When carrots are mentioned, the first thing that crosses people’s minds is the crunchiness of orange coloured vegetables. Well, the biggest news is that carrots are powerhouses for the essential vitamin A. Without this vitamin, normal vision would be impaired and total deficiency would even result into night blindness.
“Within the carrots, vitamin A occurs in its precursor form known as beta carotene that is eventually converted to the actual vitamin.
Although this exists in animal foods, carrots are one of the richness plant sources,” says Joseph Uwiragiye, a nutritionist at University Teaching Hospital in Kigali.
Once vitamin A is obtained from food, it occurs in three forms and these are; retinal, retinol and retinoic acid. All these take part in facilitating normal vision.
Studies show that after looking at objects, light is reflected to enter the eye, striking a tissue located in the back of the eye. When light strikes the retina, retinol is converted to retinal, which is then shuttled to rods – the cells that help you to see in the dark. In rod cells, retinal binds to a protein called opsin. As a result, opsin changes shape and causes nerve impulses to be generated as messages for visual perception.
Other experts point out that carrots contain anti-aging properties.
“Carrots are good sources of biotin, vitamin K, dietary fiber, molybdenum, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.
They also contain manganese, niacin, vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, folate, copper, vitamin E, and vitamin B2. All these contribute to maintaining the body cells healthy, especially those of the skin,” says Isaac Bikorimana, a nutritionist at Kibagabaga Hospital.
Several studies document that the antioxidants in carrots maintain the entire circulatory system healthy.
For example, a study conducted in Netherlands found that participants who had the least carrot intake had the least amount of CVD risk reduction, even though they still received risk-reducing benefits from their carrot intake.
However, participants who ate at least 25 more grams of carrots in a week had a significantly lower risk of CVD.
Aiding Digestion and preventing constipation
Uwiragiye also adds that carrots are fibrous foods that facilitate proper bowel movement.
“Carrots are high in fiber, so after ingestion, they help prevent constipation,” he adds.
Other experts suggest that carrots can be converted into juice to provide relief in individuals who are already constipated.
Rudy Silva, a natural nutritionist, in an online article explains that carrot juice contains certain oils that work on the mucus membranes of the stomach and colon that help in digestion for the bowel to function properly.
“Carrots are high in fiber and beta-carotene, an antioxidant, which the body converts to vitamin A. Carrots can make your stool softer and larger,” she explains.
Anti cancerous properties
Antioxidants in carrots are important in cancer prevention. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that beta-carotene present in carrots, when consumed regularly, lowers the risk of lung cancer.
Other studies also found lower risks of prostate cancer and colon cancer in individuals who regularly consumed carrots.
Common carrots are orange, but other colours of carrots exist depending on the pigments, composition and origin. It is believed that the carrot originated some 5,000 years ago in Middle Asia around Afghanistan, and slowly spread into the Mediterranean area. The first batch of recorded carrots from Afghanistan was mainly purple or yellow although some were white or black.