Why you definitely should eat carrots
By Nick Rose, M.S., PCC Nutrition Educator
This article was originally published in October 2012
The original heirloom varieties of carrots found at markets a few hundred years ago were more likely to be red, yellow, or purple than the orange carrots we usually find today. It is encouraging that we are starting to see more heirloom varieties returning to the marketplace, because these beautiful colors don’t just brighten up your party platter (or dinner plate), the same compounds that give each carrot its unique color also offer us some pretty sweet nutritional benefits. Crunching on carrots ensures that we will get an extremely high content of carotenes in our diets. Carotenes are a very large family of antioxidant nutrients found in all red, orange and yellow vegetables and fruits. The red/orange/yellow-colored veggies are the second most important group of veggies we should be consuming (after greens) and also the second most deficient in the American diet.
Orange carrots are well known for their beta-carotene content, while yellow carrots contain another carotene called lutein. Red and purple carrots provide additional carotenes, all of which can help prevent cancers and heart disease when we regularly consume these colorful foods.
Carotenes are better absorbed when the carrots are chopped, pureed and lightly cooked. Raw carrots will still contain carotenes, they just aren’t as readily absorbed as after cooking. Adding some fat (salad dressing, nut butter, olive oil) will further maximize your body’s absorption of these carotenes.
The natural sugars in carrots get stored in the center of the carrot, and the longer that carrots stay in the soil — the fatter they get, because more of these natural sugars are produced and stored in a central “sugar tube.” So if you are looking for the sweetest-tasting carrots, look for the fattest carrots in the bin (peeling your carrots also can enhance their sweetness, although peeling is unnecessary for organic carrots). PCC shoppers rave about Nash’s Organic carrots year after year, the unique variety that he grows, combined with the magical Dungeness soil, creates what many loyal PCC shoppers lovingly refer to as “carrot candy.”
3 delicious ways to boost your beta carotene
Carrot Almond Paté
Spread on crackers, stuff into a pita with vegetables, or serve as a dip for cucumber rounds, celery and other veggies. Tip: It tastes even better Day 2, when the flavors have had extra time to meld. Get recipe »
Curried Cauliflower, Carrots and Potatoes
Enjoy as a rich side dish or a satisfying entrée. Make it heartier by adding a cup of chickpeas or cubes of tofu. Serve over rice with a side of salad. Get recipe »
PCC Hijiki Salad
This black seaweed is a rich source of iron, protein, calcium, zinc and iodine. Add carrots, and this slightly crunchy delight is good to look at and good for you. Don’t feel like cooking? Call ahead to your local PCC Deli to see if it’s available for immediate enjoyment. Get recipe »