14 Dec Why You Need To Eat Your Carrots: The Health Benefits Of This Tasty Superfood
Did you know that carrots are one of the few vegetables that actually provide more nutrition when gently cooked? That’s why we roast them for our Carrot and Chili cashew dip. Considered to be a perfect health food, the list of health benefits they offer is quite long. Let’s break it down for you.
Where do carrots come from?
Carrots were first cultivated thousands of years ago in what is now Afghanistan, and were nothing like the bright orange veggie we enjoy today. They were small, tough root vegetables that were very woody. And, they were purple, not orange (with some variations of white and yellow popping up). The popular orange variety weren’t developed until the end of the 16th century, when Dutch farmers crossed the yellow and white varieties, along with some wild varieties, to produce sweeter tasting, more fleshy orange carrots. It’s thought that this variety may have been a tribute to William of Orange, the leader in the Dutch fight for independence.
Over the centuries, carrots have spread across the world, and now come in a variety of colours and sizes. They’re used in all types of cooking and baking, in everything from savoury dishes, to drinks, cakes, spreads, side dishes and more. They’re easy grow, making them a great starter vegetable for beginner gardeners looking to cultivate a green thumb.
What makes carrots so healthy?
There are a wide range of health benefits to eating carrots. They have been proven to reduce cholesterol, maintain good eye health, and decrease the risk of heart attacks. They are a great source of important vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B8
- Pantothenic acid
As part of a healthy and well balanced diet, carrots will increase your body’s efficiency at fighting illness, and improve mental and physical performance. The potassium helps to lower blood pressure, which in turn decreases the risk of heart attack.
Carrots are also a great source of fiber, which we all need to help keep us regular. Fiber is broken down into two categories, soluble and insoluble, both of which we need to maintain a healthy gut. Carrots contain insoluble fiber, which gives bulk to your stool and helps it move through your system. If you need to increase your fiber intake, carrots are a great way to do it.
The most important thing carrots can offer us is beta-carotene. This is the naturally-occurring pigment that causes carrots to be orange in colour (and that’s really good for us). It’s an antioxidant, so it will help rid your body of free radicals and carcinogens. Free radicals cause oxidative damage to our cell walls, and are responsible for the signs of aging as well as increasing your overall risk of developing certain inflammatory conditions, age-related eye diseases, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, and even cancer. Antioxidants-as their name suggests-work to undo the damage caused by oxidative stress.
Not only that, but beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A by the body, which is essential for maintaining healthy immune system, good skin and good vision. During World War II, Britain rolled out a propaganda campaign that detailed how their pilots had super night vision due to massive carrot consumption. Civilians were were encouraged to eat their carrots because it would help them see better in the event of a blackout. But, is there any truth to this wartime messaging? Well yes, actually. Under the right conditions, eating carrots will help improve eyesight. Scientific American says that, “The body uses beta-carotene to make vitamin A, [which] helps the eye convert light into a signal that can be transmitted to the brain, allowing people to see under conditions of low light. In addition, the cornea (the clear front of the eye) can literally disappear if the body does not get enough vitamin A.” However, our bodies don’t do that great a job at converting beta-carotene into Vitamin A, and once you have enough of the vitamin, the body self regulates and will stop the conversion process. So upping your carrot intake won’t have a drastic change on your vision, but it will go a little way to helping you maintain your eye health.
Another study found that ingesting beta-carotene can slow mental decline. This study found beta-carotene reduces oxidation levels in the brain (and as we previously mentioned, oxidative damage wreaks havoc on our bodies). The results showed that you need to ingest beta-carotene on a regular and long-term basis for this to be effective, so carrots need to be incorporated into your diet on a consistent basis. The study did conclude there might have been other factors involved too, but it’s certainly a promising start.
Carrots are a delicious and versatile vegetable, used as a culinary staple all over the world. They are easy to incorporate into any dietary lifestyle, and the health benefits they offer make it worth eating them on the regular. We like to add a little spice to our carrots, which we find a dash of ginger complements well. Our Carrot and Chili cashew spread is so versatile, it can be added to sandwiches and wraps, stirred into pasta to make a sauce base, added as a pizza base, thrown into some homemade soup or added to your morning avo toast. How do you like to enjoy your carrots? Let us know in the comments below! We love getting inspired by your cooking.