Carrot Vegetable & Juice Health Benefits… Nutritional Facts & Value And Common Side Effects
Carrots are popular today for their high vitamin A content which is beneficial to the eyes. However, beyond the benefit of providing the body with a healthy dose of vitamin A, carrots have been found to also possess other nutrients that make it a medicinal vegetable. Several diseases like some kinds of cancer can be prevented and even treated (yes, there have been anecdotal reports) by adding this orange crop to your diet.
Carrots can be consumed in various forms: raw, as a juice, cooked, etc. Whichever way you decide to consume your carrots, you are assured of doing your body some good due to the nourishing nature of the crop.
In this piece, we shall consider some of the numerous health benefits of consuming carrots. But, before then, let’s get to know some more about one of our favorite vegetables.
What are carrots?
Carrots are those orange edible root vegetables with green leaves at the top. Carrots were not usually orange as we know them today; a long time ago it was common to find red, purple, yellow, white, and even black varieties of carrots. It was until the Medieval times that people in The Netherlands started cultivating the orange carrots.
That said, carrots have been cultivated throughout history, with the earliest date traced as far back as five millennia ago. Research has it that carrots were first planted in Asia, specifically in the region that is now Afghanistan. Although they are biennial crops, carrots are available in the market throughout the year.
Nutritional facts about carrots
A carrot is a powerhouse of nutrients that includes vital minerals and vitamins. A 128-gram serving of carrot contains 3.6 grams of dietary fiber, 12.5 grams of carbohydrate (of which 6.1 grams are sugars), 1.2 grams of protein, 0.3 grams of fat and 52.5 Kcal of calories.
Carrots are rich in vitamins, especially vitamin A; other vitamins and minerals present in carrots are vitamins C, E and K, B vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, folate, pantothenic acid, thiamin, and vitamin B6), sodium, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc, copper, and iron.
Health benefits of carrots
Eating carrots regularly have been linked with several benefits to general health. Some of these benefits are outlined below:
- For eye health
This is unarguably the most prominent health benefit of consuming carrots. This is because carrots are rich sources of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy eyes. A deficiency in vitamin A has been linked with eye problems including blindness.
Eating lots of carrots can help in protecting the eyes from such problems. It is important to state here that, although carrots contain vitamin A, they have them in the form of beta-carotene – the pigment that gives carrot its characteristic bright orange color. So, if you have not been eating many carrots before now should be a good time to form the habit.
- Treatment and prevention of cancer
Various studies and anecdotal reports have suggested that eating carrots can be helpful in lowering the risk of developing cancer. While more research needs to be done on this matter, few studies have shown that women who are predisposed to breast cancer due to factors such as family history can reduce the risk by drinking moderate amounts of carrot juice. Other types of cancer that can be prevented by consuming carrots are leukemia, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer.
- For skin health
The presence of vitamins A and C and other antioxidants in carrots are beneficial for skin health. For one, vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen in the body, which is important for maintaining the elasticity of the skin. Also, eating carrots or drinking the juice can help to prevent skin problems such as wrinkles, sunburn, and sagging skin as well as help in their treatment. You can also make your skin look more youthful by consuming more carrots.
- Good for the hair
Hair problems like hair loss can be prevented and treated by adding carrots to your daily diet. Since carrots are packed with essential nutrients including those needed by the hair, regular consumption of carrots is a no-brainer. Furthermore, the presence of vitamin E in carrots helps to enhance hair growth by stimulating the flow of blood to the scalp.
- Good for the brain
Cognitive function can be improved in people with age-related brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. This is because the antioxidants found in carrots help to neutralize oxidative stress in the brain.
- For oral health:
Germs can gain entry into the body through various points including the mouth. When these microbes are in the mouth, they can cause mouth problems like tooth decay or halitosis (bad breath). Carrots contain powerful compounds with anti-microbial properties that can boost the body’s immunity against these pathogens. Moreover, the fiber content in carrot can also help in removing stains in the teeth and gums. Thus, eating carrots can help to protect the mouth from diseases.
- For diabetes
People with a risk of developing diabetes can benefit from consuming carrots. Although carrots do not have a very low glycemic index, the phytochemicals present in the vegetable may be helpful in controlling blood sugar level. Research has also found that eating foods that have beta-carotene regularly can lower the risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
- For digestion
Fiber in carrot is important for proper digestion. Digestion problems like constipation can be prevented and treated by eating carrots or drinking carrot juice.
- For regulating blood pressure
The presence of potassium in carrot helps in maintaining blood pressure. High blood pressure is a condition usually resulting from an imbalance of electrolytes/minerals in the body. Sodium and potassium are two of the major minerals in the body that need to be balanced. Eating carrots is a healthy way of providing the body with potassium to balance the sodium content in the body thereby, regulating blood pressure.
- For treating wounds
Carrots have been used in ancient times for treating wounds. This is due to the beta-carotene in carrot that speeds up the wound-healing process. So when next you have a cut or a bruise, don’t forget to chomp on some carrots.
- Good for the heart
Carrots are rich in powerful antioxidants which are helpful in protecting the heart from diseases. These antioxidants, in addition to the fiber in carrots, help to keep the heart free from the effects of free radicals in the body as well as by reducing bad cholesterol levels. Apart from this, studies have shown that women who consume more orange vegetables like carrots have a lower risk of developing heart diseases than those who don’t.
- For pregnant women
Carrots contain folate – a B vitamin – that is required for the proper development of the fetus. Even more, it is recommended that pregnant and breast-feeding women take in more carrots to boost breast milk production.
- For detoxifying the body
Vitamin A does not only benefit the eyes, but the liver as well. Over time bile and fat can be accumulated in the liver which is harmful to the liver. Eating vitamin A-rich foods can help to reduce this accumulation by stimulating the livers filtering functions. Moreover, carrot contains potassium which helps to promote the flow of urine in the body while fiber also helps in cleansing the gut.
Risks and side effects of eating carrots
Like we’ll advise on most other foods, eating a healthy amount of carrots is important.
- Risk of skin discoloration
It has been found that excessive consumption of foods high in vitamin A may be harmful to humans. Since vitamin A-rich foods are high in beta-carotene (which is what gives those foods their distinctive colors), overdosing the body with beta-carotene causes the skin to start looking orange in color, like the carrot.
- Not too good for infants
Feeding your infant with too many carrots may be unsafe according to some studies.
- May be bad for breastfeeding mothers
Eating carrots or drinking carrot juice helps to promote the production of breast milk, but an excess intake of carrots by nursing mothers can change the quality of the milk, hence, should be avoided.
- Risk of increasing blood sugar level in diabetics
While eating carrots can help to prevent type-2 diabetes, diabetics are advised to only eat small amounts or avoid the consumption of carrots altogether. This is because carrots do not have a low glycemic index and can spike the blood sugar levels.
Although eating enough fiber is essential for digestive health, over-consumption of fiber-rich foods can cause digestion problems like flatulence. This is because excess fiber is not easily digested and undergoes fermentation in the gut leading to flatulence.
Carrot is a wonderful vegetable that benefits not only the eyes (as we commonly presume), but other parts of the body as well. This is due to the various nutrients found in carrot that are vital for general health. However, eating more carrots than the body requires can cause some adverse side effects, so moderation should be applied.
In conclusion, add carrots to your daily diet if you haven’t and continue consuming them if you have already started.