What if there was one thing you could do every single day to help lower inflammation and improve your overall health?
It’s not a special diet. It’s not exercise or meditation. And no, it’s not coconut oil. But it does take less than ten minutes to do – and it costs far less than the latest supplement.
It’s eating raw carrots. And not for the well-documented reasons you might be familiar with.
I was first turned onto the benefits of raw carrots by the work of endocrine physiologist Dr. Ray Peat. Surprisingly, carrots are a very unique vegetable with many health-promoting properties, none of which have anything to do with vitamin A.
Dr. Peat recommends eating raw carrots for a variety of health issues. Carrots can help lower estrogen, combat bacterial growth, reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, and help excrete bacterial poisons called endotoxins.
Reducing estrogen, inflammation and endotoxins can have many far-reaching downstream effects. Improved digestion, better skin, and less oxidative stress are just some of the possibilities that can be expected.
Whether there is truly a perfect, one-size-all-fits diet is still a point of contention, even for health care practitioners. (For instance, some appear to thrive on a vegan diet, but 4 years of veganism damaged my health.)
However, from my research, I do believe there are certain habits that are in line with everyone’s biology. And eating raw carrots appears to be one of those habits.
Forget superfoods like acai juice and goji berries. The real superfood has been hiding in plain sight all along, and you don’t have to shell out $50 at a specialty store to get it.
The benefits of eating raw carrots
Raw carrots lower estrogen
Raw carrots are a unique vegetable in that they are made up of mostly indigestible fibre. This particular fibre can help excrete excess estrogen from the body.
When the bowels do not move often enough, the estrogen meant for excretion is reabsorbed from the bile. This study showed a 50% increase in fecal bile acid and fat excretion among subjects who consumed raw carrots at breakfast. These findings suggest a change in metabolism or bacterial flora.
Since estrogen dominance is implicated in a number of serious health issues – systemic inflammation, cancer, and hypothyroidism among them – it’s a good idea to take steps to reduce your estrogen levels.
Estrogen reduction is especially important nowadays, given the level of estrogen-like chemicals (xenoestrogens) in our environment. We simply cannot escape being exposed to these xenoestrogens.
Some sources of xenoestrogens:
- Bisphenol-A (BPA) and other chemicals found in plastic food containers and water bottles
- Phthalates found in pharmaceuticals, personal care items such as deodorant and perfumes, and synthetic fragrances in products such as air fresheners, aerosols, and scented candles
- Dioxins from contaminated waterways, feminine hygiene products, as well as from the consumption of animal fats
- Phytoestrogens and isoflavones from foods such as soy milk, tofu, tempeh, flax seeds and sesame seeds
- Polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the flame retardants found in mattresses, furnishings, motor vehicles, airplanes, and electronics
Since elevated estrogen levels cause inflammation, and all disease has an inflammatory component, lowering estrogen could lead to an improvement in a variety of health issues.
In fact, in his personal research, Dr. Ray Peat found the daily consumption of raw carrots to decrease the incidence of migraines, headaches, PMS symptoms, and allergies. These results were purportedly accomplished by lowering estrogen.
Raw carrots are antibacterial
Root vegetables are naturally resistant to bacteria and fungus, and raw carrots are no exception — they have inherent antifungal and antibacterial properties that protect them from soil pathogens.
Raw carrots have also been shown to work against major pathogens such as listeria and E. coli. See this study, which credits “unknown factor(s) associated with carrots” as inhibiting the growth of E. coli. This study found that populations of listeria monocytogenes “decreased upon contact with whole and shredded raw carrots but not cooked carrots.”
Carrots’ potent natural antibiotics can also work to suppress bacterial growth in our digestive systems. This can be especially useful for conditions with a bacterial component, such as IBS and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
Consuming raw, unpeeled carrots is an easy way to help keep bacterial overgrowth under control. And since the skin-gut connection is well documented, improving the gut microbiota could very well lead to fewer skin issues such as acne and eczema.
While carrots are powerful on their own, their germicidal action can be intensified by eating them with other antibacterial agents such as vinegar and coconut oil.
Endotoxin or other material absorbed from intestinal bacteria contributes to a variety of autoimmune problems, including thyroiditis (Penhale and Young, 1988). Combining an indigestible fiber, such as raw carrot, with mild germicides, such as vinegar and coconut oil, can improve the hormonal environment, while reducing the immunological burden.
Endotoxin formed in the bowel can block respiration and cause hormone imbalances … so it is helpful to optimize bowel flora, for example with a carrot salad; a dressing of vinegar, coconut oil and olive oil, carried into the intestine by the carrot fiber, suppresses bacterial growth while stimulating healing of the wall of the intestine.
Reducing intestinal bacteria may seem negative, since it differs from the mainstream opinion on “good” bacteria and probiotics – but this brings us to my next point.
Raw carrots are anti-inflammatory
Not all bacteria in our digestive systems are beneficial or worth feeding. In fact, many bacteria produce toxic byproducts as a part of their normal physiological processes, called lipopolysaccharides (LPS) or bacterial endotoxins. These highly inflammatory poisons enter the bloodstream, where they cause a variety of issues. To put this into perspective, these are the same toxins that can cause sepsis.
Endotoxins provoke the immune system, promoting systemic inflammation and contributing to hormonal dysregulation. They also place an extra burden on the liver. According to Dr. Peat, endotoxin also increases the estrogen concentration of the blood, leading back to my first point on estrogen dominance.
Endotoxins have also been linked to autoimmune diseases and the proliferation of atherosclerosis, among other health issues.
This information isn’t meant to fear-monger, only to convey the importance of avoiding the accumulation of endotoxin. Raw carrots are very helpful in this regard. Their unique fibre helps decrease the absorption of bacterial poisons.
Carrots also helps facilitate the excretion of these toxins, reducing your body’s endotoxin burden. This, in turn, helps decrease systemic inflammation.
Raw carrots can aid weight loss
While I don’t believe this is as important as the other points – health should definitely come before weight – it’s still worth mentioning. A frequent side effect of better endocrine health is an improvement in body composition. This could potentially mean weight loss, if that is what the body requires.
Properly balanced hormones make it much easier for the body to settle at its natural, healthy weight. On the other hand, hormonal imbalance can cause the body to hold onto weight.
Elevated stress hormones like cortisol are connected to fat gain, especially the accumulation of belly fat. And the daily consumption of raw carrots helps lower cortisol.
The intestine is a potential source of reabsorbed estrogen, and a daily raw carrot (grated or shredded, with a little olive oil, vinegar, salt) helps to lower excess estrogen (and endotoxin produced by bacteria). While lowering estrogen, it is likely to lower cortisol and increase progesterone.
Raw carrots’ ability to aid in weight loss is also supported by this previously mentioned study, which found that consuming raw carrots caused an increase in fecal fat excretion. Less fat absorption = potential weight loss.
The best way to consume carrots for health
Ideally, carrots should be eaten raw. Much of their antibiotic properties are concentrated in the peel, but peeling them is acceptable and makes the carrots more palatable.
Prepared carrots such as baby carrots will do in a pinch, but their effects are not quite as potent as whole carrots. As always, organic is preferable.
You can snack on plain, raw carrots, but for optimum germicidal and detoxifying effects, it’s best to prepare the carrots in the way recommended by Dr. Peat.
Dr. Ray Peat’s Raw Carrot Detox Salad Recipe
Shred, grate, or use a veggie peeler to make ribbons out of a few whole, peeled carrots. Use a splash of vinegar, melted coconut oil, and a dash of salt to season the carrots. Dressing the salad with coconut oil mayonnaise is also particularly delicious.
You can also use extra-virgin olive oil instead of coconut oil, but please don’t use any polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, or soybean, as these are detrimental to health and can raise estrogen.
(Stay tuned for my personal take on the carrot salad – recipe coming soon!)
How often to eat the carrot salad
Dr. Peat recommends enjoying the carrot salad daily, but opinions differ on the best time to eat it. Consuming it 30-60 minutes away from meals ensures it reaches the intestines unhindered, where the carrots are able to exert their cleansing, antibacterial effects.
However, Dr. Peat has also talked about how eating carrots with a meal can lower blood sugar and prevent some dietary fat from being absorbed. This can be beneficial for weight loss. However, care should be taken – undereating can cause the carrots to lower blood sugar too much.
What about cooked carrots or carrot juice?
According to Dr. Peat, cooked carrots and carrot juice cannot be substituted for raw carrots, as they do not have the same health-promoting effects. Cooking the carrots renders their fibre digestible, meaning that they will encourage bacterial growth instead of suppress it.
Juicing the carrots removes the fibre completely and is not recommended. In fact, carrot juice can be downright harmful, as it’s a very concentrated source of beta carotene. In excess, beta carotene suppresses the thyroid.
What if I don’t like carrots?
In case you can’t or won’t eat carrots, or have issues with beta-carotene (such as a tendency towards carotenemia), Dr. Peat has said that bamboo shoots can be substituted for the same cleansing effects. Alternatively, rinsing your shredded carrots until the water runs clear can cut down on excess beta-carotene.
In situations where you don’t have access to carrots or bamboo shoots, activated charcoal also helps absorb bacterial toxins. I take a capsule of this brand of activated coconut charcoal with restaurant meals.
Why can’t I just eat fibre?
What makes carrots and bamboo shoots unique is their degree of indigestibility. Other foods like oatmeal and potatoes contain fibre, but they’re also easily fermented by bacteria, so they don’t do anything to lower endotoxin.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the intricate relationship between estrogen, inflammation, and overall health. Despite my passion for health research, I’m not an expert, so please consult Dr. Ray Peat’s website to read more about the benefits of carrots on your long-term health.
Have you tried incorporating more raw carrots into your diet? I’d love to hear about your experiences or results in the comments below.