Here’s the beauty of it all. You can enjoy these sensory pleasures in a versatile vegetable that’s considered one of the world’s healthiest foods.
According to a scientist at Tufts University, “Carrots are so much a part of our diet that their health benefits may have been overlooked.” Well, no more! In this post, we’ll bring the health benefits of carrots front of mind, many of which exist because of this vegetable’s carotenoids.
Carotenoids are pigments that help to keep plants healthy, considered a phytonutrient (plant chemical). These chemicals help plants to absorb the light energy they need through the photosynthesis process.
And, when people eat foods containing this plant pigment, they can receive health benefits, as well. Carotenoids are the type of pigment that gives certain fruits and vegetables their red, yellow and orange coloring. And, according to the University of California, Berkeley, carrots are a prime source of them.
The following types of carotenoids are among the most studied for their health benefits:
And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to carotenoids and health. That’s because there are in fact more than 600 types! Here’s a resource if you want more in-depth information about carotenoids.
“Carrots are undoubtedly one of the most nutritious vegetables you will find in your kitchen. The richness of its color is well complemented with the several macronutrients and micronutrients that this vegetable carries.” (Hippocrates Health Institute)
Adding carrots to your diet can make good sense when you want to manage optimal blood pressure. That’s because of its rich sources of potassium and sodium, the Hippocrates Health Institute says. Daily consumption of carrots can help to prevent plaque buildup in arteries; when build up occurs, it can increase the risk of heart attacks or stroke.
This institute cites a study using animals from the European Journal of Nutrition that showed how cholesterol can be regulated by eating carrots. Researchers concluded that was because of the carotenoids found in carrots, along with vitamin C and polyphenols.
Nutrients found in carrots may play a role in fighting cancer, as well. Here’s how. A variety of cancers can be triggered by something called oxidative stress, and this can be counteracted by antioxidants, such as those found in carrots. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition focused specifically on how consumption of carrots can help to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Then there is the vitamin A found in carrots, which can help prevent certain vision problems, while also helping to improve how well you can see in low lighting. When it comes to oral health, carrots help to trigger saliva, which can protect you from mouth diseases.
Plus, the high fiber in carrots helps with digestive tract health, while its low glycemic rating means that they can be included in the diets of people with diabetes. In fact, carrot carotenoids help to regulate glucose.
Is it any surprise, then, that carrots are included in the list of the World’s Healthiest Foods? This site notes how people who eat at least one serving a day of yellow/orange foods—which clearly includes carrots—or green vegetables had a healthier bone mass.
“What was most striking to us about this study,” the site reads, “was the relatively small amount of yellow/green vegetables associated with bone-health benefits. Through this research, we were reminded about how much can be accomplished with relatively small changes in a meal plan, especially changes that incorporate foods as rich in beta-carotene as carrots.”
Plus, the World’s Healthiest Foods’ site also discussed a carrot component called polyacetylenes. Carrots can take their own fatty acids to convert them into these substances, and that protects the carrot plant from bacteria and fungi. When carrots are eaten, lab and animal studies have shown that these polyacetylenes have anti-cancer properties. More specifically, studies have been done to see how these substances can help to prevent lymphocytic leukemia and colorectal cancer.
“Carrot tops are a nutritious and versatile ingredient that can be used to replace herbs in all kinds of dishes . . . they are rich in nutrients, containing around six times more vitamin C than the root, as well as lots of potassium, calcium and phytonutrients.” (The Guardian)
We absolutely loved reading this, as we’re a huge advocate of using fresh vegetables from root to tip. To help you take full advantage of the flavor and nutrition found in carrot tops, here is Chef Jamie Simpson’s recipe for Carrot Puree.
Remove carrot tops and set them aside for use later.’
Poach carrots in a circulator along with some kind of fat (oil/butter).
Blend cooked carrots in a blender.
Remove the mixture from the blender.
Pass the mixture through chinois (a cone-shaped fine mesh sieve).
Remove air in a vacuum machine. This suctions air and compresses the pureed mixture inside a plastic pouch.
Poach white carrots in the circulator.
Blanch carrot tops.
Blend cooked white carrots in blender.
Add blanched carrot tops to blender, along with white carrots, and blend.
Pass the mixture through chinois.
Remove air in the vacuum machine.
Mixed Carrots: Vegetable of the Year
As the year 2019 is coming to a close, this means we’re wrapping up when mixed carrots have been serving as the vegetable of the year. The reasons we made this choice, though, will continue to be true in 2020, 2030 and far beyond that.
One of these reasons is because carrots are bursting with health benefits, available in a rainbow of hues. Nutritionists strongly encourage us to eat the rainbow because different colors of fruits and veggies come with different phytochemicals and the nutritional benefits that are associated with them.
Today’s Dietician, for example, says that “including a variety of colors in one’s diet seems to equal better overall health, especially in relation to produce. ‘Epidemiological research suggests that food patterns that include fruits and vegetables are associated with lower risk for some diseases.’”
Purple foods contain anthocyanin, which is “particularly heart healthy and may help support healthy blood pressure . . . [and] may also help lower risk of cancer.”
Yellow/orange foods, meanwhile, are especially beta-carotene-rich, “integral for vision and immune function, as well as skin and bone health,” and “may also play a part in preventing cancer . . . and may also reduce the risk of heart disease.”
MedicalNewsToday.com says that carrots are in fact the “ultimate health food” and, at The Chef’s Garden, you can order a rainbow-full of fresh carrots, all in one place.
Another key reason why we chose mixed carrots as our 2019 vegetable of the year is its flavor, with fresh carrots having an earthy yet sweet flavor that’s delicious when cooked or raw. Different varieties of carrots can come with differing colors, shapes and sizes, along with subtly different flavor profiles—with our mixed carrot product offering you the best of the day’s harvest.
Purple carrots, for example, like our dragon carrots, can have an especially sweet flavor, with this variety offering up a marvelous herbal finish. Yellow carrots, as another example, add a mildly delicious flavor to dishes, nutty without the earthiness of other varieties. If you’re looking for an earthy dry flavor, consider carrot tops to create pesto, salsa and more that has flavors reminiscent of carrot.
Oh, That Crunch!
Experts are increasingly recommending mindful eating for better health. They recommend that we focus on each bite, getting enjoyment from every one. To quote WebMD.com, “Enjoy the aroma, savor every bite, eat slowly, and chew each mouthful thoroughly for maximum pleasure. Mindful eating is slower eating. And because foods with crunch and texture take longer to eat, they may lead to greater satisfaction than softer foods.”
Let’s face it. It’s hard to picture a food that offers a more satisfying crunch than fresh, raw carrots.
Carrots can add their flavor and nutritional punch in a wide variety of culinary applications, from baked to boiled, pulped to pureed, fried, grated, steamed, mashed, dehydrated, and more. They’re delicious in soups, stews and salads, and outstanding raw—with or without intriguing dips—and serve as an excellent ingredient in smoothies.
Plus, they play a partnership role in one of history’s greatest pairings: peas and carrots. Separately, they each provide a powerful punch of flavor and nutrition. Combined, “they become a powerhouse of antioxidants and nutrients.”
Low in calories (a cup of peas and a cup of carrots, together, have only 167 calories, with barely any fat), they provide 16 percent of men’s daily protein intake and 19 percent for women—and, combined, they offer four different carotenoids.
Back to just carrots! Because chefs are increasingly using veggie-based carbs, rather than traditional ones, this opens up a whole new vista for how you use carrots. To help, the Center for Science in the Public Interest shares one of their favorite carb-changing tips; to “replace pasta with veggie spirals made from zucchini, carrot, or turnips. You name it, you can spiralize it.”
Quick Look Back in Time
The reality is that people have appreciated carrots for a long time. A really long time.
Seeds from wild carrot have been found from about 10,000 years ago and, about 5,000 years ago, carrots were being cultivated in today’s Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. Early on, people preferred to grow purple and yellow carrots. Ancient Romans and Greeks used wild carrot as a form of medicine, with the latter culture believing that cultivated carrots were more edible but less medicinal.
In 795, King Charlemagne listed carrots as a plant he wanted grown in Europe and, for centuries, carrots and parsnips were a dietary staple for the typical person of the era, in part because they were easy to grow; and, in part, because you could store them easily during winter months.
By the end of the Dark Ages, Arabs shared purple, red and yellow carrots with Europeans, with a cookbook from around 950 A.D. containing more than 600 carrot recipes, including ones for red-orange, white, and yellow carrots. By 1100 A.D., people admired the sugar content of carrots and used them in desserts, plus jams and syrups. This increased the ways in which this vegetable was being used, a harbinger of today’s diverse culinary landscape.
Carrots are being used in a wide variety of creative dishes at restaurants and in home kitchens around the country and the world. So, when it comes time for people to choose which carrots to purchase, we often get asked the following from potential customers: why should I buy product from The Chef’s Garden and what sets your farm apart?
We are proud of the outstanding reputation we have developed over the past thirty years as a company renowned for its noteworthy customer service and the production of exceptional specialty and heirloom vegetables, herbs, microgreens and edible flowers grown for the world’s most esteemed and innovative chefs and restaurants who turn to us for the highest quality products available anywhere.
On a daily basis, we hand-harvest, pick-to-order and ship product to you overnight to assure that you receive the freshest, most vibrant and flavorful produce available. This is our efficiently shipped Earth to Table® promise that ensures ultimate freshness, incredible flavor and prolonged shelf-life, resulting in less waste for your business. We encourage you to compare our direct-from-the-farm products to those with a local supplier who is potentially fulfilling your order with products sourced elsewhere and stored for days in a warehouse before they are delivered to your door. We are confident that you will find our fresh vegetables, microgreens, herbs and edible flowers to be the freshest and most flavorful anywhere.