1 Large Carrot- 30 Calories
Carrots are perhaps best known for their rich supply of the antioxidant nutrient that was actually named for them: beta-carotene. However, these delicious root vegetables are the source not only of beta-carotene, but also of a wide variety of antioxidants and other health-supporting nutrients. The areas of antioxidant benefits, cardiovascular benefits, and anti-cancer benefits are the best-researched areas of health research with respect to dietary intake of carrots.
All varieties of carrots contain valuable amounts of antioxidant nutrients. Included here are traditional antioxidants like vitamin C, as well as phytonutrient antioxidants like beta-carotene. The list of carrot phytonutrient antioxidants is by no means limited to beta-carotene, however. This list includes:
- Hydroxycinnamic acids
- caffeic acid
- coumaric acid
- ferulic acid
While you might expect to find a large number of human research studies documenting the benefits of carrot intake for eye health, there are relatively few studies in this area. Most studies about carotenoids and eye health have focused on carotenoid levels in the bloodstream and the activities of the carotenoids themselves, rather than the food origins of carotenoids (like carrots). Still, we have found some smaller scale human studies that show clear benefits of carrot intake for eye health. For example, researchers at the Jules Stein Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles determined that women who consume carrots at least twice per week – in comparison to women who consume carrots less than once per week – have significantly lower rates of glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve often associated with excessive pressure inside the eye). Intake of geranyl acetate – one of the photonutrients that is present in carrot seeds (and sometimes extracted from purified carrot seed oil) has also been repeatedly associated with reduced risk of cataracts in animal studies. However, researchers have yet to analyze the amount of geranyl acetate in the root portion of the carrot and the impact of dietary intake on risk of cataracts.
The anti-cancer benefits of carrot have been best researched in the area of colon cancer. Some of this research has involved actual intake of carrot juice by human participants, and other research has involved the study of human cancer cells types in the lab. While much more research is needed in this area, the study results to date have been encouraging. Lab studies have shown the ability of carrot extracts to inhibit the grown of colon cancer cells, and the polyacetylenes found in carrot (especially falcarinol) have been specifically linked to this inhibitory effect. In studies of carrot juice intake, small but significant effects on colon cell health have been shown for participants who consumed about 1.5 cups of fresh carrot juice per day.
We’re confident that future studies in this area will show carrot intake as being protective against risk of colon cancer. Carrots are simply too rich in digestive tract-supporting fiber, antioxidant nutrients, and unique phytonutrients like falcarinol to be neutral when it comes to support of the lower digestive tract and colon cancer.
How to Enjoy
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Shredded raw carrots and chopped carrot greens make great additions to salads.
- Combine shredded carrots, beets and apples, and eat as a salad.
- For quick, nutritious soup that can be served hot or cold, pur