Like many of the foods we eat today, carrots were originally grown for medicinal purposes. Ancient Romans used every part of the plant to heal animal bites and scratches, as a diuretic, and to help new moms recuperate after giving birth. Now we wouldn’t recommend using mashed carrots on a cat scratch, but the Romans were right in believing that carrots have health benefits for your whole body. These simple roots are full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that can help you (and everyone else in your household) in more ways than one.
1. The benefit everyone knows: Keep your eyes healthy
Carrots contain three different types of carotenoids: alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein. All three serve different areas of the eye. Alpha-carotene supports vision health and can improve your vision in low-light. Beta-carotene keeps your corneas healthy. Lutein protects your eyes against free radical damage and can help prevent diseases like macular degeneration.
2. Look more youthful
These three carotenoids are antioxidants, which are important for skin health. Antioxidants form a barrier around your skin cells and protect them from free radical damage. They also can reverse existing damage, which is why carotenoids are frequently found in anti-aging products.
3. Pick your color, pick your benefit
Carrots aren’t just orange. These tasty taproots come in a variety of colors, and each color has a unique health benefit. Purple carrots contain anthocyanins. These antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties and can help prevent heart attacks. Red carrots are full of lycopene, a carotenoid that fights neuropathic pain. Yellow carrots have all the benefits of orange carrots but contain higher levels of lutein.
4. Protect your brain
Another benefit of beta-carotene? It protects your brain from cognitive decline. A Harvard study conducted over 18 years followed men who consumed 50 mg of beta-carotene every other day and men who took a placebo every other day. The men who took the beta-carotene supplements experienced less cognitive delay overall and brain decay onset was much slower compared to those who took the placebo.
5. Lower your blood pressure
The fiber and potassium in carrots are a one-two punch for heart health. One medium carrot has about 2 grams of fiber, and studies show that adults who consumed a diet high in fiber had lower blood pressure overall. A half-cup of chopped carrots contains 205 milligrams of potassium, which helps regulate fluid balance and muscle function. Your heart muscle needs potassium to keep your blood pressure at healthy levels.
6. Feed ‘Em to Fido
Carrots are a perfect natural treat for the canines in your life. Carrots are low calorie and are fiber-full, so you don’t need to feel bad about “spoiling” them with these extra treats. Raw carrots have an added benefit for your dog’s teeth. The crunchy texture is perfect for scraping away plaque. To get all of the nutritional value out of a carrot, make sure to cook them (don’t add any oils or seasonings). Dogs can’t process the Vitamin A in carrots unless they are baked, boiled or steamed.