Healing Power of Carrots
More than just a Root Vegetable
Carrot and Carrot Juice
Do carrots really improve night vision? We were told that by eating carrots, we would be able to see better at night. And we’ve all heard that proclamation many times over. During the second world war, it was recommended to British fighter pilots that by eating carrots before going on a night raid, they could win the war against the enemy. And we all know the answer to that. While there could be some merit in eating carrots to improve our eyesight at night, could this be just another myth to encourage us to eat more of this orange root vegetable? Or is there scientific evidence to justify the findings?
However, I can remember as a youngster that I could definitely play cricket a lot better at night than I ever could during the day, simply because I was somehow able to see the ball way better in the dark. During the day it would appear that I had way too much competition. As a kid, I’d often hear my mum telling me how good carrots were for my eyesight, but now I see carrots in a whole new light.
The potential healing power of carrots goes way beyond their ability to help our vision, be it at night or during the day. Carrots contain several chemical compounds that might also help prevent certain cancers and heart attacks as well as having the ability to lower cholesterol. The same substance that gives carrots their bold orange colour, is also responsible for providing many of their health benefits.
Healing Power of Carrots
Carrots are extremely rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant compound that helps fight free radicals, the unstable molecules in the body that further advance a range of conditions such as heart disease, cancer and muscular degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision loss in older adults. When we get more antioxidants in our diets, the less likely we will fall victim to cancer.
Studies show that those of us with the highest levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C in our bodies will have as much as a 40 percent lower risk of death by cancer. And even without the vitamin C, beta-carotene has a powerful effect. However, low levels of beta-carotene is a different story altogether.
Studies also show that people with low levels of beta-carotene are more prone to developing cancer, especially those associated with the lung and stomach. Adding more carrots and cabbage to your diet will greatly reduce your chance of dying early from cancer. And what’s best for your body’s cells is also good for your heart. Eating plenty of carrots and other fruits and vegetables that are rich in beta-carotene and other related compounds could easily reduce your risk of having a heart attack.
The beta-carotene in carrots is able to perform a double duty. It has the ability to convert to vitamin A in your body and that’s one good reason it helps improve your night vision. Vitamin A also helps your vision by forming a biological pigment called rhodopsin, your eye needs in order to see in low light.
Rhodopsin is located in the light-sensitive area of your retina. The more vitamin A you get, the more rhodopsin your body is able to produce. If you find it difficult driving your car after dark, there’s a good possibility you could be suffering from night-blindness due to a low-level of vitamin A.
It’s not only beta-carotene that gives carrots their protective edge. They contain another antioxidant called alpha-carotene that also has the ability to help in the fight against lung cancer.
Cocktail of Carrots
Getting the most out of your Carrots
While I’m going on about the health benefits of carrots, you might want to add a small amount of fat with your carrots, because the beta-carotene in carrots needs fat to make the journey through your intestinal wall and into your body. When I talk about fat. I’m not talking about any old fat, especially the bad trans fats that come from meat and dairy products. I’m talking about monounsaturated fats, the good cholesterol type you find in seeds, nuts and avocado. So the next time you serve raw carrot sticks, why not accompany them with a delicious avocado dip, because avocado is a good fat source.
And while there are foods more nutritious raw than they are cooked, carrots do benefit from a little cooking. The reason is that carrots have a lot of dietary fibre, which traps the beta-carotene. Cooking carrots help release beta-carotene from the fibre cells, making it easier for your body to absorb.
The only downside with cooking carrots is that some of the nutrients escape into the water. But don’t despair, because there’s a simple solution to that problem. Instead of pouring the carrot water down the drain, you can reuse the water in a vegetable soup or a sauce.
A great way to release more of the beta-carotene from carrots is to make a carrot cocktail. When you process carrots in a blender, it breaks down the fibres, allowing the beta-carotene to get out. And for something a lot smoother, but minus the fibre, you can also make some amazing carrot juice blends with other vegetables or fruit. Carrot juice with pineapple and fresh ginger is also a great way to go.
The Goodness of Carrots
While larger whole carrots are often too tough for munching raw without having to strain your jaw every time you want to enjoy the goodness that these root vegetables provide, you may want to consider purchasing some baby carrots, because baby carrots are much more succulent and tender.
Did you can know that carrots also come in an array of colours other than the orange ones we see so often in grocery stores. You might not see them at every store or farmers market you visit, but if you do, try some of the funky bright yellow, deep purple or dark red carrots. What the heck, you can even get black carrots too. These strains of carrots have more nutrients than your standard orange variety.
Carrot and Cabbage Coleslaw with Lime Dressing
- 4 Large or 6 Medium Carrots
- 6 Tablespoons of Low-Fat or Greek Yoghurt
- 2 Tablespoons of Fresh Lime Juice
- 2 Tablespoons of Honey
- 1/8 Teaspoon of Himalayan Pink Salt (Recommended)
Shred the carrots and cabbage and place them in a medium-size bowl. Then in a smaller bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, lime juice, honey and salt. Pour the mixture over the carrot and cabbage. It’s that simple. If you like, you could sprinkle a few raisins into the coleslaw to add a little extra colour.