The Wonderful Benefits Of Carrots
We have all had to suffer the agony of having to eat carrots cooked to mush as children. While that childhood trauma may have scared you off carrots forever, the many benefits of carrots warrant that you start including this vegetable in your diet all over again, albeit in more interesting forms! With our mothers crying themselves hoarse about the carrots, it would be a rare person who has not had it drilled into her head.
However, the fact of the matter is that carrots are indeed very nutritious and you can get all the benefits of carrots and enjoy the taste if you prepare it innovatively without overcooking. And just in case, you didn’t know, the benefits of the carrots are not just restricted to better eyesight. Here we give you a complete lowdown on all the amazing benefits of carrots.
2. When Eaten Right
3. The Eyes
4. Reduced Cancer Risk
5. Blood Sugar Control
7. General Health
8. Eat More Carrots for More Benefits
Carrots are said to have been first cultivated in Central Asia, Persia and Afghanistan. However, in those ancient times, this root vegetable had little resemblance to what we eat now. The taproot was woodier, smaller in size and came in different colours like purple yellow, red, and white. Purple carrots are still used in North India to make the fermented probiotic drink, kanji. While it cannot be confirmed, it is said that the Dutch developed the yellow carrots that we eat today.
The flavour, taste and size of this vegetable vary according to the variety, however, when it comes to the benefits of carrots, they are all almost equally beneficial. Carrots are rich in nutrients and half a cup of carrots contain 25 calories; 6 g carbohydrates; 2 g fiber; 3 g sugar and 0.5 g protein.
Tip: Carrots are a great source of important vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, vitamin C, calcium and iron.
When Eaten Right
The interesting thing about carrots is that their nutritional value changes when cooked. Unlike other vegetables that lose much of their nutrient value after being cooked, the benefits of carrots are actually more when cooked. For instance, only three percent of the beta carotene in carrots is available to us when we eat carrots in their raw form. However, 39 percent of beneficial beta carotene is available to us when we steam, fry or boil carrots.
One of the best ways to get the maximum benefits of carrots is to eat it as gajar ka halwawhere the carrot is grated, slow-cooked with milk and sugar and garnished with nuts. A tasty and healthy winter treat! In their raw form, baby carrots or mini-carrots are a popular snack for dieters and the health-conscious. In parties, you’d do better to scoop up some dip with a carrot stick instead of a cracker! Health food aficionados are also fond of the thinly sliced, crisp carrots chips that are also available from some brands.
Tip: Eating too many carrots will turn your skin yellow; it is a condition called carotenemia.
Remember what you were told as a kid, that eating carrots prevent night-blindness? Well, it is a fact that carrots extend to general eye health. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is essential for good eyesight. In fact, a deficiency of vitamin A can lead to xeropthalmia also called night blindness. Vitamin A also keeps our lungs, skin and cognitive skills in good health. The beta carotene and alpha-carotene in carrots are converted into vitamin A in the body. Carrots also contain antioxidants like lutein that protect the retina and lens of the eye.
Tip: Studies have shown that eating more than two servings of carrots protects women from developing glaucoma.
Reduced Cancer Risk
The benefits of carrot are manifold. Studies have shown that eating a diet rich in carotenoids may give you a protective effect against certain types of cancers like prostate, colon, breast cancers and stomach cancers. In fact, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that people who ate a diet rich in carotenoids also have a 21 per cent lower risk of lung cancer.
Tip: Carrots have two kinds of antioxidants — carotenoids (orange and yellow) and anthocyanins (red and purple) —that give carrots their color.
Blood Sugar Control
Carrots have many benefits for someone who is suffering from diabetes. They make an excellent snack for someone who is suffering from elevated blood sugar levels. Even though carrots are sweet, they are rich in soluble fiber that helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels under control and helps your bowel movements as well. Raw or sautéed carrots are also low on the glycaemic index, which means that they do not spike your blood sugar levels and, instead, supply you with a steady stream of energy.
In addition, studies have shown that certain nutrients like vitamin A in carrots help in blood sugar control. Studies have also shown that the regular intake of fiber can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes; and for those who already have the disease, fibre can help lower their blood sugar levels.
Tip: Carrots are a good way to reduce food cravings as they have tons of fiber and water and are very low in calories.
If you want a healthy heart you would be pleased to hear of the benefits of carrots for cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that eating a diet rich in colored vegetables like carrots reduces the risk of developing heart disease. In fact, a Dutch study showed that eating deep orange produce by just 25 g can lead a 32% lower risk of heart disease.
Carrots also help in regulating blood pressure. The mineral, potassium, found in carrots, helps in balancing sodium levels and in expelling it from the body.
Tip: Feeling bloated? Have a cup of carrots. The potassium will help regulate the fluid build-up in your body.
If you are looking to improve your general health and immunity, start adding carrots to your diet. The vitamin A and C will boost your immune system and improve your body’s ability to heal itself. The nutrients in carrots have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, dark-coloured carrots are richer in antioxidant properties.
Tip: Carrots can keep your bones strong and significant as they have vitamin K and a number of B vitamins.
Eat More Carrots for More Benefits
Eat plenty of carrots in both the raw and cooked form for maximum benefits. Eat low GI raw carrots in the form of salads or add them to slaws and raita or eat as sticks with your hummus and hung curd dips. You can also blitz raw carrots into juices and smoothies. However, to get all the benefits of fibre, make sure that you drink the unfiltered version. Raw carrots can also be pickled.
Turn the orange ones into a tangy achaar or crunch on the semi-fermented purple sticks after you have drunk up all the gut-healing kanji. Turn cooked carrots into savoury dishes like the north Indian gajar matar, or as fillings for pies. You could also blend them into yummy soup or just roast them with some olive oil, seasonings and a little garlic powder. Carrots also taste amazing when turned into desserts like gajar ka halwa, moist carrot cake, cookies and ice-cream.
Tip: Carrots glazed with maple syrup and a dusting of cinnamon makes for a great sweet snack.
Q. Can diabetics eat carrots?
A. Yes, diabetics can eat carrots. In fact, they are often advised to do so as they are rich in soluble fibre, they are low GI and also low in calories. Plus, they are filling.
Q. Are raw carrots better or cooked?
A. Both have their benefits. While raw carrots make a great low GI snack, the cooked form makes the beta carotene easily digestible by our bodies.
Q. Can carrots help my constipation?
A. Yes, carrots are rich in fiber and that keeps your digestive system running smoothly and your bowels clean. In fact, when you are constipated, try eating a bowl of raw carrots.