Keep calm and… carrot on!
Allow us to introduce you to the world’s most humble root vegetable, the carrot. It is crunchy, sweet, tasty, incredibly versatile, and highly nutritious. You can have them raw or cooked, and it even comes in many different colours! Sounds almost too good to be true! Because of this, carrots have earned a special spotlight on the 4th April, known as International Carrot Day.
What do carrots stem from… exactly?
Carrots (or the Daucus carota for a more scientific name) are root vegetables in the Apiaceous family, which also includes celery, parsnip, parsley, coriander, and fennel.
Carrots are one of the most widely used root vegetables in the world. Because they are relatively easy to grow, they are widely used in many dishes and deeply rooted in many cultural cuisines. Carrots were first grown about 5,000 years ago in Asia and have become a favourite vegetable for many people today.
The nutritional benefits of carrots
Rich source of carotenoids
As their name suggests, carrots are rich in plant compounds called carotenoids. Carotenoids help keep the immune system nice and strong, and are important for our skin and healthy ageing.
My guess is that the first thing you thought of when you think of the nutritional value of carrots is that it improves your eyesight. Turns out, there is an element of truth to this old wives’ tale. The antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, in carrots enhance eye health by protecting the retina. Carotenoids may also reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Vitamin C in carrots is important for immune system support and healing. Vitamin A also supports the immune system and helps the formation and protection of cell membranes that act as barriers to keep germs out of the body.
Helps balance blood sugar
The small amount of natural sugars paired with their fibre content gives carrots a low glycaemic index. Low glycaemic foods are less likely to cause a blood sugar spike, which is better for diabetics. Low sugar, high-fibre foods like carrots may help in the prevention of Type 2 diabetes and help in the management of blood sugar.
5 fun facts about carrots
Did you know…
The longest carrot ever grown in history so far measured around 6 metres long
It takes around 4 months for carrots to finish growing
Carrots are 88% water
Baby carrots aren’t actually a type of carrot – they are either immature carrots or pieces of a larger carrot that have been cut off
Carrots have seeds! The seeds come from small white flowers that grow from the ground
Taste the carrot rainbow
Can you guess how many different colours carrots come in? Whatever their colour, all carrots are filled with nutrients!
Orange Carrots: The colour that probably comes to mind when you think of carrots. Orange carrots are higher in beta-carotene, an antioxidant pigment. Did you know that eating lots and lots of orange carrots can briefly turn your skin orange?
Yellow Carrots: These also contain beta-carotene and lutein that help shield cells from damage.
Red Carrots: Provides biotin, fibre, potassium, vitamins K, B6 and C, and a trace element molybdenum, an essential mineral just like iron.
Purple Carrots: These have more of the carotenoid anthocyanin, known to help with inflammation and obesity.
White Carrots: These may lack any colour, but they’re certainly not lacking any nutrition. Their high fibre content will help ease your digestion.
Storing, preparing and eating carrots
How to store carrots
Store carrots in a cool, dry place
Remove the green tops of carrots to increase their storage life
You can store carrots in the refrigerator crisper in airtight or zip-lock bags for up to several weeks
Freezing carrots is an option if you don't want to use them immediately (You can freeze cooked or uncooked carrots)
Always wash off the visible dirt on carrots The skin of carrots can be eaten for extra fibre and when washed well
How to prepare carrots
Add shredded or chopped raw carrots to overnight oats, salads, or slaws
Use raw carrots with dips (hummus, tzatziki) or peanut butter
Add carrots to fresh pressed juices or smoothies
Steam carrots or toss them into your favourite stir-fry, soup, or stew
Try carrots oven-roasted, brushed with olive oil, salt, and pepper
Try incorporating carrots into desserts, including carrot cake, cookies, pies
How to eat Carrots
The moment we’ve all been waiting for… How to eat carrots! Here are some fun ideas to include more carrots in your day – try these at home:
Carrot ginger soup
Maple bacon carrots
Carrots in a blanket
Oatmeal carrot cookies
Carrot cake dip
Spiced carrot pie
Did you know?
Carrots are healthiest when eaten raw or lightly steamed! You actually get the most out of the carrot’s nutritional value if you cook them. Raw carrots only release around 3% of their nutritional value once digested by the human body, while cooking carrots increases the amount of nutrition released during digestion up to 39%.
So, what are you waiting for? Stock up on carrots and make most of its health benefits with every delicious bite! At OSCAR Care Group, we really carrot-bout your health and wellbeing, so feel free to reach out to one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians!