Everything you need to know about carrots... juicingpedia style!
Carrots are leafy, fern-like plants with a long tap root. The carrot gets its name from the Greek root word “karoton” with a root syllable which means “horn.” It is primarily the root of this plant, which is usually orange and horn-shaped, that our culture considers edible. However, the root of this plant ,in earlier times, was largely disregarded. Carrots were first grown for their medicinal properties as an aromatic herb. It was the leaves and seeds that were considered to be the most useful. Part of the reason for that is because the first known strains of wild carrots had tough and woody roots, making it difficult to eat.
Historians trace the earliest existence of wild carrots to the area we now know as Afghanistan, as far back as 5,000 years. In the 8th to 10th centuries, the domesticated carrot was introduced to Europe, specifically the Mediterranean areas of Greece and Rome. But carrots looked much different then. The color of a carrot varied greatly, the various hues include: white, yellow, purple, red and even black. The particular hybridization of orange carrots was cultivated by the Dutch during the 1500’s through a process of cross-breeding red and yellow varieties. Throughout history, different colored strains of carrots have been favored by different cultures throughout the world.
The flavor of a carrot is determined by the compounds of sugar and terpenoids. The terpenoids are the source of the somewhat bitter flavor of a carrot. When the terpenoids are broken down by the cooking process, the natural sweetness is enhanced. Carrots that are mature when days are warm and nights are chilly will have less terpenoid s, making their flavor the sweetest. Carrots with more bitter flavor will be found when they are harvested too early or in carrots that are too large and too old.
Carrots have a satisfying flavor that can be explained as somewhat nutty and slightly sweet. It is satisfying to the palate with a spectrum of earthy flavors and sweetness. Words like peppery, nutty and spicy are often used in combination with sweet, to describe the flavors.
The flavor and sugar content of carrots changes with the color and variety. Red and orange carrots have about the same flavor. Purple carrots are really orange on the inside. They are extremely sweet and may even have a slightly peppery taste. White carrots are mild tasting and even sweeter than orange, purple or red carrots.
The enhanced sweetness of carrots after cooking, makes them an ideal cooked dish. The best way to cook them is steamed or boiled with minimal water. Too much water leaches the flavor and nutrients. Never cook so long that the texture is mushy. Carrots that are cooked to the “crisp –tender” stage are ideal for use in cold marinated and pasta salads or in Asian cooking. Cooking carrots until they are at the tender stage and then serving them with a little butter and seasonings is an ideal way to prepare a hot vegetable side dish.
Carrots are often served raw for dipping as a finger food. Their raw crispy sweetness is utilized well by grating and adding to salads or making into a salad itself. Carrots can be chopped, diced, or grated in a variety of ways to be used in hot dishes like stews, casseroles, pies, and soup. The high sugar content of this vegetable also makes it an ideal foundation for many sweet deserts like carrot cake and carrot pudding.
The amount of various nutrients in a carrot is dependent on the variety. Antioxidant content is higher when a plant has a greater intensity of color. Red and purple carrots have a greater amount of lycopene and anthocyanin. Orange carrots are rich in beta carotene, giving it the color, and are abundant with Vitamin A. Lutein amounts are high in yellow carrots. Lutein is beneficial in maintaining eye health.
The whole carrot plant offers exceptional nutritional value. Too often, the fern-like tops end up in the garbage. Most people are unaware that carrot tops are flavorful as well as packed with chlorophyll, vitamin K and potassium. The leafy part can be chopped as an accent for many dishes and used much in the same way as parsley. While the stems might be a little too tough for eating raw in salads, they are excellent additions to fresh juicing mixtures or pulverized in smoothies.
The phytonutrients found in the root of this plant have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. Some of these phytonutrients are called polyacetylenes and carotenoids. They work synergistically in the body to create a multitude of benefits. The abundant antioxidant and fiber properties in carrots make them good at fighting inflammation. The abundance of B vitamins help the body regulate blood pressure and circulation, offering impressive cardo-vascular benefits.
Other nutrients deposited by Mother Nature into the carrot are Pro-Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E (Alpha-Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Vitamin B1 and Vitamin B6 (Niacin, Folate). Because carrots are grown in deep soil, they absorb a great amount of minerals like magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, potassium, selenium, iron, zinc, copper, biotin, organic sodium and others in trace amounts.
All of these compounds work syngergistically to offer a multitude of health benefits. These include increased energy, lower blood pressure and prevention of heart disease and stroke. Carrots strengthen the immune system. They eliminate skin blemishes and decrease mental fatigue. Carrots improve the quantity of breast milk and boosts libido. Carrots also do a great job of clearing nasal congestion and protecting against glaucoma.
CARROTS NUTRITION CHART
Value per 100.0g
|Total lipid (fat)||g||0.24||0.31|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||g||9.58||12.26|
|Fiber, total dietary||g||2.8||3.6|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||mg||5.9||7.6|
|Vitamin A, RAE||mcg_RAE||835||1069|
|Vitamin A, IU||IU||16706||21384|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)||mg||0.66||0.84|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||µg||0.0||0.0|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||µg||13.2||16.9|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||g||0.037||0.047|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated||g||0.014||0.018|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated||g||0.117||0.150|
It is possible for the body to get too much of a good thing when it comes to carrots. Excessive intake of carotene can result in a person’s skin color turning orange. If that happens, its easy to reverse the pigmentation problem by reducing one’s intake of carrots or carrot juice. It is also possible for the liver to become toxic with high levels of Vitamin A. But it is rare that anyone consumes the quantities of carrots that would be necessary to develop this problem.
Eight to ten ounces of carrot juice is the limit to what the human body can digest at a given time safely. Allow one hour before consuming additional doses of juice.
One other fact to be concerned with is the high amount of natural sugar content in carrots. One cup of carrot juice contains approximately 90 calories.
When purchasing carrots be careful to look for roots that are smooth, firm, brightly colored and mostly straight in shape. If carrots are cracked or forked, avoid them. If green tops are attached, make sure they are brightly colored and not limp or wilted.
Be sure to cut off carrot tops before storing in refrigerator. The tops can cause the wilting of carrots. Its best to use the carrots tops as soon s possible as they are fragile and quickly lose their nutritional value. The tops can be wrapped in damp paper towels to keep fresh. Carrots are hardy and hold their nutritional value for great lengths of time in a refrigerator.
Juicing carrots has become a popular and tasty health habit. Because of its high sugar content, carrot juice is a great base for blended juice drinks or smoothies. The addition of greens or apples and beets are commonly used with carrot juice. Carrots store well for long periods of time. A pound of carrots will yield about a cup of juice. For a vegetable, that is a high yield of juice. They are inexpensive. All of these reasons make carrots ideal for juicing.
Carrot juice serves as a great diuretic and helps to flush out excess fluids. This is one of the reasons people rely on it for weight loss. Carrot juice is good for mothers who are nursing. It helps to increase milk supply. Carrots are also an aid in regulating menstrual flow and reducing cramping.
This golden health juice is an ideal laxative and serves to stimulate digestion. In fact, one daily cup of carrot juice will eliminate any tapeworms in the gut. It also prevents the formation of ulcers. Carrot juice is also a great energy drink. It offers the body a boost without the dangers of caffeine which fills up most commercial energy drinks. It gives that “morning lift” when drunk daily before breakfast. It would be a healthy substitute for most coffee drinkers.