Carrots, till recent years, were seen as a winter vegetable. However, owing to their numerous health benefits, versatility and wide availability, this bugs-bunny favourite has become a staple for most of us. Though orange is the colour that we generally associate this root with, it is also harvested in interesting shades of purple, black, yellow, red and even white.
Besides being packed with beta-carotene, the phytonutrient that gives carrots their signature colour, these vegetables are rich sources of Vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, K, dietary fiber, essential minerals like potassium, manganese and phosphorous. Add this to the fact that carrots contain zero fats and cholesterol!
Here are some of the health benefits of carrots:
1. Help Fight Cancer
Carrots are particularly rich in antioxidants like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6. This help reverse the oxidative damage caused by free radicals which enter our body through our food and the polluted air we breathe. A phytonutrient called falcarinol is also present in carrots that prevent breast, lung and colon cancer.
2. Protect Vision
Since childhood, we have been told that eating carrots will help our vision. To supplement our belief, here’s the scientific fact: Carrots are super-rich in beta-carotene which gets converted to Vitamin A, the lack of which can potentially cause blindness. Also contained are lutein and zeaxanthin which improve vision and prevent muscular degeneration of the eyes.
3. Promote Heart Health
Carrots being rich in anti-oxidants reduce oxidative stress on the heart. The dietary fiber and potassium help the arteries stay fit by removing plaque from the artery walls and balances out hypertension, the principal cause of high blood pressure and heart failures.
4. Maintain Hydration
This again is attributed to Potassium, the mineral that maintains healthy electrolyte levels in the body and helps the muscles retain water. Carrots are the root of choice for athletes as it helps beat cramps and spasms that hamper performance.
5. Delay Ageing
The high concentration of Vitamin A, B6, and Vitamin C in carrots is powerful antioxidants that prevent cell damage from free radicals and aids collagen production, a protein that is vital for an elastic and supple skin. The beta-carotene is also proven to prevent the skin from getting tanned and from the occurrence of dark spots.
6. Promote Hair Growth
Recent studies have shown that the presence of Vitamin E and Vitamin C in carrots aid blood circulation in the entire body, including the scalp. Add the other nutrients like Vitamin A and minerals to it, it is even said to prevent hair fall.
7. Prevent Tooth Decay
This has to do with the alkaline nature of the vegetable. Carrots stimulate the gums to produce saliva that itself being alkaline in nature balances the acidic nature of certain foods we eat thus preventing tooth decay, cavity formation and removing odor producing plaque.
8. Aid In Healthy Pregnancy
Regular consumption of carrot juice is encouraged for pregnant women as the antioxidants and mineral nutrients of carrots reduce the risk of fetal infection and miscarriage. It even augments the milk production in lactating women. Carrots are also merited with easing menstrual cramps and helps women past their menopause get rid of hot flushes and mood swings.
WAYS TO INCLUDE CARROTS IN YOUR DIET
Increase your intake of raw or lightly cooked carrots to reap all the rich benefits that are mentioned above.
-Try a grated carrot and raisin salad, seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil.
-Start the day with a glass-full of carrot juice about 300 ml, dice 4 carrots, add 2-3 spoons of water, ¼ piece of ginger, lemon juice and blend for a healthy delicious drink.
-Carrot sticks are a great snack through the day to combat hunger pangs, also a healthy alternative for those trying to reduce smoking.