When we were kids, our parents always told us to eat carrots, because they are good for our eyes. When I came in the kitchen and my mother was scrubbing carrots, I always liked to eat one raw.
But researchers found that the nutritional value of carrots goes much further than helping our eyes. They contain a range of compounds that can help prevent certain cancers, heart attacks and lower cholesterol.
Many of the health benefits is due to a substance that gives carrots their orange color. Carrots are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant compound that fight free radicals. Just one cup of carrots provide more than 250% of the daily amount recommended by experts.
Researchers at Women's Hospital in Boston found that women who ate just five servings of four raw carrot sticks a week had 54% lower risk of getting ovarian cancer, due to the carotene in carrots.
Another research involving 61,000 women in Sweden found that those who ate four to six servings of antioxidant-rich carrots a week cut their risk of the most common form of kidney cancer by 54%.
Other studies, involving large populations, showed that having low levels of beta-carotene gives people more change of developing certain cancers, especially lungs and stomach cancers.
What's good for your body cells is also very good for your heart. It's a proven fact that eating large amounts of carrots rich in beta-carotene and related compounds may reduce the risk of heart disease. “A half-cup serving of cooked carrots contains 12 milligrams of beta-carotene, about twice the amount you need to get the benefits,” says Paul Lachance, PhD, executive director of the Nutraceuticals Institute at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
According to a research in Germany, eating carotene-rich foods can reduce your blood levels from a substance that can cause cardiovascular disease called c-reactive protein (also known as CRP). In the study men who ate eight servings of fruits and vegetables containing beta-carotene reduced their CRP levels by 42% in just four weeks.
Besides beta-carotene, carrots also contain alpha-carotene, which appears also to fight cancer. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that lung cancer appeared more often in men with low intake of alpha-carotene then in men who ate more.
Better Vision The beta-carotene in carrots works in two ways. It coverts the vitamin A in the body and helps to improve vision. This better vision effect is so well known that researchers in World War II cultivated carrots that were high in beta-carotene to help pilots to see better at night.
Vitamin A helps vision by forming a purple pigment that the eye needs in order to be able to see in dim light. This pigment, called rhodopsin, is located in the light-sensitive area of the retina. The more vitamin A you get, he more rhodopsin your body is able to produce. Conversely, people with low levels of vitamin A may suffer from night blindness, which make it difficult to drive after dark.
Besides giving you better vision, carrots also help to protect your vision. A study in Boston at Brigham and Women's Hospital that eating carotenoid-rich food was linked to a 36% lower risk of the leading cause of severe vision loss in the elderly – age related macular degeneration.
How to get the most At your supermarket, look for new-colored carrots with more powerful pigments: lycopene-rich red and lutein-laden yellow in addition to the usual orange. When you buy carrots with the greenery still on it, trim it off before storing them. Otherwise, those pretty leafy tops will act like nutrient vampires, sucking out the vitamins and moisture before you can eat the carrots. Eat them cooked In general, raw vegetables are more nutritious than cooked, but carrots can benefit from a little cooking. This is because carrots contain a lot of dietary fiber – more than 2 grams in one carrot - which traps the beta-carotene, says John Erdman, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Illinois. Cooking carrots can helps free beta-carotene from the fiber cells, making it easier for your body to absorb. While cooking carrots you will lose some of the nutrients in the cooking water. You can save them by using the cooking water to make soup or in a sauce. Another way to release more of the beta-carotene from carrots is to make a carrot cocktail. Processing carrots in a blender breaks apart the fibers, allowing the beta-carotene to escape.
Roasting carrots brings out their flavors. Toss 1 1/4- inch pieces of carrot with salt, pepper, and a little extra-virgin olive oil. Bake, covered for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes longer. Adding some olive oil is important. Beta-carotene needs a small amount of fat to get through your intestinal wall and into your body, says John Erdman, PhD, of the University of Illinois. So the next time you're serving carrot sticks, you may add a small amount of a dip, such as a ranch dressing.
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eyesight, beta-carotene, cancer protection, carotenoid, lycopene,