Carrot (daucus carota) is a root vegetable belonging to the family Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), which also includes celery, cumin, fennel, parsley, etc. A carrot plant has green lacy leaves and a long, slender, orange root that is edible. The carrot root has a crunchy texture and a sweet taste.
Carrots are believed to have originated about 5000 years ago in the Middle Asia around Afghanistan, and the first cultivated carrots were purple and yellow fleshed cultivars. Orange carrots were developed by the Dutch in the middle ages and today, they are the most common ones.
There are over 100 different varieties of carrots throughout the world that range in size (from two inches to three feet) and colors (orange, purple, yellow, and white). Carrots are available all year round in grocery stores and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways; raw, steamed, boiled, baked, or even juiced.
Carrot is also a highly nutritious vegetable that contains a powerful antioxidant called beta-carotene. Many studies have shown that beta carotene is crucial for maintaining skin and eye health, enhancing immunity, and protecting the body against free radical damage.
In addition, carrots are good sources of vitamin B, C, D, E & K, as well as essential minerals such as potassium, magnesium, protein, calcium, iron, and zinc.
Nutritional Value of Carrots
Nutritional value of one cup chopped, raw carrots (128 g), according to the USDA.
Health Benefits of Carrots
1. Prevent cancer
Many studies shown that eating carrots may help lower the risk of breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer. Recently, researchers have isolated a compound called falcarinol in carrots that may be largely responsible for anti-cancer benefits.
Falcarinol is a natural pesticide found in carrots that protects roots from fungal diseases. In daily diet, carrots are almost the only source of these compounds. A study conducted on mice found that those who were fed with either raw carrots or falcarinol had one-third lower risk of developing colon cancer than mice did not fed with them.
2. Improve vision
The retina of the eye needs vitamin A to function. A lack of vitamin A can cause night blindness. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a substance which is converted to vitamin A in the liver. In the retina, vitamin A is transformed into rhodopsin, a purple pigment that necessary for night vision. In addition, beta-carotene help protect against macular degeneration and the development of senile cataracts. A study found that people who eat most beta-carotene had a 40 percent lower risk of macular degeneration than those who consumed little.
3. Prevent heart disease
Studies shown that a diet high in carotenoids are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Also, it is believed that regular consumption of carrots reduces LDL cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber in carrots can help lower blood cholesterol levels by binding with and removing bile acids, cholesterol triggers would be pulled out from the bloodstream to make more bile acids.
4. Reduce stroke risk
According to a research from Harvard University, people who ate more than six carrots a week are much less likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate only one carrot a month or more.
5. Nourish the skin
Carrot has a strong cleansing properties that are effective in detoxifying the liver, and thus very effective for treating acne that is caused by toxins from the blood. Carrot is also useful for treating uneven skin tones due to pigmentation. The vitamin A and other nutrients contained in carrot efficiently nourish the skin, prevent dry skin and other skin blemishes.
Carrots contain a lot of beta-carotene, which serves as an antioxidant that helps the body to fight against free radicals. It also help slows down the aging of cells and various negative effect associated with aging.
7. Maintain dental health
Carrots can also help clean your teeth after meals. They act as natural abrasives that help in eliminating dirt and plague from the teeth and gums. They’re also trigger a lot of saliva, which helps to scrub away stains on your teeth. The minerals contained in carrots helps to kill germs in the mouth and prevent tooth damage.
How to Select and Store Carrot
When buying carrots, look for bright-colored roots with a firm consistency. Avoid soft, flabby roots, with cuts or mold. Furthermore, choose medium sized carrots that taper at the ends. Larger-sized carrots may be woodier and tougher to eat.
Store carrots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Remove the tops if you’re not going to be eating them right away, as the greens will pull moisture from the roots.
Carrots are really an amazing vegetable as they have numerous health benefits and they are easy to add to your diet. Carrots, either as raw fruit juice or in cooked form are good for health.