Popeye, the sailor man ate spinach, Bugs Bunny ate carrots, and my mornings typically start with both. Does this mean old Saturday-morning cartoon characters have inspired my diet?
Or has it been all the research I’ve done on spinach and leafy greens? Nothing wrong with their animated antics, but it’s definitely been the research! So, what are the health benefits of carrots?
A study I read this morning convinced me that they’re important enough to merit their own post. It’s an impressive list!
What Are the Health Benefits of Carrots?
Most carrot-related research has focused on their primary bioactive compound, carotenoids. If the term sounds similar to carrots, it’s because “carotene” traces to the Latin word “carota,” meaning “carrot.
Carotenoids are responsible for shades of orange, red, or yellow found in the plant-based kingdom. According to just one database, we’ve identified at least 1,117 of these natural organic pigments.
Carotenoids are Vitamin A precursors. Extensive research has examined both for their abilities to boost natural killer cell activity and improve immune system function.
According to the comprehensive book on the subject, Dietary Fiber: Properties, Recovery and Applications, the beta-carotene in carrots also may protect against:
- free radical damage
- cardiovascular disease
- high blood pressure
- urinary tract infections
and bronchial asthma.
After waking up in the morning, I start the day with a workout before eating my greens. Then I finish breakfast munching on an assortment of veggies, including washed-but-unpeeled carrots, with a side of hummus.
Why unpeeled carrots? It’s not laziness! It’s because more than half of their phenolics (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds) are in the skin!
Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of conditions strongly linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease:
- increased blood pressure
- high triglycerides
- large waistline
- low HDL cholesterol
- elevated fasting blood sugar
As root vegetables, carrots are rich in dietary fiber. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of fiber – and the unfortunate truth is that the vast majority of us need more!
Not long ago, I posted on the relationship between fiber consumption and gut health. Having a healthy gut has a significant impact on your overall health. It means:
- fewer gastrointestinal tract disorders
- a stronger immune system
- lower risk of diabetes and heart disease
- easier weight management.
Several recent studies have documented the importance of a healthy gut on the entire body. Some of them even call the gut our “second brain!”
And now for the final answer to “What are the health benefits of carrots?” and the study that grabbed my attention this morning.
Carrots are the ultimate brain food!
Cognitive health researchers at Oslo’s Norwegian Institute of Public Health looked at the plant-food intake of 2,031 elderly participants. They then tested the participants to measure how sharp their various cognitive skills were.
Their findings associated only rutabaga and carrots with significantly higher scores in every tested area.
However, their conclusion underscored the positive association of only one specific whole plant food: Carrots!
“Not all plant foods showed equally positive associations with cognitive performance, indicating that certain items (mainly carrots, cruciferous vegetables, citrus fruits, and high-fibre bread) are the most valuable choice.”
But That’s Not All, Folks!
Another reason I eat lots of carrots is that they don’t cost much. Finding a food with so many astounding benefits without an exorbitant price tag attached is remarkable when you think about it. Talk about value!
Hear it from Bugs Bunny himself, “…a dozen for a dime.”
That’s why I couldn’t wait another day to answer the question, “What are the health benefits of carrots?”
And why I can’t wait to start tomorrow with some more “carrot maaaa-gic!”