When I was small, I would devour carrots like they were going out of fashion. Mum always told me these orange sticks were good for my eyes and that, if I ate enough, I would be able to see in the dark.
Although 25 years on, I may still not have night vision, I can say that it is 100% correct that not only are these root vegetables good for the eyes, but they provide a host of other health benefits, including beautiful skin, protection from cancer, and anti-ageing properties.
So what is the magical component here? Well, for starters carrots are rich in the phytonutrient beta-carotene, which is one of the most powerful antioxidants around. Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A in the body which strengthens your immune system and helps protect against harmful free radicals. Free radicals can cause cell and DNA damage through oxidative stress, which then leads to tissue and organ damage and possibly cancer.
This important vitamin keeps skin and mucous membrane cells healthy. When membranes are healthy they stay moist and resistant to cell damage which inhibits viruses and bacteria from planting their flags of disease and infection. Healthy cells are also more resistant to cancers than unhealthy, weakened cells. Vitamin A fights cancer by inhibiting the production of DNA in cancerous cells and slowing down tumour growth, and it may keep leukemia cells from dividing.
Vitamin A is transformed into rhodopsin in the retina. Rhodopsin is a purple pigment necessary for night vision (it turns out Mum was right on the money with that one!). Vitamin A also keeps your skin glowing and your hair, nails and eyes beautiful by promoting natural cell division, which ensures that collagen is regenerated and oil production is regulated. It also assists the liver with flushing out the toxins.
The awesomeness of carrots does not stop here. They are also a wonderful way to clean your teeth and mouth. They scrape off plaque and food particles just like toothbrushes or toothpaste. Carrots stimulate gums and trigger saliva production which, being alkaline, balances out acid-forming, cavity-forming bacteria. So the minerals in carrots even help to prevent tooth damage.
Delicious when eaten raw or cooked, carrots are very versatile. Although heating can often damage some of the essential nutrients found in vegetables, beta-carotene has been shown to be surprisingly heat-stable. In fact, the beta-carotene in carrots may become more readily available through well-timed steaming. However, as you will see, here at Haleo we are still careful not to overcook our carrots as we want to retain their maximum flavour, crunch and strong overall nutritional properties.