I have a diploma in vegan and vegetarian nutrition and enjoy experimenting with new recipes and ingredients.
Whether you love them or hate them carrots can provide us with a great number of health benefits. This versatile vegetable can be used in a range of ways including being serves raw in salads or as crudities, roasted boiled or stir fried. Carrots can and also used in many recipes including cakes, curries, juices and smoothies, stews and soups.
As well as the well-known orange variety, carrots can be found in other colours including purple, black and white. It is thought that the first carrots were purple or white in colour and that the popular orange varieties where not bred until the 16th century. Cultivation of the carrot is believed to have first started in Afghanistan around the 900s before later spreading to Spain in the 1100s and then Europe in the early 1600s. Even in these early times carrots were known for their health benefits as well as being a tasty food source but over time this information and practice has become largely forgotten. The popularity of today’s orange carrot is believed to be due to selective breeding by Dutch growers to represent the Dutch national and royal family colour.
Carrot Colours and Health
As well as the basic health benefits, carrots contain and variety of different nutrients based on their colour. Orange carrots are the type most commonly found but others such as yellow, purple and black are sometimes available in supermarkets or farmer’s markets. If you are unable to find these, carrots can be grown successfully at home without a huge amount of gardening knowledge, space or effort. If you do not have a garden, this nutritious vegetable can be grow in deep pots or you can opt for one of the shorter, baby or globe varieties such as Rondo. The seeds can be sown directly into the soil and do not heat to germinate. Some of carrots colour based health benefits include:
- Orange carrots are a rich source of the antioxidant beta-carotene. This can be converted in vitamin A by the body and has numerous benefits to health. Consuming foods that are rich in beta –carotene has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and oral and lung cancers. Vitamin A has many important roles within the body that include keeping the immune system healthy, improving vision and maintaining skin health.
- Yellow carrots contain a pigment that is similar to beta carotene called xanthophylls. This can be used by the body to fight age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
- Like tomatoes, red carrots contain lycopene. This carotenoid is known to be useful in fighting heart disease and cancers. It can also help to increase skin smoothness, maintain healthy blood pressure, protect against sunburn and to help in protecting against heart disease by stopping LDL cholesterol depositing in the arteries.
Purple carrots are coloured by a different pigment known as anthocyanins. This is a powerful antioxidant and may help slow blood clotting in those suffering with heart disease. Anthocyanin also possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-cancer benefits. This flavonoid is believed to improve cholesterol levels and fight against oxidative stress and so is beneficial in preventing heart disease.
Twenty Health Benefits of Carrots
1) Thanks to the high levels of beta carotene in carrots, they really do help you see in the dark. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A by the liver which is then used by the body to create rhodopsin, a pigment necessary for night vision.
2) Various studies have shown that eating carrots can help reduce the risk of developing lung, breast or colon cancer. This is believed to be due to that fact that carrots contain the natural pesticides falcarinol and falcarindol.
3) Carrots contain high levels of beta carotene which acts as an antioxidant. This can help slow down aging of cells in the body and also protect the skin from sun damage, wrinkling, acne, drying out and uneven skin tone.
4) Grated and mixed with honey carrots can be used as a face mask to improve skin health.
5) Regular consumption of carrots can help to lower cholesterol levels.
6) Eating a diet that is high in carotenoids has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
7) Carrots help to cleanse the body in two ways: Vitamin A assists the body in flushing out toxins and reduces levels of bile and fat in the liver while the fibre helps to clean out the colon and speed up waste removal.
8) Eating raw carrots can help keep your teeth clean and plaque free. Crunching the hard vegetable scrapes plaque and food particles from the teeth and stops them from causing bacteria build up and decay.
9) Research carried out at Harvard University found that people who ate more than six carrots a week where less likely to suffer a stroke.
10) Carrots are a rich source of potassium which can help relax blood vessels and arteries. This increases blood flow around the body and boosts organ function. Because of this carrots can help in cases of high blood pressure which in turn lessens the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
11) Carrots are a good source of vitamin C, which stimulates the activity of white blood cells and helps to boost the immune system.
12) Consuming beta carotene is believed to lower the risk of macular degeneration by as much as 40%.
13) Carrots stimulate the gums and the production of excess saliva. Saliva helps to combat the bacteria and trapped food particles that can lead to cavities, bad breath and other oral health problems.
14) The carotenoids present in carrots help to lower blood sugar and regulate the amount of insulin and glucose that is being used by the body.
15) Carrot juice is beneficial for stomach and gastrointestinal health.
16) Carrots are a rich source of vitamins B, C and E as well as vitamin A, copper, folic acid, thiamine and magnesium.
17) Carrots contain vitamin K which enables blood to be able to clot and contributes to bone strength and kidney health.
18) Internal organs are surrounded by tissues known as epithelial tissues, which are susceptible to cancerous growths. Beta carotene helps to maintain good epithelial tissue health.
19) Carrots can be enjoyed in a variety of recipes types so are an idea vegetable for restricted eaters as they are easily hidden in juices, cakes and purees or sauces.
20) Raw grated carrot can be used to help heal wounds and cuts and reduce inflammation.
Carrot and Coriander Soup Recipe
1 lb carrots, chopped.
1 small onion, finely chopped.
1 garlic clove, crushed.
3 ½ cups of vegetable stock.
Large bunch of coriander, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil.
Salt and pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in large saucepan. Add the chopped onion, garlic and carrots and cook gently for ten minutes.
2. Stir in the coriander and cook for one minute.
3. Add three quarters of the vegetable stock, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
4. Purée the soup in a blender or food processor. Stir in the remaining vegetable stock.
5. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
© 2014 Claire
Claire (author) from Lincolnshire, UK on August 30, 2014:
I don't know if there is a way to make their nutrients more available but I follow the general advice of not over cooking vegetables and leaving the skins on if possible (much of the nutrients are often just under the skin and skins can provide nutrients of their own as well). Juicing carrots can help to reduce the fibre consumed so that could be an option if you were worried about having to much fibre.
hazelbrown from Central PA on August 28, 2014:
Do you know if certain ways of cooking carrots makes their nutrients more available? Carrots have a lot of fiber which is indigestible, but they're also really nutritious. Hmm!