Think carrots should be left to rabbits? You couldn't be more wrong. We've done the digging to find out how this wonderful root vegetable can benefit your health.
When your parents told you to 'eat your carrots', they were definitely onto something. It will come as a surprise to know just how good they are for you - on the inside and out.
Here are five reasons to nibble on more carrots:
The old wives' tale that eating carrots will help you see in the dark isn't actually that much of a myth. Carrots contain a high level of beta-carotene, which the human body converts into Vitamin A. Although this isn't enough to cure existing problems, the level of Vitamin A found in beta-carotene helps protect the surface of the eye from any future damage.
"[The Age-Related Eye Disease Study] shows that higher levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc reduced the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 25 per cent in those at higher risk," says Dr Carrie Ruxton, member of the Health Supplements Information Service (www.hsis.org).
A natural pesticide found in carrots called falcarinol is said to guard you from cancer when eaten on a regular basis. "Carrots contain powerful antioxidants known as carotenoids. Research has shown that carotenoids have powerful cancer-fighting properties. Skin, breast and prostate cancers are thought to be the cancers that can benefit the most from an ample intake of carotenoids," says nutrition expert, Julie Montagu.
"One large carrot contains 15,503 micrograms of beta-carotene, which is a certain type of carotenoid. Only a handful of other foods have higher doses of this cancer-fighting compound." Juicing your carrots or eating them raw seems to be the best way of getting the proper amount of falcarinol into your diet, whereas boiling the vegetable results in a 70 per cent reduction of the natural chemical.
As well as beta-carotene, carrots contain alpha carotene and lutein, both of which have heart-protecting properties. Even beta-carotene itself is an antioxidant and stops the oxidisation of bad cholesterol. This all helps to reduce the risk of a heart attack and, instead, boost heart health.
In contrast to eating them raw for their carotenoids, to extract the maximum amount of antioxidants carrots have to offer, try boiling them, as it's easier for our bodies to benefit from their goodness this way.
As we get older, 'free radicals' try to attack healthy cells in our bodies and if you don't put up a fight, you'll experience a loss of memory as you age.
"The beta carotene in carrots are an important flavonoid compound and therefore have powerful antioxidant functions that help the body scavenge free radicals. Due to this, beta carotene limits damage to cell membranes," says Shona Wilkinson, head nutritionist at NutriCentre (www.nutricentre.com). "Free radical damage is part of the ageing process and it therefore makes sense that by limiting this as much as possible, you reduce the incidence of health conditions as you age."
Carrots look after your skin, too. They are a cheap and healthy way to keep your skin looking vibrant, as their antioxidants and vitamin C battle pesky free radicals that could otherwise cause damage to your complexion. Vitamin C also helps aid collagen production in the body, helping prevent wrinkles and stalling the ageing process.
Carotenoids also condition and hydrate the skin, as well as enhance immunity against harmful sun rays.