Turns out Bugs Bunny knew a thing or two about aging; he ate all those carrots and he never aged a day. Carrots, along with other yellow/orange and dark green fruits and vegetables, are high in the antioxidant alpha-carotene. This powerful antioxidant, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, might be a hidden fountain of youth and a key to keeping diseases like cancer at bay.
CDC researchers followed 15,318 participants for up to 12 years to see if there was an association between the amount of alpha-carotene in their blood and death. Compared to the lowest amount, the higher the level of alpha-carotene in the blood, the lower the risk of death from all causes in general and specifically cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lower respiratory disease. Those with the highest levels of alpha-carotene were about 40 percent less likely to die than those with the lowest levels, and that was after controlling for variables that might alter the results, such as smoking and alcohol consumption. While these results are promising, it’s important to keep in mind that this study only shows an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship.
Whole fruits and veggies are the key. The researchers concluded that their participants obtained alpha-carotene mainly from foods because antioxidant supplements generally don’t contain high enough levels of it. To boost your health, it’s a safe bet to simply increase your intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables. To specifically target alpha-carotene in your diet try adding:
- Yellow-orange fruits and veggies such as cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and especially carrots
- Dark-green veggies such as spinach, collards, broccoli, green beans and kale
Many of these fruits and vegetables you can just wash and peel to eat (cantaloupe, carrots, broccoli). For the others, try baking the sweet potato or steaming kale, green beans or collards to retain more of their nutrients.
Who needs Botox when we’ve got carrots on our plate?