Naturally sugary, delicious and crunchy, carrots are healthy additions you can make to the vegetable list of your diet. Indeed, these root vegetables come with wholesome health benefiting compounds such as beta-carotenes, falcarinol, vitamin A, minerals and anti-oxidants in ample amounts.
Botanically they are the taproots belonging in the Apiaceae or umbelliferous family in the genus; Daucus. Scientific name: Daucus carota. The other close Apiaceae members include parsnips, parsley, dill, cumin, etc.
Carrots-Daucus carota, European type.
Note for bright orange color and
|Note for different color carrots!
Photo courtesy: wordridden
Daucus carota is cultivated across the world for its prized taproot. It is biennial and bears flowers during second year of life. However, in general, the whole plant is harvested much prematurely without wait for the bloom when its root reaches about an inch in diameter, tender and juicy.
|Asian (oriental) variety.
Note for Saffron red
color and tail like
tapering lower ends.
Carrots vary widely in color and shape depending up on the cultivar types. Generally, oriental taproots are long, featuring flat upper end with tapering, tail like, lower ends. They are winter season crops in many parts of Asia.
European carrots, on the other hand, have more rounded blunt ends with almost as a cylindrical body. In addition, European-variety feature bright orange color in contrast to saffron colored Asian cultivars.
Sweet and crunchy carrots are notably rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and dietary fiber. 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 contains 8285 µg of beta-carotene and 16706 IU of vitamin A. Studies have found that flavonoid compounds in carrots may offer protect from skin, lung and oral cavity cancers.
Carotenes converted into vitamin A in the liver cells. Beta-carotene is the major carotene present in these roots. Beta carotene is one of the powerful natural anti-oxidant that helps protect human body from harmful oxygen-free radical injury. In addition, it also carry out all the functions of vitamin-A such as maintaining good eye health, reproduction (sperm production), maintenance of epithelial integrity, growth and development.
Carrots are rich in poly-acetylene antioxidant, 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 the body maintain healthy connective tissue, teeth and gum. Its anti-oxidant property helps the human body protect from diseases and cancers by scavenging action on harmful free radicals.
In addition, they are especially rich in many B-complex groups 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.
Further, They also compose 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.
|Fresh carrots and green bell peppers in a market.
Fresh carrots can be 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. Furthermore, avoid very large-sized roots as they can be an indication of overmaturity, ensuing poor eating quality.
Undue exposure of carrot to sunlight would result in greenish discoloration near its top end because of chlorophyll photo-pigment deposition. Although this may not affect on health badly, however, the condition may diminish its sweet taste. Avoid forking or twisting carrots as they may be the indication of either disease infestation or close crop cultivation.
Once at home, wash them thoroughly in cold water to remove dirt, soil, or insecticide/fungicides. Generally, the top greens are severed from the root before storing in the vegetable 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.
Wash carrots thoroughly before use. Trim both ends; gently scrape off outer skin and smaller hairy roots. The younger roots have crispy, pleasant taste with rich flavor. Raw carrots are naturally sweet and juicy; however, boiling them in water for few minutes enhances the bioavailability of nutrients.
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh carrots can be enjoyed as they are, or can be used raw in vegetable as well as fruit salads.
Carrot juice is a refreshing drink, enjoyed either alone or with fruit/vegetable juice.
The root is also used in the preparation of cakes, tart, pudding, soups, borscht, etc.
They are also used in the preparation of healthy baby-foods.
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Visit here for very informative pages on:-
Research articles on nutrition.
1. Refer Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.
3. BBC News.