Friday, January 24, 2014

HEALTH SERIES: Benefits of Carrots

Could daily intake of carrot keep the doctor away? It’s quite possible. Experts have evidence to show that carrots provide amazing benefits for good health, reports Sade Oguntola.
Have you ever stopped to think about the health benefits of carrots, other than the fact that they come handy in preparing fried rice or as a snack? But that saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, is also applicable to carrots too.
Carrots have been used for thousands of years and found in different colours, aside orange. They are also available in yellow, red, white and purple colours. Either as raw fruit juice or in cooked form, carrot can be easily added to one’s diet without much extra preparation.
In recent years, carrot has gotten a lot of attention because of its many health benefits, including beautiful skin, cancer prevention, and anti-ageing. These include:

Cancer prevention
Studies have shown that eating carrots may help lower the risk of breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer. Researchers in a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that carrot contains a compound that acts as a natural pesticide found to reduce the risk of cancer in rats by a third.
The study which gave a new insight into how carrot consumption may protect against cancer, as previously demonstrated in epidemiological studies, named the compound as falcarinol. Falcarinol protects carrots and other vegetables in the same family from fungal diseases.
Their results show that after 18 weeks, rats with pre-cancerous tumours who ate a popular variety of carrots along with their ordinary feed, and another group that consumed falcarinol in a quantity equal to that in the carrots, were one third less likely to develop full-scale tumours than the rats in the control group.
Consumption of carrots increases the level of beta-carotene in the bloodstream. British researchers discovered that increasing beta-carotene consumption from 1.7 to 2.7 milligrammes a day reduced lung cancer risk more than 40 per cent. The average carrot contains about three milligrammes of Beta-carotene.
In addition, in a study, researchers found that eating fibre rich carrots reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as 24 per cent. Another study shows that women who ate raw carrots were five to eight times less likely to develop breast cancer than women who did not eat carrots.

Healthy skin
Vitamin A and antioxidants protect the skin from sun damage. Deficiencies of vitamin A cause dryness to the skin, hair and nails. Vitamin A protects the skin from sun damage and even prevents premature pigmentation, wrinkling, dry skin, acne and uneven skin tone.
An inexpensive and convenient facial mask, made from mixing grated carrot with a bit of honey, ensures a beautiful skin.

Prevents heart disease
Could a carrot a day keep the cardiologist away? It’s quite possible. A study from the Netherlands illustrated just how beneficial carrots can be in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study analyzed different fruits and vegetables based on their colour, which ultimately indicates the presence of certain nutrient compounds.
Interestingly, those in the orange/yellow group had the most anti-cardiovascular disease benefits. In particular, those vegetables with deep orange hues (like carrots showed the greatest benefit.
As a matter of fact, carrots were found to be the single most risk-reducing fruit or vegetable tested. Those who ate the fewest amounts of carrots saw the least risk-reduction, though they still experienced a reduced risk of heart disease. Those who ate carrots saw a reduction by about 32 per cent!
The regular consumption of carrots also reduces cholesterol levels because the soluble fibres in carrots bind with bile acids.

Improves vision
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the liver. Vitamin A is transformed in the retina, to rhodopsin, a purple pigment necessary for night vision. In addition, beta-carotene help protect against macular degeneration and the development of senile cataracts. Macular degeneration is a common eye disease of elderly. It impairs the macula.
A study found that people who eat the most beta-carotene had 40 per cent lower risk of macular degeneration than those who consumed little.
However, boiling carrots whole boosts health benefits rather than slicing them. According to Food chemists at Newcastle University , slicing them before boiling for instance resulted in the loss of 25 per cent of its healthy ingredient, falcarinol by a quarter.

Healthy teeth and gums
Carrots support healthy teeth and gum. The teeth and mouth are cleaned in the process of chewing carrot. They scrape off plaque and food particles just like toothbrushes or toothpaste.
Carrots stimulate gums and trigger a lot of saliva, which being alkaline, balances out the acid-forming, cavity-forming bacteria. The minerals contained in carrots help to kill germs in the mouth and prevent tooth damage.

Prevents stroke
According to a Harvard University study, people who ate more than six carrots a week were less likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate only one carrot a month or less.
Many studies have shown that carrot has good effect on brain. For instance, studies conducted on stroke patients revealed that those with highest levels of beta carotene have the best survival rate.

Stops diarrhoea
Carrot soup is an effective natural remedy for diarrhoea. Since ancient times, carrots and carrot juice have been used to enhance digestion, reduce constipation, control diarrhoea and remedy stomach irritation because it calms the bowel and slows down bacterial development.
According to Phyllis Balch in her book “Prescription for Nutritional Healing,” carrots have a long history of improving a variety of digestive problems, including diarrhoea. Beta-carotene, richly present in carrot is a precursor to vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant able to eliminate harmful free-radicals in the stomach.
Vitamin A also is required for the formation and maintenance of moist mucous membranes that line the gastrointestinal system.
Besides, it is a good source of pectin and coats the intestine to allay inflammation. It checks growth of harmful bacteria and prevents vomiting. It is especially useful for children.

Expels worm
An infusion of carrot has long been used as a folk remedy for thread worms. A small cup of juice or two medium sized carrots taken in the morning for at least a week can help to deworm.


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