrot consumption or ointments with beta carotene from carrots is one of the leading preventive measures to premature wrinkling. So carrots can fight sun damage while keeping your skin youthful and vibrant.[8] [9]

If you’re looking for a do it yourself carrot face mask the website Real Food for Life has a simple carrot and honey solution for healthy skin: http://www.realfoodforlife.com/carrot-face-mask/

Carrots have been linked to slowing down the aging process and revitalizing skin cells. If antioxidants are connected to cellular repair, one of the leading causes of death is cancer which, is abnormal cellular growth in the body. So the idea that carrots can fight cancers isn’t too far off in realm of reasonable conclusions. Or is it?

Do carrots help with cancer prevention?

Research says yes! There has been increased studies on plant-based diets to help treat certain kinds of cancers. It appears plant-based foods, like carrots, are chockfull of anti-cancer, anti-angiogenic (tumor cell formation), and anti-inflammatory properties. [10]

The chemopreventive properties of carrots are because carrots boast staggering amounts of polyphenols in the form of flavonoids. Carrots carry three main flavonoids that have been isolated to assisting in cancer prevention: kaempferol, quercetin and luteolin. But based on the color of carrot there are other distinct polyphenol and flavonoid properties. For example, the phytomicronutrients present in purple carrots are rich in anthocyanin, red carrots have lycopene and yellow carrots have an abundance of lutein. Regardless of carrot color the health benefits and anticancer properties are present. [11] [12]

There’s ongoing research and studies on how carrots fight against cancers. Doctor Richard Beliveau and Denis Gingras stated it best in their study of nutrition in preventing cancers: “Studies have consistently linked abundant consumption of plant-based food to a substantial reduction in risk of developing various cancers. Laboratory studies show that this chemopreventive effect is related to the high levels of numerous phytochemicals in this food. These phytochemicals interfere with several cellular processes involved in the progression of cancer and also with inflammatory processes that foster development of cancer.” [13]

Again, research and studies are on going, but it wouldn’t hurt to seize the health benefits of carrots to prevent this disease from forming. The American Institute of Cancer Research highlighted carrots as “foods that fight cancer.” [14]

Do carrots help with other diseases?

Well, of course. Carrots are ranked the 10th most nutritious vegetable out there. Let’s reverse back to the very beginning when discussing how beta carotene is converted to Vitamin A; this conversion happens in the liver. So carrots are believed to also assist with liver health. Carrots can help assist in decreasing elevated levels bilirubin (jaundice), and repairing acute damage to the liver. [15]

Moreover, carrots have been linked to stabilizing glucose levels in diabetes. The dietary fiber and naturally occurring sugars have carrots sitting roughly at a 47 on the glycemic index (GI). If you choose to cook your carrots, that number drops to about 35, and if you decide to juice your carrots, well that strips the dietary fiber and the GI climbs to 86. So those with diabetes should avoid carrot juice and chomp down on some carrot sticks to maintain glucose levels. [16]

Lastly, carrots have been shown to improve memory and cognitive function. Carotenoids assist in healthy cell growth and development. This is important for prenatal nutrition. Consuming carrots during pregnancy has strong in vitro impact on the fetus. So much so, there is a current ongoing study of whether or not vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy is connected to Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. However, there is a connection of preventing the onset of age-related cognitive impairments by incorporating healthy amounts of Vitamin A into the diet. [17]

And yes, you can overdose of Vitamin A. In 1991, eight men and women willingly shut themselves into a confinement constructed with glass and steel in the middle of the Arizona desert. The experiment was to see if humans can sustain a way of life in a sealed-off environment. If this experiment was successful, the ability to colonize outer space wasn’t too far off. Within the confinement they needed to grow their own food. The duration of the experiment was 2 years. If you’re thinking, this is absolutely insane, even Discover Magazine listed it as one of the top 100 worst ideas in the century. Not to anyones surprise the experiment was a huge failure. the people were suffering from Vitamin A toxicity and their skin had turned orange because of the high consumption of carrots and sweet potatoes.[18]

Carrots have unbelievable health and nutritional benefits. But like all things, must be consumed in moderation. Incorporating carrots into your diet early on can have life saving impacts because of the density of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and many other micronutrients and phytochemical properties. With more studies and research circling around carrots, you can expect to see more health benefits in the future.
 

References

[1] The Carrot Museum: http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/history4.html
[2]: Smithsonian.com: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-wwii-propaganda-campaign-popularized-the-myth-that-carrots-help-you-see-in-the-dark-28812484/
[3] Colorado State University Extension: http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/fat-soluble-vitamins-a-d-e-and-k-9-315/
[4]Journal of Nutrition: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/10/1835.full
[5] University of Maryland Medical Center: http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/betacarotene
[6] Yes to Carrots: http://yesto.com/catalog/collections/carrots/
[7] Oregon State University Micronutrient Information Center: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/carotenoids
[8] The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/96/5/1179S.full
[9] Food and Nutrition Science: http://file.scirp.org/pdf/FNS_2014120411490798.pdf
[10] National Center of Biotechnology Information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2231485/
[11] Food and Nutrition Science
[12] National Center of Biotechnology Information
[13] National Center of Biotechnology Information
[14] American Institute of Cancer Research: http://www.aicr.org/enews/2016/09-september/enews-latest-research-cancer-fighting-carrots.html
[15] ScienceDirect: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/037887419501254B
[16]Hallelujah Acres Foundation: http://www.myhdiet.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Lets-Juice-Glycemic-Index-of-Carrot-Juice.pdf
[17] Nutrition and Aging: http://content.iospress.com/download/nutrition-and-aging/nua048?id=nutrition-and-aging%2Fnua048
[18] Cabinet Magazine: http://cabinetmagazine.org/issues/41/turner.php


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About the Author Emily Robinson

Emily has spent the last 8 years comparing, reviewing and analyzing ingredients in the supplements industry. She has worked extensively with dieticians, nutritionists and personal trainers to separate fact from fiction and help people achieve their fitness goals. In her free time she works and enjoys the outdoors with her husband and 2 children.

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