When it comes to getting our five-a-day, many of us rather unambitiously settle for the default. According to a British Nutrition Foundation survey, around 50% of our average vegetable intake comes from just four sources: tomatoes, onions, peas and carrots. Though versatile and packed with essential nutrients, these reliable options – if relied on too heavily – can start to feel a little bland. As one Quora user posted, “Do you have a recipe that actually makes carrots taste less boring?”
But perhaps we’re just looking at them the wrong way. “A day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution,” the painter Paul Cézanne once wrote. And in recent years, scientists have been busily harvesting new ways to reconsider the UK’s number-one root vegetable.
In a study tracing the nutrition of 50,000 Americans from the late 1980s to 2006, epidemiologists at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that alpha-carotene – found abundantly in carrots – reduces the mortality rate from all common causes in adults, with large concentrations halving the risk of dying among people with a high BMI. Carotene is a potent antioxidant that works by mopping up the reactive oxygen and nitrogen in your body, delaying or even preventing oxidative damage to DNA, proteins and lipids.
In 2017, Korean researchers at Seoul National University established that this protective effect extends to your telomeres, the “caps” located at the end of chromosomes – the shortening of which is associated with age-related decline. Meanwhile, Japanese bioscientists at Shinshu University found that carotenoids could have strong inhibitory effects on plaque formation in brain cells, lowering your risk of developing dementia.
So, it’s time you freshly observed that splash of orange on your plate. It’ll help you root out more and better years as you age – and, really, what’s more delicious than that?
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