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In my Daily Dozen, I recommend at least one daily serving of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, two daily servings of greens, the healthiest foods on the planet, and two servings a day of other vegetables, such as carrots.

The humble carrot is unique in that it is one of two vegetables that may actually become healthier through cooking. No matter how you prepare them—even by boiling—carrots, as well as celery, appear to gain in antioxidant power.

A plant-based diet may help prevent, treat, or reverse heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and other leading causes of death, and plant-based diet intervention groups have reported significant improvement in their physical functioning, general health, vitality, and mental health. Plant-based eating can improve not only body weight, blood sugar levels, and ability to control cholesterol, but also emotional states, such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, sense of well-being, and daily functioning.

How can one diet do all that? Because plant-based foods contain more than 100,000 biologically active components—more specifically, more than 100,000 phyto-nutrients, phyto for the Greek word for plant. We can’t just take these phytonutrients in a pill, either. When it comes to food, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. Beta carotene pills, for example, may actually increase cancer risk, as opposed to eating the whole carrot, including its carotenoid antioxidants, which may lower our risk.

So, we should focus on dietary intake, not supplementary intake. Apparently, antioxidant supplements just do not have the same cancer-fighting effects as produce, and colorful foods are often healthier because of their antioxidant pigments, such as the beta-carotene that makes carrots and sweet potatoes orange, the lycopene antioxidant pigment that makes tomatoes red, or the anthocyanin pigments that make blueberries blue. The colors are the antioxidants.

Image Credit: Thomas Wilken / Pixabay. This image has been modified.

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