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Carrots Could Cut Cancer Risk

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Beta-Carotene and Zeaxanthin Linked to Lower Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Carrots are packed with beneficial phytochemicals like lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, all carotenoids that are linked to eye health and that may promote longevity, lower blood pressure, and reduce risk of cancer. A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Cancer suggests eating vegetables like carrots that are rich in beta-carotene and zeaxanthin may specifically help lower the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Using data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, an examination of chronic disease in ten European countries, researchers analyzed baseline blood levels of antioxidants and other nutrients including beta-carotene in nearly 900 participants similar in age and other factors. Half of this group was later diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; the other half were matched controls who were cancer free.

Those who originally had the highest levels of beta-carotene or zeaxanthin in their blood had only about half the risk of developing pancreatic cancer down the line compared with those who had the lowest levels. Additional analysis showed that with each doubling of beta-carotene, sum of carotenoids, or zeaxanthin in the blood, the risk of pancreatic cancer was reduced by 15%, 22% and 19%, respectively.

Get more beta-carotene and zeaxanthin from your diet by loading up on orange and dark green vegetables. Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, along with sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkin. Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are all top sources of zeaxanthin. Toss spinach and kale into smoothies and salads, stir pumpkin puree into oatmeal, roast sweet potatoes and squash for a delicious side dish, and snack on carrot sticks dipped in hummus. In our Kale and Carrot Tart, dark green and orange come together for a flavorful entrée jam-packed with beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.

Bonus: Build strong bones with beta-carotene! A Japanese study of female college students found those with daily intake of beta-carotene-rich veggies were 500% less likely to suffer low bone mass. 

Published May 1, 2015

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