Bright orange carrots are rich in nutrients, inexpensive, and easy to find in the fresh produce section of your grocery store. They're rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that are good for your health, and it's possible that eating carrots may help to prevent cancer.
In research studies performed in labs, rats fed either raw carrots or even just falcarinol -- an antioxidant extracted from carrots -- demonstrated a delay in the growth of colon tumors. This research is certainly preliminary because rat physiology isn't the same as that of a human, but it shows one possible health benefit of carrots.
One human study found that drinking carrot juice increases the levels of carotenoids in the blood of breast cancer survivors. The researchers believe the elevated carotenoids may help to prevent the cancer from recurring.
Carrots contain beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant and a pre-cursor used to make vitamin A in your body, and carotenoid relatives like zeaxanthin and lutein. Eating a diet rich in these antioxidants may help to reduce your risk of cancer by preventing damage to the healthy cells of your body.
Additional Health Benefits of Carrots
You need vitamin A for normal vision because one form of vitamin A is concentrated in the retinas of your eyes. The carotenoids found in carrots may help to prevent the progression of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
Since carrots are low in calories and a good source of fiber, they can help you lose weight if necessary - important because obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Buying and Preparing Carrots
You can either buy fresh carrots in the produce section or find frozen carrots in the freezer section. Frozen carrots may be sold alone or mixed with other vegetables. Some frozen vegetable blends come with sauces that add flavor, but also add extra calories -- be sure to read the food labels. You can also buy carrots in cans (just watch for excess sodium).
Carrots can be eaten either raw or cooked. In fact, boiling carrots concentrates the falcarinol so that your body absorbs more.
Carrots can be cooked and served as a side dish -- with a small amount of butter and nutmeg, or perhaps with a glaze to help picky eaters who are sensitive to the bitter tastes of vegetables. Add carrots to soups and stews or roast them right along with your favorite meats or other vegetables. Raw carrots can be added to salads or served with vegetable dips.
Carrots make a healthy substitute for French fries as an accompaniment to sandwiches and burgers. They can also be sliced and served with vegetable dip (or even with chip dip) or as part of a garden salad.
Looking for a new way to serve carrots? Try these healthy and delicious recipes:
Butalla AC, Crane TE, Patil B, Wertheim BC, Thompson P, Thomson CA. "Effects of a carrot juice intervention on plasma carotenoids, oxidative stress, and inflammation in overweight breast cancer survivors." Nutr Cancer. 2012 Jan 31.
Kobaek-Larsen M, Christensen LP, Vach W, Ritskes-Hoitinga J, Brandt K."Inhibitory effects of feeding with carrots or (-)-falcarinol on development of azoxymethane-induced preneoplastic lesions in the rat colon." J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Mar 9;53(5):1823
National Cancer Institute. "Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention: Fact Sheet." Updated July 2004.