Superfoods 101: Carrots & Their Many Health Benefits

Carrots are a member of the family Apiaceae, commonly known as the carrot family. Carrots are in the genus Daucus L., which contains two species and two varieties. Fossils of carrots have been found in prehistoric lake dwellings in Switzerland and were grown in the royal garden in Babylon in the 8th century B.C. E. Carrots are thought to have been cultivated for their leaves and seeds, as there is no evidence to show the root was eaten. The plant is related to parsley, dill, celery, and parsnips, and in Europe it was a white root. The carrot was brought to America in 1609 with the Jamestown colonists and by Massachusetts pilgrims no later than 1629. Today the white carrot is grown for its ornamental flower, the Queen Anne’s Lace. Carrots are native to Asia, Africa, and Europe and have been cultivated as a food crop for centuries. In the United States, California is the main producer of the crop, followed by Michigan, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Carrots grow in an array of colors and were not cultivated in orange until the 17th century, as depicted in Dutch paintings. The white carrot grew wild in Europe and the Dutch Mennonites cultivated the red and orange carrot varieties and brought them to America. Other colors of the original plant are purple, red, and yellow, with various shades of these hues. Carrots were named for their horned shape in Greek—“kar,” thus the nomenclature “karoton,” from which the term beta-carotene was derived. Carrots are a nutritious food containing vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They can be found in a variety of recipes and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Health Benefits & Facts about Carrots

1. Carrots are primarily known for their high carotene content, but they have other beneficial nutrients as well. They are rich in vitamins A, K, C, E, B1, B2, B3, and B6, and have a high content of dietary fiber. The minerals that are found in carrots include molybdenum, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, folate, copper. Other nutrients are hydroxycinnamic acids, anthocyanins, and polyacetylenes.

2. Carrots are a factor in reducing the risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that including them regularly into the diet reduces the level of cholesterol which is a major factor in heart attacks. It is advised to have a daily consumption of seven ounces of raw carrots. With their high content of potassium, carrots tend to reduce the tension in blood vessels and arteries, resulting in increased blood flow and circulation. This aids in the function of organs throughout the body, resulting in a reduction of stress in the cardiovascular system. It also regulates blood pressure, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, strokes, and heart disease.

3. Because of their high fiber content, carrots are beneficial to the digestive system by adding bulk to the stool and helping it to pass smoothly through the lower digestive tract. The presence of fiber in the body reduces the risk of constipation and other serious maladies like cancer.

4. The beta-carotene content in carrots is a factor in the prevention of cancer. Studies show that the consumption of carrots on a regular basis reduces the risk of developing cancers, and particularly lung cancer. The fiber content of the vegetable is a factor in the reduction of colon cancer. Consumption also improves the body’s immune system because carrots are rich in vitamin C. This results in the stimulation of the activity of white blood cells, which is a main element in a healthy immune system.

5. For ocular and oral health, carrots are a major factor. They improve eyesight and defend against the development of macular degeneration. They also improve vision by enzymatic reaction, helping the body to absorb vitamin A. This helps the eye to see in dim light and prevents night blindness. Carrots also contain minerals that stimulate gums and induce excess saliva, which reduces the risk of cavities forming due to bacteria and food particles. This also reduces the development of halitosis and other oral diseases.