Carrots aren’t only good for your eyesight, and though beta-carotene is often thought of as the most beneficial compound within this root vegetable, carrots have another “secret weapon” that offers powerful anti-cancer benefits as well.
Known as falcarinol, this secret weapon acts to protect carrots from fungal disease. It’s a natural defense mechanism for the vegetable, and when eaten, it becomes a natural defense mechanism against cancer.
Researchers with Newcastle University’s School of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Development have led the way on falcarinol research. They found that rats who ate feed with falcarinol equal to the amount in carrots were one-third less likely to develop “full scale tumors” than those who didn’t have facarinol. These were rats who already had pre-cancerous tumors.
“Our research allows us to make a more qualitative assessment of the vegetables we are eating, rather than quantitative,” explained lead researcher Dr. Kirsten Brandt. “We now need to take it a step further by finding out how much falcarinol is needed to prevent the development of cancer and if certain types of carrot are better than others, as there are many varieties in existence, of different shapes, colours and sizes.”
Additional research from Dr. Brandt and her colleagues found that whole carrots contain more benefits than sliced carrots. Boiling whole carrots, they found, increased the falcarinol concentration by 25%.
The researchers say this is because although some nutrients are leeched out in the cooking process, keeping the carrots whole helps prevent this. In addition, the heat from boiling decreases water retention in the vegetable, increasing concentration.
On the other hand, boiling sliced carrots for 12 minutes reduces the concentration of falcarinol by about 70%, according to researchers with Harvard University.
The lesson here is, if you like your carrots cooked, keep them whole. If you prefer them raw, you can slice them all you want. But, no matter how you eat them, you are receiving some anti-cancer benefits – at least according to this study and other research.
While beta-carotene and alpha-carotene also have anti-cancer properties, Dr. Brandt says the anti-cancer activity of falcarinol is even more powerful. She recommends eating one small carrot daily—certainly an easy prescription.
The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.