For generations, parents have urged their children to eat all their carrots for good eyesight. Rich in carotene, the precursor to Vitamin A, the deep yellow vegetables are generally sweeter than other vegetables, and lend themselves to many tasty dishes, including desserts - think pumpkin pie!
1Darkly colored fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, contain carotenoids that are converted to an active form of vitamin A in the body. But in its latest report on Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board says recent studies show that it takes twice as many carotenoids to yield the same amount of vitamin A that researchers believed were needed in 1989, when the board last issued recommendations for vitamin A. The new findings mean people need to make especially sure they eat enough orange, red, green, and dark-yellow fruits and vegetables to meet their daily requirement for vitamin A.
2There is strong evidence from epidemiologic studies that eating more fruits and vegetables decreases risk of developing cancer. This conclusion is strengthened by the similar results obtained from animal studies and experiments using isolated cells. Remember, raw, uncooked fruits and vegetables are probably the best source of nutrrients known for their cancer prevention properties. Of all the vegetables, there is stronger evidence for carrots, other yellow-orange vegetables such as squash and sweet potatoes, and dark green vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach.
3Of all the commonly consumed vegetables, carrots provide the highest amount of provitamin A carotenes. Carrots also offer an excellent source of fiber, vitamin K, and biotin. They are a good source of vitamins B6 and C, potassium, and thiamine. Carrots contain a large amount of antioxidant compounds which help to protect against
cardiovascular disease and cancer. The high intake of carotene has been linked with a 20 percent decrease in postmenopausal breast cancer and up to a 50 percent decrease in the cancers of the cervix, bladder, colon, prostate, larynx, and esophagus. Extensive studies have shown that a diet that includes at least one carrot per day could cut the rate of lung cancer in half.
4Sweet potatoes provide an excellent source of carotenes. The darker varieties of sweet
potatoes contain a higher concentration of carotenes. Sweet potatoes also offer a very
good source of vitamins B6 and C. They are also a good source of manganese, copper, biotin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B2, and dietary fiber. Sweet potatoes contain unique root storage proteins, which have been shown to contain significant antioxidant effects. Since sweet potatoes contain proteins along with their high content of carotenes and vitamin C, they are a valuable food for boosting antioxidants in the body. Studies have shown that unlike many other starchy vegetables, sweet potatoes are an "antidiabetic" food.
5Pumpkins are part of the winter squash group. Also included in the group are acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash. Winter squash, like other richly colored vegetables, provide excellent sources of carotenes. Generally, the richer the color, the richer the concentration. They also offer a very good source of vitamins B1 and C, folic acid, pantothenic acid, fiber, and potassium. Winter squash is also a good source of vitamin B6 and
niacin. Studies have shown that, due to their carotene properties, winter squash exert a protective effect against many cancers (particularly lung cancer). Diets that are rich in carotenes (especially pumpkins) offer protection against cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Studies have also shown that pumpkin seeds are helpful in reducing symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).