As we observe the spring holidays, I have news that’s better than dyed hardboiled eggs or matzoh balls. It’s about carrots. This root vegetable is so pedestrian that it is overlooked in favor of trendier health foods such as baby kale, pomegranates or cruciferous vegetables. But a new study suggests that the humble snack favored by Bugs Bunny can protect against prostate cancer.
A team of researchers from Zhejiang University School of Medicine (Department of Urology) in Hangzhou, China conducted a thorough survey of published literature on the relationship between carrot consumption and the effect on prostate cancer risk. They identified 10 articles on the subject: 8 case-control and 2 cohort reports. This type of study is called a meta-analysis, meaning they amalgamated numbers from every available study and ran the statistics. This produces a broader and richer evidence base than any one study alone.
What they found is encouraging. For each 10-gram serving of carrots per week, the risk of developing prostate cancer was reduced by 5%. Overall, an 18% risk reduction was associated with increased consumption, and this was statistically significant.
Carrots are full of nutritious goodies. Most of us associate them with beta-carotene and vitamin A, which is associated with optical benefits. (I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, carrots were pushed by Mom because they were “good for your eyes.”) But according to prostate cancer/nutrition expert Mark Moyad MD, it might be the other compounds in carrots that have a more positive effect on prostate health. Carrots have a high potassium concentration with minimal sodium, and they are a good source of fiber—especially if you don’t peel them—to help keep your digestive system in healthy shape to eliminate toxins. Perhaps most importantly, they have one of the highest concentrations of salicylates (natural aspirin) of any food or beverage. Remember that chronic prostate inflammation is associated with the onset of prostate cancer, so carrots as a natural anti-inflammatory are one of your best food friends.
Consider adding raw carrots to your list of snack foods, and try some recipes for soups, muffins and even cake that capitalize on carrots. I’ll go so far as to put in a plug for choosing organic carrots, which are readily available and a good bargain for the price. Celebrate spring with good health.
Xu x, cheng y,li s et al. Dietary carrot consumption and the risk of prostate cancer. Eur J Nutr. 2014 Dec;53(8):1615-23.