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Eating carrots brings benefits to your overall health, say nutritionists

Vegetables are great not only for their versatility—they can be eaten raw or cooked, whole or chopped—but also for their health benefits. However, those looking to incorporate more vegetables into their diet may be overlooking one food in particular.

Eating three servings of baby carrots a week could provide a significant boost of important nutrients found in the orange root vegetable, according to a new unpublished study presented June 30 in Chicago, Illinois. Nutrition 2024the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.

Surveys conducted separately in 2015 and 2019 found that only about 1 in 10 American adults consumed the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily, according to a report The 2022 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on fruit and vegetable intake. This statistic inspired the study’s lead author, Mary Harper Simmons, and her colleagues to investigate a simple solution that could increase a person’s weekly vegetable intake.

“[Baby carrots]are easy to carry, great with things like ranch, hummus — I’ve seen people dip them in peanut butter — some people like them plain,” says Simmons, a graduate student in nutrition at Samford University in Alabama. “I really want to show people that improving your health can be done with small, simple changes. … It doesn’t have to be a drastic change overnight.”

For the study, a serving of baby carrots — chopped into smaller pieces and commonly sold in supermarkets — was about eight to 12 carrots, equivalent to 100 grams or half a cup, Simmons added.

The study, which has not yet been published, looked at 60 young adults who were assigned to eat servings of carrots three times a week, not eat carrots and instead take a multivitamin supplement, consume a combination of carrots and a multivitamin, or consume neither carrots nor a supplement as a control group.

After four weeks, researchers found that those who ate carrots had a 10.8 percent increase in skin carotenoids, natural antioxidants that have health benefits such as preventing inflammation and promoting heart health, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Additionally, the researchers found that those who only took the multivitamin (containing the same carotenoid found in carrots) saw no change in their carotenoid levels. But those who consumed both the carrots and the supplement saw the greatest benefits, increasing their skin carotenoids by 21.6%.

“People may think, ‘Hey, I’m taking a multivitamin supplement, (that should be enough),’ but that alone didn’t increase carotenoid accumulation. It was the combination that seemed to increase it,” explains Suresh Mathews, principal investigator of the new study and professor and chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics at Samford.

“The ‘food first’ philosophy always works. But for populations that may not be able to consume food alone or are limited in their intake, the combination of food and supplements seems to have an even greater effect in this case,” he adds.

The benefits of eating carrots and other vegetables

“High vegetable intake is associated with all sorts of positive health effects — the risk of all sorts of chronic diseases is reduced with increased fruit and vegetable consumption,” says Sander Kersten, director of the division of nutritional sciences and the Schleifer Family Professor at Cornell University, who was not involved in the new study. Eating vegetables may protect against heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and obesity, according to the CDC.

But carrots and other orange- and red-hued vegetables, such as squash and sweet potatoes, are unique in that they’re rich in beta-carotene, the carotenoid that the body converts into vitamin A, Kersten says. Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, are also rich in beta-carotene, he adds.

Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy heart, lungs and other organs, as well as supporting several bodily functions, according to the National Institutes of Health. Vitamin A deficiency It is not common in the United States, but people should still aim to eat fruits and vegetables to reap the benefits of natural, low-calorie, high-fiber foods, Kersten said.

Young adults eating vegetables

While remembering to include vegetables in a healthy diet is good for everyone, Simmons said the message is particularly important when it comes to young adults.

According to 2022 CDC reportabout 7% of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 eat the recommended amount of vegetables, while a 2023 National University Health Assessment by American College Health Associationfound that about 1 in 4 college students surveyed said they ate three or more servings of vegetables per day.

“You hear that thing we tell kids, ‘Eat the rainbow,’ and I feel like for any age, that really applies,” Simmons said. “It’s good to have a variety of colors on your plate, and if not at every meal, just having a variety throughout the day and week is definitely very beneficial for getting all those essential nutrients that our bodies need to function.”

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Source: CNN Brasil

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