Forget apples. I'm convinced that the REAL power food we should all be eating daily is the humble raw carrot.
Ever since I started getting into what I'd call a 'whole foods' diet, I've been fascinated by old cookbooks (At Home on the Range is awesome!), old-school chefs like Julia Child and of course, curvy '50s celebrities like Marilyn Monroe. Ever looked up the 'Marilyn Monroe diet'?
She ate a LOT of carrots. Besides the photo evidence above, there's a quote from her in the Daily Mail:
"My dinners at home are startlingly simple. Every night I stop at the market and pick up a steak, lamb chops or some liver, which I broil in the oven. I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that is all. I must be part rabbit; I never get bored with raw carrots."
(We'll get to the beauty benefits of liver next, hehe... don't you worry!)
But back to carrots... quite possibly Marilyn's famous figure was in part due to their place in her diet, instead of more common dinner sides like bread and pasta.
But I'm not here to talk about losing weight (though because carrot fibres bind to fat molecules, they can make weight loss easier). The raw carrot has some VERY unique health and beauty benefits that you should know about.
How Carrots Help Balance Your Hormones
Raw carrots contain an indigestible fibre that helps the body perform its natural detoxification process more efficiently.
When you eat a raw carrot, its fibre binds to excess estrogen hormone, and helps to safely pull it out of your body. Carrot fibre also prevents estrogen from being reabsorbed in the intestine, which can happen when transit time is slow. This is important because too much estrogen (whether produced by the body, the diet or from exposure to xenoestrogens in the environment) can lead to all kinds of hormonal disruptions, including PMS, mood disorders and acne.
Another important benefit is that unlike other fibres, the raw carrot fibre helps to lower the number of bad bacteria (also known as endotoxin) in the gut. What does bacteria have to do with hormones? Well, here's the kicker. Intestinal bacteria is usually one of the main problems causing hormonal imbalance. The bacteria creates a chronic burden for the liver, keeping it from its regular job of processing and eliminating hormones.
But here's the amazing part. Within just a few days of regularly eating a raw carrot daily, the balance can start to shift away from high endotoxin, high cortisol and high estrogen. Healthier hormonal patterns can make a big difference in how you feel AND maybe even the look of your skin! Some of the hormonal issues that a daily raw carrot may help with include PMS, acne, headaches, allergies and low thyroid. How's that for hormonal balance?!
How Carrots Help Detoxify Your Body
"Detoxing" is such a buzz word these days, and it often sounds super-intense. But it doesn't have to be—not at all.
Besides binding to excess estrogen hormone, carrot fibre also helps to remove dangerous bacterial toxins and prevents them from being absorbed. We all brush our teeth every day. Carrots kinda act like a daily internal toothbrush, scrubbing away all the harmful stuff on the insides of our intestines. It's for this reason that you want to eat the whole carrot, not juice it, and make sure that it is raw, not cooked.
Carrots also contain some antibacterial chemicals, so in effect can act as a mild antibiotic that lowers intestinal inflammation. Except they're a totally safe and natural antibiotic, and one that can be used every day for years without any harmful side effects.
To take the carrot's antibacterial properties up a notch, you can combine it in a simple salad with a vinegar and coconut oil dressing (recipe to follow). Vinegar and coconut oil are mild germicides that help to further disinfect the intestinal environment.
So who needs invasive colonics or other complicated detox procedures? By eating a raw carrot daily, you're helping your body to naturally detoxify, all the time, and improving the overall health of the intestines and colon.
Carrots, Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A
You may have heard that carrots are a great source of vitamin A. And if you've been reading Beauty Editor for a while, then you know I talk a lot about how great vitamin A is for your skin (particularly for acne). But straight-up liver, or the supplement Nutrisorb-A, are way better sources of vitamin A than carrots.
That's because carrots are high in beta-carotene, which then has to be converted to vitamin A in the body. This isn't a problem when you're in optimal health and have high thyroid function. But as I mentioned here, many or even most of the population suffers from low metabolism. When this is the case, your body can't convert the beta-carotene and instead stores it in its tissues, where it can interfere with vitamin A conversion in the future (a vicious cycle) and block thyroid function.
You can recognize beta-carotene conversion issues by orange calluses on your palms (or even worse, a yellow/orange tinge to the skin on your face). Shredding and rinsing the carrots under running water can decrease the amount of beta-carotene. If you still have issues with orange calluses, you could have poor liver function, low B12 or low thyroid. See here for further information.
Aim for one medium-sized raw carrot per day, and remember, don't cook it and don't juice it. You can just eat it whole and peeled—or try the simple carrot salad recipe below.
Simple Carrot Salad Recipe
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 splash of white vinegar
- 1 tsp coconut oil, melted
- Salt to taste
Peel and coarsely shred the carrot. (Avoid finely grating it.) Put the shredded carrot in a colander and rinse under cold running water until it runs clear. Drain and place in a bowl. Dress the carrots with vinegar, coconut oil and salt. Combine and serve.
Optional additions if you get bored: Fresh herbs, spices, raisins, onion or garlic, lemon or lime juice.
Ideally, you should eat the carrot salad on its own as a snack, away from meals, and on an empty stomach. When you eat it with other foods, the carrots can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients. I usually have my carrot salad about 30-60 minutes before dinner.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The effect of raw carrot on serum lipids and colon function
- Functional Performance Systems: Ray Peat, PhD on the Benefits of the Raw Carrot
- Functional Performance Systems: Carotenemia & Hypothyroidism
- The Nutrition Coach: A Carrot a Day
- Kate Deering: A Raw Carrot a Day Keeps the Toxins Away