Children have long been encouraged by their mothers and grandmothers to eat their carrots — and for good reason. These vibrant orange vegetables, sometimes referred to as the poor man’s ginseng, are loaded with nutrients and phytochemicals which can offer a plethora of health benefits.
The orange-colored taproot of the carrot contains a high concentration of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a substance that is converted to vitamin A in the human body. Because vitamin A helps protect the surface of the eye (cornea), it is essential for good vision. Vitamin A also supports the immune system by keeping the cells that line the respiratory, digestive and urinary tract healthy. These cells act as barriers and form the body’s first line of defence against infection.
Beta-carotene is also a powerful antioxidant effective in fighting against some forms of cancer, especially lung cancer. Current research suggests that it may also protect against stroke and heart disease. Research also shows that the beta-carotene in vegetables supplies this protection, not vitamin supplements.
A 1/2 cup serving of cooked carrots contains four times the recommended daily intake of vitamin A in the form of protective beta-carotene.
Carrots are also a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and manganese, and a good source of vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, potassium and copper.
Munching carrots can help keep teeth and gums healthy. Crunchy carrots help scrape off plaque and food particles. The minerals found in carrots help prevent tooth damage and strengthen enamel. Carrots stimulate the gums and trigger increased saliva production. Saliva is alkaline, which helps neutralize acid forming, cavity causing bacteria. Saliva also helps balance the harmful effects of acidic foods on tooth enamel.