My Favorite Food, Carrots!
Carrots have always been my favorite food because they are versatile and an easy, on-the-go snack. Not only do I love munching on carrots and hummus, but this vegetable also provides my body with essential nutrients to keep me healthy. Here’s why I think carrots are the ultimate super food, and maybe you should too!
Carrots are a popular root vegetable that is available to consumers year-round. Although carrots can be adequately stored in a refrigerator for many months, they are freshest during the summer and fall seasons. Carrots are best grown in sandy soils with full-sun conditions. To keep these vegetables from becoming infected, it is advised that they are grown in companion planting conditions. Companion planting around strong-odored plants such as onions and leeks are recommended to keep infectious flies and insects away from the growing carrots.
Carrots are a part of the Umbelliferae family, along with celery, parsnip, and parsley. These vegetables all have a flowering cluster, called an umbel, which is located on top of the taproot. The taproot is most commonly consumed which contains a pulpy, crisp cortex and core. Carrot taproots have a long cylindrical shape. There are many varieties of root lengths, widths, and colors of carrots. Lengths can vary from 2 to 20 inches, widths can vary from 0.5 to 4 inches, and colors can vary from orange (most common), red, black, white, and yellow.
All varieties of carrots are considered a highly nutrient-dense food because they contain high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin K, antioxidants, and fiber. Carrots are known for being rich in vitamin A, with 204% RAC value per 61g of carrots (approx. 1/2 cup). In order for the body to access the vitamin A, the liver must first convert the precursor, beta-carotene, into retinol, the active form of vitamin A. After conversion, the fat-soluble vitamin will be stored in the liver until it is needed by the body. Vitamin A acts as a phytonutrient antioxidant and will protect cells from free radicals which cause diseases, infections, and cancer. Research has found that there are cardiovascular benefits to a diet rich in vitamin A. Some cardio protective benefits of vitamin A include anti-inflammatory and anti-aggregatory properties which will decrease consumers’ chance of suffering from CVD, heart attack, or stroke. Additionally, the body uses vitamin K to help regulate blood clotting and prevent heart disease. Vitamin A deficiency is linked to vision impairment due to the deterioration of photoreceptors, therefore it is important to consume a diet rich in beta-carotene to maintain good eye health and vision. Lastly, carrots are high in soluble fiber, which aid in water absorption in the intestinal tract. Soluble fiber is needed by the body to bind to LDL cholesterol and eliminate it in stool. Ultimately, soluble fiber will regulate blood glucose levels, lower blood pressure, and protect the heart.
How to Enjoy
After washing and peeling the root of the carrot, the products can be consumed in a variety of forms, including: raw, cooked, chopped, sliced, or shredded. Carrots are commonly used on top of salads, pureed into juices, cut into sticks as a snack, or cooked for a tasty side dish. Steamed carrots has been found to be the healthiest form of carrots. Beta-carotene is heat-stable; therefore when heated, the compound will become more bioavailable to the body. Baby carrots are frequently purchased in grocery stores and are easy to throw in a bag for a quick on-the-go snack. Baby carrots are originally deformed, long carrots, and are then cut and peeled into the “baby” form. When packaging baby carrots, they are first peeled and placed in a chlorine bath to prevent food poisoning. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the packaging procedure and wash these carrots before eating.
A sweet, crunchy, healthier alternative to coleslaw. This recipe is an easy, colorful side-dish to bring to a summer cookout!
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
- 3 tablespoons walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, from one lemon
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, from one lemon
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, from one orange
- 1-1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
- 3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Toast walnuts- bake them on a sheet pan in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.
- Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Season to taste with salt, pepper and honey. Serve cold. Yields 4-6 servings.
About: At an early age I learned that I had a passion to learn about life sciences and the relationship between plants and humans. In college, I helped prepare and serve local-grown produce for market gardeners and market farmers. I graduated from Clemson in May 2016 with a B.S. degree in Food Science: Nutrition and Dietetics. Although I love learning about nutrition, I realized that it is more of an interest of mine, rather than a career path. Starting in August, I will be attending Clemson’s Accelerated Nursing Program. I would love to use my previous nutrition background to promote my patients to maintain a healthy living lifestyle. Through this blog, I hope to spark an interest in the farming community to learn more about the nutritional value of their products and to promote the benefits of buying fresh, delicious, and locally grown foods.
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