Eating carrots can be a simple way to get a boost of beneficial nutrients (2024)

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

Eating three servings of baby carrots a week can give a significant boost of important nutrients found in theorange root vegetables, according to a new unpublished study presented June 30 in Chicago atNutrition 2024,the annual meeting of theAmerican Society for Nutrition.

Surveys found separately in 2015 and 2019 that onlyabout 1 in 10 American adults ate the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily, according to a 2022 US Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreporton fruit and vegetable intake. That statistic inspired lead study author Mary Harper Simmons and her colleagues to investigate a simple solution that could increase a person’s weekly vegetable intake.

“(Baby carrots) are grab and go, great with things like ranch, hummus — I’ve even seen people dip them in peanut butter — some people like them plain,” said Simmons, a graduate student in nutrition at Samford University in Alabama. “I would really like to show people that improving your health can be (done) with small simple changes. … It does not have to be one drastic change overnight.”

For the study, one serving of baby carrots — chopped into smaller pieces and commonly sold at grocery stores — was around eight to 12 carrots, the equivalent of 100 grams or half a cup, Simmons added.

The unpublished study looked at 60 young adults who were either assigned to eat the servings of carrots three times a week, eat no carrots and instead take a multivitamin supplement, consume a combination of the carrots and the multivitamin, or consume neither the carrots or supplement as a control group.

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

Additionally, the researchers found those who only took the multivitamin (containing the same carotenoid found in carrots) did not see any changes in carotenoid levels. But those who consumed the carrots and the supplement saw the most benefits and increased their skin carotenoids by 21.6%.

“People might think, ‘Hey, I’m getting a multivitamin supplement, (that should be enough),’ but that alone did not increase the carotenoid accumulation. It was a combination that seemed to increase it,” said Dr. Suresh Mathews, the principal investigator for the new study and a professor and chair of Samford’s department of nutrition and dietetics.

“The ‘food first’philosophy always works. But for populations that may be unable to just do only foods or are limited, the combination of the food and the supplements seems to have an even bigger effect in this case,” he added.

The benefits of eating carrots and other vegetables

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

But carrots and other orange and red-toned vegetables such as squash and sweet potatoes are unique in that they’re high in beta-carotene, the carotenoid that the body converts into vitamin A, Kersten said. Dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are also high in beta-carotene, he added.

Vitamin A is important for keeping your heart, lungs and other organs healthy and also for supporting various bodily functions, according to theNational Institutes of Health. Vitamin A deficiency isnot commonin the United States,but people should still look to eat fruits and vegetables to reap the benefits of the natural low-calorie, high-in-fiber foods, Kersten said.

Young adults eating vegetables

While a reminder 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 the2022 CDC report, around 7% of adultsages 18 to 30 eat the recommended amount of vegetables, while a 2023National College Health Assessmentfrom the American College Health Association found that about 1 in 4 college students surveyed said they ate three or more servings of vegetables per day.

“You hear the thing we tell kids, ‘Eat the rainbow,’ and I feel like for any age that really does stand,” Simmons said. “It is good to have a variety of colors on your plate, and if not every single time you eat, just having a variety throughout your day and throughout your week is definitely very beneficial to getting all those key nutrients that our body needs to function.”

Eating carrots can be a simple way to get a boost of beneficial nutrients (2024)
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