Caring for Your Body With Carrots

Carrots (Daucus carota sativus) belong to the Apiaceae family, along with other mostly aromatic plants with hollow stems and umbrella-like flower clusters. Included in this family are anise, caraway, carrot, celery, chervil, coriander (including cilantro), cumin, dill, fennel, hemlock, Queen Anne’s lace, parsley, and parsnip. Carrots can be as small as two inches or as long as three feet, ranging in diameter from one-half of an inch to over two inches. Carrot roots have a crunchy texture and a sweet and minty aromatic taste, while the greens are fresh tasting and slightly bitter. While we usually associate carrots with the color orange, carrots can actually be found in a host of other colors including white, yellow, red, or purple. In fact, purple, yellow and red carrots were the only color varieties of carrots to be cultivated before the 15th or 16th century.

Carrots originated in present-day Afghanistan about 5,000 years ago, probably as a purple or yellow root. Selective breeding over the centuries of a naturally occurring subspecies of the wild carrot to reduce bitterness, increase sweetness, and minimize the woody core, has produced the familiar garden vegetable.

In early use, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds, not their roots. Carrot seeds have been found in Switzerland and Southern Germany dating to 2000–3000 BC. Some relatives of the carrot are still grown for their leaves and seeds, such as parsley, fennel, dill, and cumin.

They were well-known in ancient Greece and Rome. The first mention of the root in classical sources is in the 1st century. The modern carrot originated in Afghanistan about 1100 years ago. It appears to have been introduced to Europe via Spain by the Moors in the 8th century. In 795 AD, Charlemagne included carrots in the list of plants recommended for cultivation in the Frankish empire of western and central Europe.

The 12th-century Arab Andalusian agriculturist, Ibn al-‘Awwam, describes both red and yellow carrots; Simeon Seth also mentions both colors in the 11th century. Cultivated carrots appeared in China in the 14th century. Purple, white, and yellow carrots were imported to southern Europe in the 14th century. Carrots became widely cultivated in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries and were first brought over to North America during this same general time period.  They were widely grown in Europe into the 17th Century. Orange-coloured carrots appeared in the Netherlands in the 17th century. These, the modern carrots, were intended by the antiquary John Aubrey (1626–1697) when he noted in his memoranda “Carrots were first sown at Beckington in Somersetshire Some very old Man there [in 1668] did remember their first bringing hither.” European settlers introduced the carrot to the United States in the 17th century.  Over the centuries, orange carrots became the preferred variety to grow and eat. Cultivated carrots appeared in Japan in the 18th century.

Carrots promote beauty, youthfulness, and cancer prevention. Carrots are perhaps best known for their rich supply of the antioxidant nutrient that was actually named for them: beta-carotene. However, carrots are a source not only of beta-carotene, but also of a wide variety of antioxidants and other health-supporting nutrients. Carrots can:

  • Fight free radical damage: All varieties of carrots contain valuable amounts of antioxidant nutrients, including traditional antioxidants like vitamin C, as well as phytochemical antioxidants like beta-carotene. The list of carrot phytochemical antioxidants is by no means limited to beta-carotene, however. Different varieties of carrots contain differing amounts of these antioxidant phytochemicals. Red and purple carrots, for example, are best known for the rich anthocyanin content. Orange carrots are particularly outstanding in terms of beta-carotene, which accounts for 65% of their total carotenoid content. In yellow carrots, 50% of the total carotenoids come from lutein. This list includes:
    • Carotenoids are largely responsible for the red, yellow, and orange color of fruits and vegetables, and are also found in many dark green vegetables.
      • Alpha-carotene and beta-carotene protect your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, provide a source of vitamin A, enhance the functioning of your immune system, slow down aging, and help your reproductive system function properly. Beta-carotene is a more powerful anti-oxidant than retinoid vitamin A and not only protects epithelial cells (the cells that form the lining of numerous body structures including your blood vessels) from free radical damage, but also helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in your blood stream. Only after it has been oxidized does cholesterol build up in blood vessel walls, initiating the development of atherosclerosis, whose end result can be a heart attack or stroke. Free radical damage is a contributing factor in many other conditions as well, including asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Beta-carotene also helps to internally protect your skin from sun damage by both deflecting and repairing cell damage caused by excessive ultraviolet exposure, and helps prevent premature wrinkling, acne, dry skin, pigmentation, blemishes, and uneven skin tone. Beta-carotene can also improve the availability of iron and zinc from grains. Eating one medium-sized carrot (about 50 grams) along with each cup of cooked rice increases the availability of iron by about 50% and that of zinc by about 35-40%.
      • Lutein defends your cells from the damaging effects of free radicals, and protect your eyes from developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
    • Hydroxycinnamic acids are all potent antioxidants which keep your body’s cells safe from harmful free radicals (dangerous substances that are released into the body’s cells during oxygen related reactions), act as anti-inflammatories (substances that prevent unnecessary inflammation within your body), keep your blood healthy, prevent cancer and much more.
      • Caffeic acid  is highly protective in your body and acts as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, and may also prevent cancer and diabetes.
      • Coumarin may act as an analgesic (a substance that relieves pain), an anti-inflammatory and an antisceptic (a substance that prevents the growth of disease-causing microorganisms), prevent arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), cancer, osteoporosis (reduced bone mineral density), the human immunodeficiency virus (a virus that is often abbreviated to HIV and causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) which ultimately destroys the immune system), and high blood pressure, and protect the capillaries from damage and treat ashthma (a respiratory disorder that causes breathing difficulties).
      • Ferulic acid is a potent antioxidant that may also prevent bone degeneration and cancer, protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage, reduce blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, reduce hot flashes associated with menopause, and treat diabetes.
    • Anthocyanindins are water soluble pigments that provide color to plants, mainly shades of red, purple, and blue.
      • Cyanidins fight cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and free radicals.
      • Malvidins may kill cancer cells.
  • Protect your cardiovascular system: Your cardiovascular system needs constant protection from antioxidant damage. This is particularly true of your arteries, which are responsible for carrying highly oxygenated blood. Deep orange and yellow fruits and vegetables offer you the most protection against cardiovascular disease, and carrots are the single most risk-reducing food. Antioxidant nutrients in carrots may explain many of the cardioprotective benefits they provide. The many different kinds of carrot antioxidants are most likely to work together and provide you with cardiovascular benefits that you could not obtain from any of these antioxidants alone if they were split apart and consumed individually, in isolation from each other. In addition to the diverse mixture of carrot antioxidants, another category of carrot phytochemicals that may help explain carrot protection against cardiovascular disease is polyacetylenes. Polyacetylenes are unique phytochemicals made from metabolizing certain fatty acids (often involving crepenynic acid, stearolic acid and tariric acid) that are particularly common in the Apiaceae family of plants (which includes carrots). The two best-researched polyacetylenes in carrot are falcarinol and falcarindiol. Carrot polyacetylenes have anti-inflammatory properties and help prevent excessive clumping together of red blood cells. Carrots also have alpha-carotene and lutein. Diets high in these carotenoids are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Regularly eating carrots also reduces cholesterol levels because the soluble fiber in carrots binds with bile acids.
  • Protect your vision: The old saying about carrots being “good for the eyes” is correct. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in your liver. Vitamin A is transformed in the retina, to rhodopsin, a purple pigment necessary for night vision. Beta-carotene also protects against macular degeneration and cataracts. Women who consume carrots at least twice per week have significantly lower rates of glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve often associated with excessive pressure inside the eye) than women who consume carrots less than once per week.
  • Protect you against cancer: The polyacetylenes found in carrot (especially falcarinol, a natural fungicide) can inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells. Falcarinol, along with falcarindiol in carrots, may also reduce the risk of lung cancer and breast cancer. Carrot juice has also been shown to improve colon cell health. Carrots are also rich in digestive tract-supporting fiber, antioxidants, and unique phytochemicals. The insoluble fiber in carrots helps clean out your colon and hasten waste movement. Vitamin A is useful in the prevention of several different types of cancer as it is one of the most potent antioxidants.
  • Protect your liver: Vitamin A assists your liver in flushing out the toxins from your body, and reduces the bile and fat in your liver.
  • Promote dental health: Raw carrots scrape plaque and food particles from your teeth just like toothbrushes or toothpaste. Carrots stimulate gums and trigger saliva, which is alkaline, and balances out the acid formed by bacteria that causes cavities. The minerals in carrots prevent tooth damage.

Nutrients in 100 Grams of Fresh Raw Carrots

Nutrient

Amount

DV

vitamin A 16706 IU

557%

chromium 9 µg

15%

vitamin K 13.2 µg

11%

vitamin B6 0.138 mg

10%

vitamin C 5.9 mg

10%

iodine 14.3 µg

9.5%

carbohydrates 9.58 g

7%

fiber 2.8 g

7%

potassium 320 mg

6.5%

niacin 0.983 mg

6%

thiamine 0.066 mg

6%

manganese 0.143 mg

6%

pantothenic acid 0.273 mg

5.5%

folate 19 µg

5%

copper 0.045 mg

5%

phosphorus 35 mg

5%

sodium 69 mg

4.5%

vitamin E 0.66 mg

4.4%

riboflavin 0.058 mg

4%

iron 0.30 mg

4%

calcium 33 mg

3%

magnesium 12 mg

3%

Calories 41

2%

zinc 0.24 mg

2%

protein 0.93 g

1.5%

fat 0.24 g

1%

selenium 0.1 µg

0.5%

Cholesterol 0 mg

0%

Carotene-α 3427 µg
Carotene-ß 8285 µg
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 256 µg

Although carrots are available throughout the year, locally grown carrots are in season in the summer and fall when they are the freshest and most flavorful. When buying, look for young, tender, bright-colored roots with firm consistency. Avoid soft, flabby roots, with cuts or mold. Also avoid very large roots as they are not as flavorful or tender.

Trim the top greens from the roots and store them in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator where they keep well for 1-2 weeks. Set your refrigerator temperature level below 35 degree F and high humidity to maintain vitality. Wash carrots to remove dirt. Rinse carrots with warm water for about 40 seconds and rub them gently with your hands or a soft cloth to remove most of the dirt and bacteria. If the carrots are not organic, remove the outer layer of skin by shaving with a paring knife or vegetable peeler.

Carrots can be eaten raw: either whole, chopped, or grated. Juice machines and extractors allow you to juice carrots and extract vital nutrients. You can use carrot juice as a marinade or drink it straight or mixed with other vegetable or fruit juices. Shredded raw carrots make great additions to salads. Combine shredded carrots with beets, radishes, tomatoes, kohlrabi, apples, and/or greens for a quick salad. Spiced carrot sticks are a flavorful variation on an old favorite at parties or at the dinner table. Soak carrot sticks in hot water spiced with cayenne, coriander seeds, and salt. Allow to cool, drain and serve. The greens are edible. Use them like parsley or chop them and add them to soups or salads.

Carrots can also be cooked or added recipes as an ingredient. While heating can often damage some of the delicate phytonutrients in vegetables, the beta-carotene in carrots is heat-stable and may actually become more bioavailable through well-timed steaming. Avoid overcooking carrots if you want to your carrots to retain their maximum flavor and strong overall nutritional value. Carrots can be boiled, baked, broiled or stir fried. To steam carrots, fill the bottom of the steamer with 2 inches of water and bring to a rapid boil. Slice carrots ¼-inch thick and steam for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. For more flavor, toss carrots with your favorite dressing.

Carrots blend well with vegetables like green beans, potatoes, and peas in variety of recipes either stewed, in curry, stir fries, or soups.  For quick, nutritious soup that can be served hot or cold, purée boiled carrots and potatoes in a blender or food processor, and add herbs and spices to taste.


This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s