Eat This Snack to Increase Your Veggie Intake

Eating baby carrots three times per week may be an effective way to increase skin carotenoids — phytonutrients which are associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease — according to a new study.

Many of us are trying — and sometimes failing — to fill our diets with more fruits and vegetables to improve our health. But while the task may seem daunting, a new study suggests that snacking on baby carrots may be an effective way to up your intake of vital nutrients.

The preliminary findings, presented at NUTRITION 2024, the flagship annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, found that eating baby carrots three times a week significantly increased skin carotenoids in young adults.

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Carotenoids are phytonutrients that create the red, orange, and yellow colors present in many fruits and vegetables. Diet is the only way humans ingest these pigments, and their content can be measured in the skin to determine an individual’s level of fruit and vegetable consumption.

Possessing higher levels of carotenoids — suggesting higher intake of produce — is linked to higher antioxidant protection, a lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers, improved skin health, and better immune function.

While the study suggests that three snack portions of baby carrots per week may result in a significant increase in skin carotenoids, the researchers found that combining this snack with a multivitamin containing the carotenoid beta carotene further boosted levels of these phytonutrients.

Researchers conducted the study on 60 young adults, dividing them into groups that were either given Granny Smith apple slices (the control group), 100 grams (about half a cup) of baby carrots, a multivitamin supplement containing beta carotene, or a combination of baby carrots and the supplement for four weeks.

The researchers used a noninvasive research-grade spectroscopy instrument, a VeggieMeter, to detect and quantify carotenoids in the participants' skin at the beginning and end of the study.

At the end of the study, they found that skin carotenoid scores had increased by 10.8% in the group that had eaten the baby carrots and by 21.6% in the group that had consumed the carrots and the supplement, while levels remained the same in the control group and in those receiving only the supplement. This suggests that the baby carrots and supplement may have an interactive effect on skin carotenoid accumulation.

Based on the findings, the authors suggest eating baby carrots three times weekly and choosing a multivitamin that contains beta-carotene.

“Previous studies have demonstrated that skin carotenoid levels can be increased by consuming three times the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables every day for three weeks,” said researcher Mary Harper Simmons, a Master of Science in Nutrition student at Samford University, in a news release. “Our findings suggest that a small, simple dietary modification — incorporating baby carrots as a snack — can significantly increase skin carotenoid accumulation.”

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