Why We Need To Eat More Carrots!
The Health Benefits...What To Look For When Buying...How To Store, Prepare and Serve

Mama always said" Eat your carrots"

The carrot is actually a root that grows underground with fern like leaves that grow above ground. They belong to the same family as caraway, fennel, parsnips, cumin and dill.

There are over 100 different varieties that vary in size and color. They can be as small as a couple of inches, while some have grown to be more than 35 inches. They can be very thin, yet some can be more than 2 inches in diameter. They have a firm, crunchy texture with a sweet, rich taste. While the green portion is edible, it has a bitter taste.

Health Benefits

Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber, and potassium. They provide a high level source of antioxidants with the highest level vegetable source of vitamin A and beta carotenes. They help protect against heart disease and cancer, and also help to promote good vision, including our vision at night.

Carotenoids and Heart Disease
When six epidemiological studies were conducted, the research demonstrated that diets high in carotenoids could be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. In one study that examined the diets of 1,300 elderly persons, who had at least one serving of carrots and or squash each day, had a greater than 55% reduction in their chances of having a heart attack compared to those who ate less than one serving of these foods with high carotenoid content.

Better Vision
Beta-carotene helps to keep vision at an optimal level, especially night vision. With its antioxidant level, carrots will help provide protection against macular degeneration along with cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Carotenoids and Optimal Health
Carrots are by far one of the richest source of carotenoids. A high carotenoid intake has been linked with up to 50% decrease in the incidence of cancers of the larynx, esophagus, bladder, cervix, prostate and colon, and up to a 20% decrease in postmenopausal breast cancer. Extensive human studies suggest that a diet including as little as one of these orange vegetables per day could conceivably cut the rate of lung cancer in half. A recent National Cancer Institute study found lung cancer occurred more frequently in men whose diets did not supply a healthy intake of alpha-carotene.

Carotenoids and Blood Sugar
Intake of foods such as carrots that are rich in carotenoids may be beneficial to blood sugar regulation. Research has suggested that physiological levels as well as dietary intake of carotenoids may be inversely associated with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.

Promote Lung Health
If you or someone you love is a smoker, or if you are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke, then making vitamin A rich foods, such as carrots, part of your healthy way of eating may save your life.

Purchasing and Storing Carrots

This vegetable should be firm, even textured, straight, and bright in color. The darker orange color will indicate the most beta-carotene. If they do not have their tops attached, look at the stem end and ensure that it is not dark in color, as this is a sign of age. If the tops are attached, they should be bright in color and crisp. Sugars are concentrated in the center core, and as a rule the larger the size, the larger the core and the sweeter they'll be.

These are hardy vegetables and will keep longer than many others if stored properly. The trick to preserving the freshness of them is to minimize the amount of moisture they lose. To do this, make sure to store them in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a damp paper towel, which will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form. They should be able to keep fresh for about two weeks. Keep them away from other fruits and vegetables, as they will cause the carrots to taste bitter.

If you purchase carrots with the tops on, they should be removed before storing. This is because the green tops will use up the moisture from them and cause them to become soft and wilted.

Tips for Preparing and Serving Carrots

  • Wash their roots and gently scrub them with a vegetable brush right before eating. If the stem end is green, it should be cut away because it is bitter.
  • Cooking them will not effect the beta-carotene! In fact, cooking will help break down the fiber, making this nutrient and carrots' sugars more available and will make them taste sweeter. As with any vegetable, do not overcook carrots in order to help them maintain their flavor and nutritional content.
  • They are excellent for salads and as a decorative garnish.
  • They are delicious eaten raw or cooked.
  • Shred them and add to salads for color and flavor.
  • Slice carrots thin, add butter to a sautee pan, and slowly fry to a golden brown.
  • Carrot sticks can be soaked in salt water with a variety of herbs and spices to be used as party snacks.

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