Carrots are one of our staple vegetables, just like our potato, and would probably be used in cooking in every household at least a few times a week. Carrots can be grown all year round in temperate climates, so this is a food that is quite synergistic with our body at any time of the year. They belong to the umbelliferae family and are related to parsnips, fennel, caraway, parsley, anise, dill and cumin.
Carrots are a very nutritious food, and contain many vitamins and minerals, and of course are a great source of fibre. The carrot is most well known for the high levels of beta-carotene that it has, and as the old wives tale goes, they help you to see in the dark! And there is some truth to that old tale. There are many wonderful health benefits in our common carrot, and really need to be in your diet on a daily basis.
There have been many published studies revealing the wonderful health benefits of carrot. Carrots main claim to fame, is the high amounts of beta-carotene that they have. The liver converts the beta-carotene to vitamin A, which aids in our vision, reproduction health, supports our skin, lungs and intestinal tract, supports the immune system and aids in bone growth.
In particular in regard to its health benefit and cancer, and most of the studies do show a reduction in cancer risk if the diet has a high level of vegetables, and I think it would be fair to say that that is pretty common knowledge. Carrots are certainly recommended as part of a diet aimed at avoiding cancer, due to the high level of vitamin A, as well as lots of other nutrients found in carrots. There are many health programs that include carrot juice as a part of an anti-cancer diet.
There have been some specific studies done with carrots in regard to colon cancer. The outcome appears to favour the inhibitory effect that the nutrient falcarinol, found in carrots, has on the cells in the wall of the colon, as this nutrient appears to be very protective for the colon cells, and so protective against the risk of colon cancer. Worth having a glass of carrot juice daily that’s for sure.
Interestingly with carrots there are two ways to get the full compliment of nutrients out of them. Eating them whole and raw is not the best way to have your carrots!
It is better to lightly cook carrots as the heat breaks down the tough cellulose wall which holds the nutrients captive, also, adding a small amount of fat like butter will aid in the absorption of the beta-carotene in the body. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin after all, so that makes good sense.
By juicing your carrots you release the many nutrients that are trapped in the tough cellulose wall. To get the full compliment of available nutrients, the cellulose wall needs to be broken down, and in our body, that process takes place mainly in our large intestine, so many of the nutrients will pass through our system and we miss out on the absorption of these healing nutrients.
Eating a raw carrot will yield you around 3% of the available carotene.
Peeling your carrots will lose you around 15% of the beta carotene. So just give your carrots a wash and a gentle brush. Preferable always buy organic when you can.
In 1 cup of carrots this is what you gain as an approximate % of our RDA (recommended daily allowance) :
- Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6 = 8%
- Vitamin A = 400%
- Vitamin K = 20%
- Vit C = 12%
- Potassium = 10%
- Manganese = 8%
- Folate = 5%
- Phosphorus = 4%
- Vitamin E = 4%