Carrots are often thought of as the ultimate health food. But how did the carrot get such a good reputation & why are they so good for our health?
Health Benefits of Eating Carrots
- Improved vision due to Beta-carotene which is converted to Vitamin A in the liver. Vitamin A is transformed in the retina to rhodopsin, a pigment necessary for night vision.
- Preventing Macular Degeneration and assisting eye health thanks to the high Beta-carotene levels.
- Helping to give a healthy glowing skin as the Vitamin A prevents premature wrinkling, acne, dry skin, uneven skin tone and blemishes.
- Preventing strokes.
- A powerful antiseptic as used by herbalists on cuts and grazes.
- Anti ageing due to the antioxidant properties of beta-carotene slowing down the ageing of cells.
- Helping to cleanse the body as the Vitamin A assists the liver in flushing out toxins from the body and the fibre content helps clean out the colon and hasten waste movement.
- Preventing heart disease as diets high in carotenoids are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
- Helping in the prevention of lung, breast and colon cancer.
- Healthy teeth and gums by the cleansing action and saliva stimulation which forms an alkaline environment balancing out the acid-forming, cavity-forming bacteria.
Study says Carrots really are Good for Your Eyes
According to recent research, carrots really are good for the eyes. Along with various other vegetables such as spinach, kale and sweet potato, carrots may help to prevent some eye health problems.
What these vegetables have in common is that they contain carotenoids – pigments which give them their bright colours. The study linked carotenoids to a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration, a condition which can gradually reduce a person’s vision.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School looked at 20 years’ worth of data from the US Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which together included more than 63,000 women and almost 39,000 men who worked in healthcare. All participants were over the age of 50 at the start of the research and had not been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer. Various tests were used to assess their health and they reported the food they ate in questionnaires.
Findings showed that those who consumed the highest levels of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin had a 40% lower risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration. Those who consumed the highest levels of various other carotenoids, including alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, had a 25-35% lower risk of developing the condition.
Dark green leafy vegetables are good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, while alpha and beta-carotene can be found in carrots and sweet potato. Those who follow a healthy diet including plenty of vegetables may already be consuming enough carotenoids to help their eye health.
Juan Wu, one of the study’s authors, says: “A public health strategy of increasing the consumption of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids could be most beneficial and is compatible with current dietary guidelines.”
How to incorporate more carrots into your diet
Carrots are such a versatile vegetable and can be enjoyed raw, steamed, boiled, roasted and as an ingredient in soups and stews. Carrots are a popular vegetable to juice because of their sweet, mild flavour.
Here are a couple of recipes to incorporate carrots into your diet:
Carrot, Parsnip & Lentil Soup
75g (3oz) green lentils
2 tbsp. oil
175-200g (6-7oz) Chorizo sausage (omit for vegetarian)
350g (12oz) onions, peeled & roughly chopped
225g (8oz) carrots, peeled & roughly chopped
225g (8oz) parsnips, peeled & roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1.7 litres (3 pints) vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
A few thyme sprigs
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Serves 6 Preparation: 20 minutes plus soaking Cooking Time: 55 minutes
- Soak the lentils in double their volume of cold water for 6 hours or overnight.
- Heat the oil in a large pan, add the chorizo sausage (if using) and cook, stirring, for 5 mins or until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon & set aside. Add the onions to the pan and cook for 10 mins or until soft and golden.
- Add the carrots, parsnips, cumin & drained lentils and cook, stirring, for 5 mins. Stir in the stock, bay leaves & thyme. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins or until the vegetables are tender.
- Cool slightly, remove the herbs & puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.
- Return the soup to the wiped-out pan, bring back to the boil & correct the seasoning. Serve with the reserved chorizo. Cubes of bread tossed in a little oil & baked in the oven till crisp, make a tasty garnish, combining well with the chorizo if used.
Suitable for the following diets: Nut-free, Dairy Produce-Free, Diabetic
Try this light summer salad as an accompaniment to grilled fish or meat. It would also make a lovely side dish for a barbecue.
Carrot & Courgette Salad
225g (8oz) carrots, peeled
150g (5oz) courgettes, trimmed
25g (1oz) raisins
25g (1oz) lightly toasted sunflower seeds
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. orange juice
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small garlic clove, peeled & crushed
3 tbsp. chives, chopped
Serves 4 Preparation: 10 minutes
- Coarsely grate the carrots & courgettes & transfer to a serving bowl: if you use a food processor to grate the carrots & courgettes, put them in a sieve & allow the excess liquid to drain off before transferring to the serving bowl.
- To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Stir the raisins into the grated vegetables with the sunflower seeds. Pour the dressing over, toss well & serve.
Suitable for the following diets: Gluten-free, Low-fat, Nut-free, Low-cholesterol, Low-calorie, Dairy Produce-free, Diabetic.
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