Its so easy to take carrots for granted. We all know that carrots are good for us; the carrot is arguably the most popular vegetable in the modern world, and it certainly does deserve a place in our daily cuisine. This article explores why. We’ll also bust a commonly held carrot myth or two along the way, whilst offering a delicious list of my favourite, easy, super-healthy recipe ideas, to inspire your carrot culinary adventures.
Carrots come in the orange, yellow, purple, white and red varieties, all with impressive health benefits. The original orange coloured carrots, with their sweet, earthy flavour, are thought to have come out of The Netherlands in the 16th century. These tasty root vegetables (along with parsnips, fennel, parsley, caraway and dill) belong to the Umbelliferae family (called so, because of the the umbrella-like flower clusters, that plants in this family produce).
Vitamin A and Beta-carotene
One medium sized carrot (about 75g) is said to give you a whopping 210% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for immune function, vision, reproduction, skin health and cellular communication. In the plant kingdom, carrots comes second only to sweet potatoes for their incredible vitamin A content. Carrots are an excellent source of provitamin A, containing the precursor to vitamin A in the form of carotenoids. The main provitamin A caroteoid, is beta-carotene, although alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin also play important roles. The body converts these elements into vitamin A, which is then metabolized into retinal and retinoic acid (the active forms of vitamin A) to support the vitamin’s important biological functions.
Antioxidants prevent cell damage from oxidative stress on the body. Carrots (of all varieties) contain very helpful levels of antioxidants, each with their own unique protective function. Beta-carotene is the most common, making an especially abundant appearance in orange carrots. You’ll also find antioxidants such as, alpha-carotene, lutein, caffeic acid, courmaric acid, ferulic acid and anthocyanindins in various admirable quantities in different varieties of carrots. What this impressive line up antioxidants really means, is that which ever variety of carrots you go for, you are giving yourself a super protective, antioxidant boost.
Is super-human carrot vision a myth?
Hands up if you grew up believing that eating lots of carrots will make you develop cats night vision? “Me!”…. like many of us. I grew up believing the carrots promoted super-human carrot vision. It turns out that the carrot vision myth started in world war 2. You’ll love this! The British press put out a story about the top night-time fighter pilot John ‘Cats Eyes’ Cunningham, claiming that his cats-eye precision at night, was due to carrots. So began the myth; so much so, that people started eating more carrots in the belief that they’d see better during the blackouts. It turns out that, it was actually a fabricated story to disguise the fact that they were using new radar technology to locate the bombers!
Are carrots good for eye health at all?
Super-vision may well be a myth, however, it is true that carrots can promote healthy eyes. According to whfoods.com…
“researchers at the Jules Stein Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles determined that women who consume carrots at least twice per week – in comparison to women who consume carrots less than once per week – have significantly lower rates of glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve often associated with excessive pressure inside the eye).”
Various studies have also shown that eye deterioration due to vitamin A deficiency in developing countries can be rectified by vitamin A supplementation. In addition to that, vitamin A is known to be essential for vision function as a component of rhodopsin (a protein that absorbs light in the retinal receptors), and because it supports the functioning of the conjunctival membranes and cornea. There are lots of reasons to suggest that carrots do indeed support eye health.
Cardiovascular benefits of carrots
The most studied health benefits of carrots appears to be in relation to the cardiovascular system. Whfoods report some fascinating findings from a 10 year study in The Netherlands. The study clearing shows a greatly reduced risk in cardiovascular disease in people who consumed carrots on a daily basis. It is thought that the powerful antioxidant quantities in carrots is, at least in part, responsible for the cardiovascular protective nature of these vegetables.
A study in 2011 showed that carrot extracts stopped the growth of leukemia cells, suggesting that carrot may be an excellent source of bioactive chemicals for the treatment of leukemia.
Carrots shown to be a promising deterrent for prostate cancer
According the the European Journal of Nutrition; studies spanning all over the world, show that men who include carrots in their diet, show a significant decrease in instances of prostate cancer. It is thought that this may be because of the high carotenoid content. A Harvard study also showed that diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer.
The importance of organic carrots and not peeling away the skins
Organic carrots almost always taste better than their non-organic cousins. They are richer in taste, nutrients and don’t come laden with harmful pesticides. The highest concentration of nutrients is found right under the skin, so just wash your carrots and leave the skins on. I always buy organic and never peel my carrots.
Delicious carrot recipes for optimal health
Carrots are so versatile. You can eat them raw in a salad, use them to dunk in a dip, bake them, add them to soups and stews or incorporate them into many tasty dishes. Here are some of my favourite ways to enjoy carrots. Click on the links or images to go to the recipes…
This is a popular, surprisingly light, nut roast alternative, using carrots and sunflower seeds.
A very healthy, gluten-free dish.
Easy to make.
I’ve been making raw carrot cake as long as I can remember.
This is based on an original recipe that I created over 15 years ago.
Everyone loves it. It’s an absolutely delicious way to use carrots.
No baking required.
Carrots make the perfect ingredient in this soup.
This is my favourite carrot soup recipe. It includes other super
health-affirming ingredients such as fresh ginger, coconuts and lentils.
Carrots play an exciting role in these falafel burgers.
They complement the chickpeas, cumin, coriander and
garlic whilst acting to moisten and help bind everything together.
I eat carrots in one way, shape or form on a daily basis.
They make such a valuable addition to a salad with a sweet, crunchy bite.
Juicing is an excellent way to unleash the potent benefits of carrots.
This juice is an excellent way to include these super healthy vegetables
into your weekly rhythm.
This is a very special salad with almond butter dressing. Jam packed with nutritional goodness and just the sort of thing I enjoy for lunch.
“Enlightenment by Carrot Cake” (below) is a very special carrot cake recipe using spelt flour. It is also free from refined sugar and made without eggs or dairy. It has been tried and tested over many years on the retreats and courses that I have catered for, and is an all time favourite. It is deliciousness at it’s absolute finest! The recipe is available in my original book Trinity’s Conscious Kitchen (available now as an ebook).
I do hope that this has inspired you to explore deeper levels of health and wellness.
Enjoy your carrots.
- Carrots & Night Vision: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2005/10/26/1392430.htm
- Nutrition of carrots: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2383/2