We all know the animated cartoon character Bugs Bunny and his love for carrots. Well, he isn’t the only one who enjoys eating carrots!
Because of their subtle sweet taste and their crunchy texture, carrots are certainly one of the more popular vegetables in America. They’re also super versatile. Rinse them and you can eat them raw, cook them in a savory dish or even bake them in a dessert! Carrot juice is also widely used in commercialized health drinks.
Usually we see orange carrots in the grocery store and farmer’s market, but did you know they also exist as red, purple, white, and yellow varieties too? The phytochemicals, which have protective and disease preventive properties, are the plant chemicals that give many fruits and vegetables, including carrots, their distinctive color. You may have heard that beta-carotene, which is the orange pigment in carrots, helps to improve eyesight? You may have also heard that this carrot characteristic also helps you to see in the dark… unfortunately that one is simply a myth. However eating carrots may help you see in the dark only if you’re already deficient in vitamin A, since our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A. Each pigment indicates a different phytochemical with different disease-fighting properties. Purple carrots contain anthocyanin. Red carrots contain lycopene, and yellow carrots contain xanthophylls. Carrots are also a good source of fiber and vitamin C.
In general, carrots are not particularly high in antioxidants. With that said, there are several ways to reap the most nutrients from this root vegetable. Carrots actually increase in antioxidant power when they’re cooked, regardless of the cooking method. The only exception to that would be the cooking method of frying, simply because the negatives of empty calories outway the positives.
Another good top, try opting for whole carrots, rather than buying “baby carrots”. The baby carrots sold in bags at the grocery store are actually whole carrots that have been peeled and cut into uniform cylinders. They’ve become a popular ready-to-eat snack food, but these pencil-sharpened carrots are about 20 percent lower in beta-carotene. Don’t get me wrong, baby carrots are still an excellent source of this nutrient. However they are just not as nutrient-dense as their whole carrot counterpart. Plus buying the whole carrots and chopping them into smaller pieces is cheaper overall!
Did you know you can eat the tops of carrots too? They are slightly more bitter, but they happen to be loaded with potassium. Try adding them raw to a salad or cook them with your next stir fry or soup instead of tossing them in the trash.
So next time you go grocery shopping, try picking up a bunch of delicious whole carrots and adding them to your next meal!
Ashley is a registered dietitian and a licensed dietitian in the state of Texas. She graduated from Framingham State University, majoring in nutrition and dietetics and she completed her dietetic internship at the University of Connecticut. (more)