Are Rudolph’s favourite snack a superfood?

By | Health & Wellness
It's not just Rudolph who enjoys the health benefits of carrots: rwentechaney flickr

There is Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, and the most famous of them all, Rudolph. What do they all have in common ? They love carrots. As Christmas dawns there is reason to believe that amongst his mince pie and tall glass of milk, Santa Claus is pinching a bite of that magical orange vegetable and wreaking the health benefits too.

Could St.Nick fly through the black winter night without vision enhancing carrots ? His vitamin A levels high and rosy red cheeks glowing, mouth minerals enhanced and teeth sparkling white, what a sight on Christmas Eve night. Year after year Santa slots down the tightest of chimney pipes for he snacks on the healthiest vegetable of them all. Give Rudolph a guzzle of milk and Dasher a ninth of a mince pie, it is Santa’s high carrot diet that keeps him going.

In a recent study published by Medical News Today an in-depth nutritional breakdown of the carrot has looked at the variety of its health benefits and recommended methods to incorporate the popular root vegetable. One medium carrot providing 25 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of sugars and 1 gram of protein according to the United States Department of Agriculture. An excellent source of vitamin A, this portion provides 210% of the average adult’s needs which could help improve impaired vision along with a host of protective roles against illnesses.

We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucus membranes, our immune system as well as good eye health and vision. The myth of carrots giving you a superhero power of night vision stemmed from carrots’ rich vitamin A source and it’s positive effect on enhancing your vision.  During WW2 the impact of rationing pushed carrots to the forefront of diets; curried carrot, carrot jam, carrot puddings and even a homemade drink called Carrolade w wasintroduced. With the RAF’s exceptional night-flying results the rumour was announced that pilots high carotene intake from carrots was the reason they had such success.

Duke ophthalmologist Jill Koury, MD, states that vitamin A deficiency causes the outer segments of the eye’s photoreceptors to deteriorate, damaging normal vision, correcting vitamin A deficiencies with foods high in beta-carotene will restore vision, although it is unable to make you see in the dark.

Known for their bright and exuberant colour it is the antioxidant beta-carotene that gives certain vegetables a glorious glow. Beta-carotene is absorbed in the intestine and converted into vitamin A during digestion, it can be found in other fruit and vegetables such as pumpkin, asparagus, squash, sweet potatoes, plums and peas.

Evidence suggests that increased intake of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like carrots will reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular issues. It is the beta-carotene that has been shown to have anti-cancer effects through their antioxidant power of reducing free radicals in the body.  In particular studies have shown that smokers who consumed carrots three times a week had a better chance of avoiding lung cancer.

Diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer in younger men, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition. In 2011 they found that carrot juice extract was shown to stop leukemia cells and inhibit their progression. Carrots also contain fibre, potassium, folate, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin K and zinc to supply a variety of different health benefits.

The modern day carrot is sweet, crunchy, aromatic and can be found in the supermarket all year-round. The versatile vegetable is equally delicious raw to steamed, boiled and roasted, bought from fresh, frozen, canned or even pickled. Shredded carrots can be used in coleslaw or on salads and in baked goods such as cakes due to their sweet taste.

Over the Christmas period carrots will be involved in a host of roles. From the snowman’s makeup to Santa’s diet, but remember to include carrots on your Christmas plate. With lashes of gravy splashed over turkey, crispy potatoes and soft sweet sweede, a delicate parsnip placed to the side with sausages resting peacefully in their blanket of bacon, stuffing stuffed in any hidden gaps, perhaps a sprout for those feeling brave keep in mind the very special orange vegetable that can help improve your life.

The carrot may just be sneaking it’s way onto the ever-growing superfoods list, so how do you incorporate carrots into your diet?

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