Amazing health benefits of eating carrots.
Posted on February 27th, 2015

Dr Hector Perera       London

When most people go on food shopping to super markets, how many would buy vegetables like carrots? Very often they get attracted to meat counters because quite often there are price reduced offers. There are plenty of vegetables that are really good for health and let me talk about one of them here.

Carrots are perhaps best known for their rich supply of the antioxidant nutrient that was actually named for them: beta-carotene. However, these delicious root vegetables are the source not only of beta-carotene, but also of a wide variety of antioxidants and other health-supporting nutrients. The areas of antioxidant benefits, cardiovascular benefits, and anti-cancer benefits are the best-researched areas of health research with respect to dietary intake of carrots.

Diabetics can have carrots preferably as a snack or adding it to salads and pasta dishes. Cooking carrots caramelizes the sugar in the carrots and increases the glycemic index. The term glycemic index is essentially a tool for measuring the rate at which the carbohydrates in a particular food are absorbed into your bloodstream.  The more rapid a rise in blood sugar, higher the Glycemic Index number. How is this number determined?  Glucose (sugar) is assigned a Glycemic Index of 100.  Various foods are tested in sample sizes of 50 grams of carbohydrates against 50 grams of glucose and the degree to which blood sugar is raised is calculated.   For example, white bread is converted very quickly into sugar and is classified as having a high Glycemic Index while most vegetables have a very small effect on blood sugar levels and have a low Glycemic Index.  

Carrot juice is not a very good option for diabetics. Any fruit of vegetable juice, especially of vegetables like carrots, gets converted to glucose very quickly and can cause a spike in the blood sugar.

Antioxidant Benefits

All varieties of carrots contain valuable amounts of antioxidant nutrients. We have come across this word antioxidant before that means a substance that reduces damage due to oxygen, such as that caused by free radicals are antioxidants. Well-known antioxidants include enzymes and other substances, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene, which are capable of counteracting the damaging effects of oxidation. Antioxidants are also commonly added to food products such as vegetable oils and prepared foods to prevent or delay their deterioration from the action of air. Antioxidants may possibly reduce the risks of cancer. Antioxidants clearly slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Included here are traditional antioxidants like vitamin C, as well as phytonutrient antioxidants like beta-carotene. The list of carrot phytonutrient antioxidants is by no means limited to beta-carotene, however, this list includes, Carotenoids, Hydroxycinnamic acids and Anthocyanindins. “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant. These chemicals help protect plants from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats.

Different varieties of carrots contain differing amounts of these antioxidant phytonutrients. Red and purple carrots, for example, are best known for the rich anthocyanin content. Oranges are particularly outstanding in terms of beta-carotene, which accounts for 65% of their total carotenoid content. In yellow carrots, 50% of the total carotenoids come from lutein. You’re going to receive outstanding antioxidant benefits from each of these carrot varieties!

Cardiovascular Benefits

Given their antioxidant richness, it’s not surprising to find numerous research studies documenting the cardiovascular benefits of carrots. Our cardiovascular system needs constant protection from antioxidant damage. This is particularly true of our arteries, which are responsible for carrying highly oxygenated blood.

At home when coconut oil get oxygen damaged, it gives a peculiar smell. Often they use the word, Mudu ganda” to describe this oxygen damaged coconut oil.

A recent study from the Netherlands, in which participants were followed for a period of 10 years, has given us some fascinating new information about carrots and our risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In this study, intake of fruits and vegetables was categorized by colour. The researchers focused on four colour categories: green, orange/yellow, red/purple, and white. Out of these four categories, orange/yellow (and in particular, foods with deeper shades of orange and yellow) was determined to be the most protective against CVD. Within this dark orange/yellow food group, carrots were determined to be the single most risk-reducing food. Participants who had the least carrot intake had the least amount of CVD risk reduction, even though they still received risk-reducing benefits from their carrot intake. However, participants who ate at least 25 more grams of carrots (with 25 grams being less than one-quarter of a cup) had a significantly lower risk of CVD. And the groups of participants who ate 50- or 75-grams more had an even more greatly reduced risk of CVD! We’re not sure how any study could better demonstrate how easy it can be to lower CVD risk by making a food like carrot part of the everyday diet.

Antioxidant nutrients in carrots are believed to explain many of the cardio protective benefits provided by these root vegetables. The many different kinds of carrot antioxidants are most likely to work together and provide us with cardiovascular benefits that we could not obtain from any of these antioxidants alone if they were split apart and consumed individually, in isolation from each other. The synergistic effect of carrot antioxidants is a great example of a whole food and its uniqueness as a source of nourishment. The word synergistic often used to describe the effect of drugs working together where one drug increases the other’s effectiveness. Synergistic can also describe the cooperative efforts of several people working together like a team of superheroes fighting crime.

Yet in addition to the diverse mixture of carrot antioxidants, there is yet another category of carrot phytonutrient that is believed to help explain carrot protection against cardiovascular disease. That category is polyacetylenes. Polyacetylenes are unique phytonutrients made from metabolism of particular fatty acids (often involving crepenynic acid, stearolic acid and tariric acid). The two best-researched polyacetylenes in carrot are falcarinol and falcarindiol. Preliminary research on animals and in the lab has shown that carrot polyacetylenes have anti-inflammatory properties and anti-aggregatory properties (that help prevent excessive clumping together of red blood cells). So in addition to the unique mix of antioxidants in carrot, polyacetylenes may play a key role in the cardiovascular protection provided by this amazing food.

Vision Health

While you might expect to find a large number of human research studies documenting the benefits of carrot intake for eye health, there are relatively few studies in this area. Most studies about carotenoids and eye health have focused on carotenoid levels in the bloodstream and the activities of the carotenoids themselves, rather than the food origins of carotenoids (like carrots). Still, we have found some smaller scale human studies that show clear benefits of carrot intake for eye health. For example, researchers at the Jules Stein Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles determined that women who consume carrots at least twice per week in comparison to women who consume carrots less than once per week have significantly lower rates of glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve often associated with excessive pressure inside the eye). Intake of geranyl acetate one of the photonutrients that is present in carrot seeds (and sometimes extracted from purified carrot seed oil) has also been repeatedly associated with reduced risk of cataracts in animal studies. However, researchers have yet to analyse the amount of geranyl acetate in the root portion of the carrot and the impact of dietary intake on risk of cataracts.

Anti-Cancer Benefits

The anti-cancer benefits of carrot have been best researched in the area of colon cancer. Some of this research has involved actual intake of carrot juice by human participants, and other research has involved the study of human cancer cells types in the lab. While much more research is needed in this area, the study results to date have been encouraging. Lab studies have shown the ability of carrot extracts to inhibit the grown of colon cancer cells, and the polyacetylenes found in carrot (especially falcarinol) have been specifically linked to this inhibitory effect. In studies of carrot juice intake, small but significant effects on colon cell health have been shown for participants who consumed about 1.5 cups of fresh carrot juice per day.

We’re confident that future studies in this area will show carrot intake as being protective against risk of colon cancer. Carrots are simply too rich in digestive tract-supporting fibre, antioxidant nutrients, and unique phytonutrients like falcarinol to be neutral when it comes to support of the lower digestive tract and colon cancer protection. It is reported that by regular consumption of canned or bottled sausages can cause colon cancer.

How about pumpkin?

Since pumpkin has yellow orange colour, it also has similar nutrients like carrots. The nutrients in pumpkin are really world class. Extremely high in fibre and low in calories, pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the Super Foods list is the synergistic combination of carotenoids. Pumpkin contains one of the richest supplies of bioavailable carotenoids known to man. Sadly they are virtually neglected in food shopping in supermarkets where as in Sri Lanka Street markets and Pola” have these vegetables at very affordable prices.

Ajina Motto

Processed meats include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, sandwich meat, packaged ham, pepperoni, salami and virtually all red meat used in frozen prepared meals. They are usually manufactured with a carcinogenic ingredient known as sodium nitrite also known as Ajina Motto”. In some shops who sell mainly Asian origin food also sell packets of this chemicals just like normal salt packets. Someone mentioned to me that a sprinkle of this salt on any food gives a unique taste. In that case, it is very likely some restaurants use this magic chemical to make their food better tasty. This is used in most super market as a colour fixer by meat companies to turn packaged meats a bright red colour so they look fresh. Unfortunately, sodium nitrite also results in the formation of cancer causing nitrosamines in the human body. And this leads to a sharp increase in cancer risk for those who eat them.

Your comments are welcomed [email protected]

3 Responses to “Amazing health benefits of eating carrots.”

  1. Geeth Says:

    Hector,
    This is the first time I am submitting a comment for an article of you. So let me congratulate you fist.

    Actually your caption (the title) is so interesting. It symbolically illustrating the bigwigs of our administration who consumes only carrot these days in many varieties of dishes. Some are financial carrots coming from the kitchens of IMF and WB, and some are political – coming as main courses with Dosa and stakes combined.

    So the nation may have to get ready to clean all the bathrooms as the proverbial toppers will eventually suffer from diarrhea. Since the problem is almost around the corner, some prescribe diapers but the remedy is nothing short of stopping eating carrots. Thanks Hector!!

  2. dingiri bandara Says:

    Thanks,Dr Perera. Correct me if I am wrong. I always thought that “Ajina Motto” is MSG aka mono sodium glutamate.

  3. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    One of the best ways to get the benefits of carrots is carrot juice. there are cheap machines that would squeeze out the fruit or vegetable juices. If taken that way you get far more carrot than slices of it in a salad. It is also raw, so best taken with some food.

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