Carrots have long been associated in pop culture with good eyesight. This legend can be traced back to the British Royal Air Force in the midst of World War II. Pilots were using the latest in new radar technology to spot and shoot down enemy planes. To conceal this “cutting edge” technology, the British government circulated a rumor that the pilots of these planes ate a lot of carrots, which made it possible to see better at night. This rumor stuck, and to this day parents and adults alike can be heard claiming that if they eat carrots, their vision will improve.
However, carrots are so much more than merely good for your eyes, and the health benefits of carrots are numerous.
Carrots are one of the most popular and commonly enjoyed vegetables around the world. They’re easy to grow, they’re easy to eat raw, and they’re simple to cook with and enjoy in a variety of cuisines.
The carrot is a root vegetable that is a domesticated variety of the classification Daucus Carota, which is native to Southwestern Asia and Europe. Carrots come in a variety of colors, including purple, red, yellow, white, and, of course, orange. Although the greens of the carrot are not commonly consumed, they are edible and can be a nice addition to a salad.
While China seems to produce most of the world’s imported carrots, they are also found locally and often sold in large bushels at local farmers markets.
Healthy eating tip: consuming local produce is the healthiest choice. Local fruits and veggies are fresher, and local farms typically employ organic practices even if they don’t have the organic certification, which is difficult for smaller farms to secure. So eat local when you can!
Local farm-grown carrots often do not conform to the standard we’re familiar with from more commercially grown carrots. Many come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and even the flavor tends to be different. A bit sweeter.
It’s worth noting that the original wild carrot is pretty inedible. Modern cultivation and evolution of the carrot shaped it into the version more closely related to what we eat and love today.
Health Benefits of Carrots
Carrots are seriously as delicious as they are nutritious. Let’s take a closer look at what makes carrots so unique.
Carrots Prevent Heart Disease
Carrots have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, which is a contributing factor to complications of heart disease. In fact, cholesterol levels were seen to drop by 11% in participants who consumed 7 ounces of raw carrots each day for 3 weeks.
In a Swedish study, scientists found evidence that root vegetables, in general, can prevent heart attacks.
Carrots Lower Blood Pressure
Carrots are a fantastic choice to include in a diet rich in foods that are meant to help lower blood pressure. The high quantity of potassium and beta-carotene in carrots has been shown effective in reducing high blood pressure. Carrots also help maintain healthy blood pressure through the regulation of kidney and heart functions.
Carrots Boost the Immune System
The antioxidants in carrots are excellent natural immune system boosters. Vitamins C and A are big ones as well, helping you ward off infection. The beta-carotene in carrots is also a powerful phytonutrient that can increase the immune system’s ability to produce T-cells that naturally defend against infection.
Carrots Improve Digestion
It’s no question the high-fiber content of carrots can contribute to a healthy digestive tract. Carrots also supply minerals and vitamins, as well as enzymes that aid in proper digestion. It’s possible that eating carrots can help prevent gastric ulcers and other digestive disorders.
Carrots Prevent Cancer
Carrots are rich in carotenoids. Carotenoids are part of what forms the beta-carotene in carrots and what gives carrots their distinctive color. Carotenoids are a phytonutrient full of antioxidants that have also been shown to prevent cancer.
Carrots Improve Eyesight
While the rumors are rooted in some truth, eating a ton of beta-carotene will not give you 20/20 vision. However, according to the Age-Related Eye Disease Study conducted by the National Eye Institute, researchers found that a serum including a high dosage of beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and zinc reduced the progression of age-related macular degeneration. These happen to be the same naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that are found in carrots.
Age-related macular degeneration is a condition that affects the macula, which is in the center of the retina in the back of the eye. Macular degeneration can affect vision and require surgery to correct.
Carrots Improve Oral Health
It may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but the process of chewing the crunchy carrots produces an excess of saliva. This helps to flush bacteria, plaque, and other oral-related germs from your teeth naturally, leading to a healthier mouth.
Carrots Reduce the Risk of Stroke
According to a 40-year-long study from Harvard researchers, female nurses who included carrots in their diet five times per week (about 15-20 milligrams per day) reduced their risk of stroke by 68%. In a similar study researchers established that just eating one and a half carrots each day resulted in a reduction of risk for stroke by 40%.
Carrots Control Diabetes
The rich carotenoids in carrots have been linked to a reduction in diabetes symptoms. In some cases, carrots have been designated a prevention food for diabetes. Although carrots do contain sugar, they are a low glycemic food. As such, they can be consumed without causing a rapid rise in blood glucose levels.
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene (and the carotenoids within beta-carotene). However, carrots are also chock-full of fiber and antioxidants, making the carrot an immune-boosting powerhouse vegetable.
There are so many vitamins in carrots that it almost feels like it’s a vegetable playing some sort of joke on all the other vegetables. Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, containing 113% of the recommended daily value. They are also rich in vitamins C, K, and B1, B6, and B8, as well as manganese, potassium, iron, and copper.
These little root vegetables pack a serious nutritious punch!
While carrots can be a one-stop shop for nutritional value, these are also a vegetable worth buying organic. Carrots have a unique ability to absorb many nutrients in the available soil that they’re grown in. This is part of the reason why they’re so rich in vitamins and minerals. They’re physically absorbing them from the soil in a way many other vegetables and fruits just can’t.
Unfortunately, that same absorption rate is what makes them soak up pesticides that can cause health issues. Currently, carrots are ranked #26 on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) shopper’s list of pesticide-contaminated non-organically grown produce. However, depending on the year, carrots have cycled back and forth onto the top 12 list, (also known as the dirty dozen).
It’s worth choosing organic carrots if you can find them available at your local grocery store. Organic carrots tend to be priced at a comparable price point to regular non-organic carrots, which helps to make it a more comfortable choice for your budget.
Eat More Carrots
Carrots are a quick, easy, and satisfying snack to grab when you’re feeling like something crunchy and filling. They’re also great cooked in stews, curries, soups, and many pasta dishes. Consider drinking fresh pressed carrot juice as a way to get all the nutritional value packed into a glass. One cup of fresh juice usually requires several carrots (depending on the size), so you’re maximizing your dosage of preventative nutrients this way. (Store-bought carrot juice can come with sugary additions, so juice your own!)
Mix in a scoop of Veggie Shake, and you’re good to go on many of the immune-boosting antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that you need for the day.