Nutritional Information for Carrots
Carrots are arguably everyone’s favorite raw crunchy vegetable, especially when paired with a nice dip, such as Toasted Cashew Cream. There are many reasons to eat more carrots and orange-colored vegetables like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and squash. One in particular is because they provide a whopping dose of the antioxidant carotenoid beta-carotene, known to promote strong cancer-fighting activity. By eating more carotenoids the idea is that damage to the body’s cell membranes and DNA is lessened by these antioxidants. They protect the body from “free radicals”, harmful compounds coursing through the body from various sources.
Beta-carotene can also form vitamin A, which is a necessary fat-soluble vitamin for healthy vision and proper cell growth. Cooking tends to release more of the carotenoids in the carrots, which makes them more absorbable in the body. One large raw carrot has 15,500 micrograms of beta-carotene, which converts to 1,250 micrograms of Vitamin A. Adult men are recommended to get about 900 micrograms of vitamin A per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. If conversions are wanted, divided the amount of beta-carotene you eat by 12 to calculate for retinol activity equivalents (RAEs). 1 RAE = 1 μg vitamin A (aka: retinol), 12 μg β-carotene, 24 μg α-carotene, or 24 μg β-cryptoxanthin)
Benefits of Carrots
Cancer Prevention Benefits
Men eating more than 38 grams (one small carrot = 50 grams) of yellow and orange vegetables daily have been shown to be associated with 33% less odds of developing prostate cancer, compared with men eating less than 6 grams per day. In the same study when specifically looking at carrots, those eating just half of a small carrot a day (25 grams), vs. less than 3 grams showed 36% lower prostate cancer odds overall and 50% lower odds for advanced cases. More recent studies have found a dose relationship with carrots, meaning the more carrots eaten the greater risk of reducing prostate cancer risk. If this study holds true, even eating a tiny amount of carrots seems protective. In addition to being protective for prostate cancer, carrots may also be beneficial for stomach cancer prevention.
Other research looking at diets high in carotenoids have found lowered risk for the following types of cancers: breast, skin, mouth, pharynx, larynx, and lung. Diets high in foods that contain both beta-carotene and vitamin C may also lower risk of esophageal cancer.
For survivors, higher blood levels of carotenoids like beta-carotene may help prevent a prostate cancer recurrence.
Men's Health Benefits
Airline pilots and frequent flyers are exposed to radiation that can damage DNA. This is where diets high in antioxidants can really help, as those stacking up on dietary antioxidants tend to experience less DNA damage. It’s important to note that this only works with foods, not antioxidants like multivitamins, vitamin C, or vitamin E pills. Eating the colors of the rainbow are ideal for disease protection, as those deep orange, red, and green colors in plants are full of phytonutrients that the plant uses to protect it’s self in nature, and in turn protects are body against damage. We take on that “plant-power” every time we eat plant foods. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene (a kind of phytonutrient) have been known to target lung health by reducing oxidative stress. Smokers should quit smoking, but also eat plenty of orange-fleshed plants for lung protection. Even those dealing with bad asthma may benefit from eating more beta-carotene rich food sources. Remember, cooking boosts beta-carotene activity dramatically, so try including both raw and cooked carrots.
Ways to Use Carrots
- Eat raw with toasted cashew cream, hummus, baba ganoush, or guacamole.
- Chop or shred carrots and add to salads or cold pasta dishes.
- Roast with seasonings until tender.
- Add to a stir- fry or stews.
- Blend raw carrots in smoothies
- Cook with other vegetables (e.g. onion, zucchini, peppers, sweet potatoes) and then blend with water or vegetable broth until smooth for a thick vegetable soup.
Resources for Carrots
American Institute for Cancer Research: www.aicr.org
Nutrition Facts: www.nutritionfacts.org
Physicians Committee: Carrots
USDA Nutrient Database: Carrots
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- AICR REFERENCE: Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective and the 2011 Continuous Update Project (CUP): Colorectal Cancer