The Versatile, Nutritious and Delicious Carrot
The humble Carrot is one of the most widely used vegetables in the world. Carrots are very versatile in so many dishes from around the world. The modern day carrot has been bred to be sweet and has a crunchy texture. Carrots are typically orange, but purple, white, yellow, and red carrots are grown but are not as common. The average American eats about 12 pounds of carrots a year, that is about one cup per week.
It is believed that the carrot was first cultivated in Afghanistan thousands of years ago as a small purple or yellow root with a woody and bitter flavor, nothing of the carrot we know today. Purple, red, yellow and white carrots were cultivated long before the appearance of the now popular orange carrot, which was developed and stabilized by Dutch growers in the 16th and 17th centuries. The majority of carrots today are now cultivated in China.
“Baby Carrots” were introduced in the 1980’s by a farmer who wanted to salvage misformed carrots that were being thrown away because they did not look desirable. Up until then all the broken and misformed carrots were discarded, leaving sometimes as little as 30 percent of their crop suitable for stores. The carrot farmer took an industrial green bean cutter to quickly whittle, peeled, cut, washed and packaged the carrots into the familiar 2-inch baby portions we find in packages today. All Baby Carrots are washed with a water/chlorine solution that is comparable to tap water to eliminate bacteria (including E. coli and Salmonella) that can cause food-borne illnesses. There is controversy concerning the benefits and drawbacks to this water/chlorine solution. Baby carrot products have become the fastest growing segment of the carrot industry since the early 1990’s and are among the most popular produce items in the market – more than potatoes and celery, according to a 2007 USDA report.
Here are a few ways to enjoy carrots – raw, cooked or baked:
- Add grated raw carrots to whole-grain muffin batter.
- Add grated carrots to omelets, frittatas, pasta sauces, coleslaw and green salads.
- Combine grated carrots, beets and apples for a nutrient- and antioxidant-rich salad.
- Make carrot soup by pureeing boiled carrots and potatoes (and cooking water). Add herbs and spices to taste.
- Add baby carrots or sliced carrots to curry and stir-fry recipes.
- Juice carrots by making a beta-carotene-rich protein shake by blending leftover cooked carrots (or one half-cup carrot juice), one banana, almond milk and protein powder.
- Carrots make great snack food to eat with dips.
CookingToday Store offers these great recipes using carrots:
- Potato Cakes With Applesauce
- Pineapple Carrot Smoothie
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
- Roasted Vegetables with Arugula Walnut Pesto
- Carrot Sweet Potato Croquettes
- Carrot, Leek and Ginger Soup
- Carrot Cake Waffles or Pancakes
- Albondigas Meatballs Soup
- CARROT CAKE
How to Select and Store Carrots
Be careful not to overcook carrots to help them to retain maximum flavor and strong overall nutritional value.
Carrot Nutritional Value & Calories
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one medium carrot or ½ cup of chopped carrots is considered a serving size. One serving size of carrots provides 25 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of sugars and 1 gram of protein, beta-carotene and fiber content plus antioxidant agents and vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, vitamin B8, pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese.
- Vitamin A, One medium carrot contains 204 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin A. In plant-based foods, this vitamin is produced by your body from the nutritional compound beta-carotene. This vitamin, also known as retinol, is responsible for maintaining the health of your eyes. Vitamin A helps your eyes retain their ability to adjust to changes in light and maintains necessary moisture and mucus levels of your eyes. Vitamin A and antioxidants protect the skin from sun damage. Deficiencies of vitamin A cause dryness to the skin, hair, and nails. Vitamin prevents premature wrinkling, acne, dry skin, pigmentation, blemishes, uneven skin tone. Improves Eyesight: Deficiency of vitamin A can cause some difficulty seeing in dim light. Since carrots are rich in vitamin A, it is good for improving eyesight and preventing conditions like night blindness from developing as we age.
- Vitamins K and C. Vitamin K maintains your blood’s ability to clot. It also contributes to bone strength and kidney health. One medium carrot contains 8 mcg of vitamin K. One medium carrot also contains 6 percent of your daily value of vitamin C, which is associated with a healthy immune system and strong teeth and gums. Vitamin C can also help your body absorb iron from plant foods and can help combat free radicals. Carrots contain a number of antiseptic and antibacterial abilities that make it ideal for boosting the immune system. Not only that, carrots are a rich source of vitamin C, which stimulates the activity of white blood cells and is one of the most important elements in the human immune system.
- Carrots contain 2% of calcium needs and 2% of iron needs per serving.
- The antioxidant beta-carotene that gives carrots their bright orange color. Beta-carotene is absorbed in the intestine and converted into vitamin A during digestion.
- Potassium one carrot contains 400 mg of potassium. Potassium is the third-most-abundant mineral in your body. It may help reduce your risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and anxiety. Potassium is a vasodilator and can relax the tension in your blood vessels and arteries, thereby increasing blood flow and circulation, boosting organ function throughout the body and reducing the stress on the cardiovascular system. The coumarin found in carrots also has been linked to reducing hypertension and protecting your heart health and the health of your muscles, heart and nervous system.
- Fiber is one of three types of nutritional carbohydrates, your body’s main nutritional energy source. Fiber promotes bowel regularity. It can also help control your blood sugar levels and contribute to healthy weight management. Carrots contain high amounts of soluble fiber, largely from pectin, which could be the reason they’ve been shown to lower cholesterol.
- Beta-carotene in carrots has been linked to a reduced risk of several cancers, notably lung, breast cancer and colon cancer. The average carrot contains about 3 milligrams of beta-carotene. In one study, researchers found that eating fiber-rich carrots reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as 24 percent. Another study shows that women who ate raw carrots were five to eight times less likely to develop breast cancer than women who did not eat carrots.
- Researchers have just discovered falcarinol which may have the anticancer properties.Falcarinol is a natural pesticide produced by the carrot that protects its roots from fungal diseases. Carrots are one of the only common sources of this compound.
- Alpha-carotene and bioflavonoids in carrots have been associated with lower risks of cancer, particularly lung cancer.
- Carrots are good for blood sugar regulation. Carotenoids inversely affect insulin resistance and thus lower blood sugar. They also regulate the amount of insulin and glucose that is being used and metabolized by the body, providing a more even and healthy fluctuation for a diabetic.
- Carrots clean your teeth and mouth. They scrape off plaque and food particles just like toothbrushes or toothpaste. Carrots stimulate gums and trigger a lot of saliva, which being alkaline, balances out the acid forming and cavity forming bacteria. The minerals in carrots prevent tooth damage.
Fun Facts on Carrots:
- Carrots are the second most popular type of vegetable after potatoes.
- The biggest carrot recorded is more than 19 pounds and the longest is over 19 feet!
- There are over 100 species of carrots some big some small and come in a variety colors orange, purple, white, yellow, and red.
- English women in the 1600’s often wore carrot leaves in their hats in place of flowers or feathers.
- The name “carrot” comes from the Greek word “karoton,”
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