Naturally sweet, delicious and crunchy, carrots are healthy additions you can make to the vegetable list in your diet. Indeed these root vegetables comes with wholesome health benefiting compounds such as beta carotenes, vitamin A, minerals and anti-oxidants in ample amounts.
Botanically these taproots belong to the apiaceae or umbelliferous family of the genus; Daucus and known scientifically as Daucus carota. The other close apiaceae members include parsnips, parsley, dill, cumin etc.
Carrot plant is cultivated across the world for its prized taproot. The plant is biennial and bears flowers during second year of life. However, in general, the whole plant is harvested prematurely when the root reaches about an inch in diameter, tender and juicy.
Carrots vary widely in color and shape depending on the cultivar types. Generally, oriental taproots are long, flat upper ends with tapering, tail like, lower ends. European carrots on the other hand have more rounded ends with almost cylindrical body. In addition, European carrots feature bright orange color in contrast to saffron colored Asian cultivars.
Health benefits of carrots
- Sweet and succulent carrot are notably rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and dietary fiber; however, they provide only 41 calories per 100 g, negligible amount of fat and no cholesterol.
- They are exceptionally rich source of carotenes and vitamin-A. 100 g fresh carrot contain 8285 mcg of beta-carotene and 16706 IU of vitamin A. Studies have found that flavonoid compounds in carrots help protect from skin, lung and oral cavity cancers.
- Carotenes are converted in to vitamin A in the liver. Beta-carotene is the major carotene that is present in these roots. Beta carotene is one of the powerful natural anti-oxidant helps protect body from harmful fee radical injury. In addition, it also has all the functions of vitamin A such as vision, reproduction (sperm production), maintenance of epithelial integrity, growth and development.
- Carrots are rich in poly-acetylene anti-oxidant falcarinol. Research study conducted by scientists at University of Newcastle on laboratory animals has found that falcarinol in carrots may help fight against cancers by destroying pre-cancerous cells in the tumors.
- Fresh roots are also good in vitamin C; provide about 9% of RDA. Vitamin C is water soluble anti-oxidant. It helps body maintain healthy connective tissue, teeth and gum. Its anti-oxidant property helps body protect from diseases and cancers by scavenging harmful free radicals.
- This root vegetable is especially contain good amounts of many B-complex group of vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, pantothenic acid, etc that acts as co-factors to enzymes during substrate metabolism in the body.
- It also has healthy levels of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, manganese and phosphorus. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Selection and storage
Fresh carrots are available in the markets around the season. While buying, look for young, tender, bright colored roots with firm consistency. Avoid soft, flabby roots, with cuts or mold. Also avoid very large sized roots as they indicate over maturity; resulting in their poor eating quality.
Excessive sun light exposure of the root above ground level would result in greenish discoloration near top end due to chlorophyll photo-pigment deposition. Although this may not affect health badly, but it takes away sweet taste off the roots. Forked or twisted carrots may indicate infestation or close crop cultivation.
Once at home, wash them thoroughly in water to remove dust, soil, or insecticide/fungicides. Generally, the top greens are trimmed from the root and stored in the vegetables compartment of the refrigerator where they keep well for 1-2 weeks. Set refrigerator temperature level below 35 degree F and high humidity to maintain vitality.
Preparation and serving methods
Wash carrots thoroughly before use. Trim both ends; gently scrape off outer skin and smaller hairy roots. The younger roots have crispy, pleasant taste and rich flavor. Raw carrots are naturally sweet and juicy however; boiling in hot water for few minutes enriches their flavor and enhances the bioavailability of nutrients.
Here are some serving tips:
- Fresh raw carrots can be enjoyed as they are or can be used raw in vegetable as well as fruit salads.
- Slices mixed with other root vegetables like radish, beets, tomato, kohlrabi or with greens in mixed salads.
- Carrot juice is a refreshing drink, enjoyed either alone or with fruit juice.
- Carrots blend well with vegetables like green beans, potato, green peas in variety of recipes either stewed, in curry, stir fries etc.
- Delicious sweet dish, “gaajar halwa,” prepared using grated carrot, almonds, cashews, pistachio, butter, sugar and milk in South-East Asia.
- The root is also used in the preparation of cakes, tart, pudding, soups, borscht etc.
- Also used to make healthy baby foods.
Here are some of my healthy recipes that feature carrots:
- Carrot Cake
- Carrot Spice Quickbread
- Chicken Salad with Chili Lime Dressing
- Herbed Chicken Rice Paper Rolls
- Minestrone Soup
- Morning Glory Muffins
- Mushroom and Barley Soup
- Shrimp Spring Rolls
- Spinach Dip
- Split Pea Soup
- Tofu Cakes with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
- Tuna Pita Pockets
See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:
Carrots (Daucus carota), Fresh, raw,
Nutrition value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
- Energy – 41 Kcal
- Carbohydrates – 9.58 g
- Protein – 0.93 g
- Total Fat – 0.24 g
- Cholesterol – 0 mg
- Dietary Fiber – 2.8 g
- Folates – 19 mcg
- Niacin – 0.983 mg
- Pantothenic acid – 0.273 mg
- Pyridoxine – 0.138 mg
- Riboflavin – 0.058 mg
- Thiamin – 0.066 mg
- Vitamin A – 16706 IU
- Vitamin C – 5.9 mg
- Vitamin K – 13.2 mcg 1
- Sodium – 69 mg
- Potassium – 320 mg
- Calcium – 33 mg
- Copper – 0.045 mg
- Iron – 0.30 mg
- Magnesium – 12 mg
- Manganese – 0.143 mg
- Phosphorus – 35 mg
- Selenium – 0.1 mcg
- Zinc – 0.24 mg
Source : www.nutrition-and-you.com