Good health should always be a priority, and it becomes an even bigger one as we get older. If we’re fortunate enough to still have good health and understand its importance, that’s a priority of our choosing. For others who are in poor health or are suffering from disease, that priority becomes a matter of survival. In either instance, everyone should be taking steps every day to restore or preserve health.
Personally, I have numerous daily routines and habits that I’ve implemented over the years to achieve this goal, some of which include watching my diet, taking specific supplements, stretching, range-of-motion movements, prayer, meditation, and exercise. And I continue in my never-ending quest to seek out easy habits or activities that provide multiple health benefits (i.e., “kill two birds with one stone”).
This brings me to the carrot. For years, I’ve consumed a carrot almost every day and when one isn’t available, I crave it. If you don’t already eat carrots, here’s why you may want to start.
What are the Benefits of Eating Carrots?
Until about the 17th century, carrots were black, red, white, or purple. The orange-colored carrots of today came from the Netherlands and were developed from the wild white root Queen Anne’s lace variety—and eating them has numerous benefits.
Carrots contain a wide array of phytochemicals like carotenoids, phenolics, alpha-tocopherol, and polyacetylenes. The varying amount of these phytochemicals contributes to the differences in their color. For example, purple carrots have the highest concentration of total polyacetylenes, alpha-tocopherol, and total phenolics, while orange carrots contain the highest concentration of total carotenoids.
Since it’s more readily available, and its health benefits are well documented, the common orange carrot is what I eat daily. If purple carrots were more readily available, I would definitely alternate between purple and orange carrots.
The benefits of eating an orange carrot every day are numerous.
The common orange carrot has some of the highest levels of carotenoids such as alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. Research has shown that these phytochemicals induce apoptosis (death) in leukemia cell lines and may be an excellent source of bioactive chemicals for the treatment of leukemia.
A team of researchers from England and Denmark found that feeding carrots to animals delayed and retarded the development of induced colon tumors. The animals that ate carrots had a 1/3 reduced risk of developing cancer.
In another study, researchers analyzed the health data of 57,053 Danes from the mid-1990s until 2016. They discovered that participants who consumed 2 to 4 (or more) raw carrots a week were significantly less likely to develop colon cancer compared to those who consumed fewer carrots.
One of the carotenoids in carrots, beta-cryptoxanthin, seems to be particularly effective in protecting against colon cancer. Carrots also contain other well-known cancer fighters: alpha-carotene, lycopene, and falcarinol—a “natural pesticide” that protects the roots from fungal diseases but is non-toxic, and even beneficial, to humans.
One study found that the more often men ate carrots each week, the less likely they were to develop prostate cancer. For every 10 grams (about 1/3 ounce) of carrots that men ate daily, their chance of developing prostate cancer was reduced by 5%.
The average carrot weighs between 50 and 72 grams. A 5.5-inch (small) carrot weighs around 55 grams; a 6–7-inch (medium) carrot weighs around 60 grams; and a 7¼–8½-inch (large) carrot weights about 75 grams. Based on this study, eating a large carrot every day could reduce a man's risk of developing prostate cancer by almost 40%.
Studies show that carotenoids, like those found in carrots, inhibit the formation of plaque in brain cells. These plaques are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
A corresponding study found that the more carotenes women consumed daily, the less likely they were to test positive for dementia.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitored the alpha-carotene blood concentrations of roughly 50,000 Americans from 1988–1992. At the start of the study, participants were 20 years of age or older. In 2006, they determined which participants were still alive and if there was any relationship between survival and alpha-carotene levels. They discovered that the higher the blood levels of alpha-carotene, the lower the risk of dying.
The positive results were highest in individuals who:
- Had a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher (which is considered obese);
- Were between 45 and 65 years of age; and
- Had healthy blood pressure.
With higher levels of alpha-carotene in their blood, those who met the above criteria cut their risk of dying from all common causes of death by about half. Individuals outside of this group with higher alpha-carotene levels also showed significantly reduced mortality rates. Keep in mind we’re talking about all the common causes of death, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory diseases.
Other Benefits of Eating Carrots
Additional benefits you might notice from eating a carrot a day include:
- Improved eyesight, particularly at night
- Fewer sugar cravings due to better blood sugar stability
- More regular bowel movements after a week or two
- Stronger immune system, with less allergies and illness
- Better blood pressure
- Less fatigue
- More pleasant breath
But the benefits of carrots don’t end there.
Carrots are a Rich Source of Fiber
Carrots are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
The soluble fiber in carrots “locks on” to toxins and excess hormones in the gut and facilitates their movement out of the body. There are two instances where this has been shown to be particularly helpful. The first is in the removal of excess estrogen in women who are estrogen dominant. The second is the removal of harmful forms of cholesterol. One study found that consuming 200 grams (3 large carrots) a day for 3 weeks reduced serum cholesterol by 11%, increased bile acid and fat excretion by 50%, and increased stool weight by 25%.
The insoluble fiber in carrots isn’t digested by the body, but rather serves as food for beneficial bacteria in the lower bowel. This can have a very positive change on the gut’s microbiome and help with strengthening and healing of the gut wall, improving immunity, reducing inflammation, and lessening the formation of toxins.
It is typically recommended that we consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories in our diet. A 2,500-calorie diet would suggest the need for 35 grams of daily fiber. The average American only consumes around 14 grams per day. A large carrot a day will help fill the gap by providing an additional 3 grams of fiber.
Will Carrots Turn You Orange?
You might hear that eating too many carrots will cause the skin, most notably the hands, palms, soles of the feet and face, to turn yellowish-orange (a harmless condition called carotenoderma). I’ve never seen that happen from eating a single carrot daily, unless there’s an under-functioning thyroid and/or poor liver function. In fact, poor liver function is typically why this occurs anyway.
Carotene is converted in the liver to vitamin A. When this conversion doesn’t take place, due to either a weak thyroid gland or a liver that is overloaded with toxins, excess carotene accumulates in the blood and causes the yellow-orange tint in the skin. Adding thyroid support, vitamin B12, and/or detoxifying the liver will quickly resolve the problem…as will eating fewer carrots. Carotenoderma is more common in those who drink large amounts of carrot juice, and not from eating a single carrot daily. Either way, the condition is harmless.
Another possible issue might arise if you aren’t used to having much roughage in your diet, or if you suffer from chronic diarrhea. In some individuals, the additional fiber might temporarily cause more frequent bowel movements or looser stools. This is short lived. The positive changes to the gut’s flora are well worth any short-term issues.
What is The Best Way to Eat Carrots?
Don’t peel your carrots before eating them; many of the nutrients are located just beneath the skin. If you peel them, you lose these, along with much of the fiber. Also, avoid “baby carrots,” which come peeled and are typically soaked in chlorine. Simply pick the freshest, non-split organic carrots, rinse them well, and enjoy.
Consuming more carrots is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to “kill two (or more) birds with one stone.” While I’m not sure if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, I do believe that a carrot just might.