Several weeks ago, I shared with you the carrots I had the joy of harvesting this past season. They are now long gone except for the last bottle of pickles gracing my pantry with its presence. Growing up I remember the emphasis placed on the importance of carrots for eye health but had no idea then of the role its’ antioxidant power played in my health.
When it is consumed, the abundance of Pro-vitamin A found in carrots is activated by enzymes in our body converting it to usable vitamin A. In fact, just one cup of carrots has more than four hundred times what we need per day for improvement and maintenance of vision health! Additionally the beta-carotene, found in copious amounts in yellow and orange carrots, help to protect against heart disease and macular degeneration. Yet another benefit of carrot consumption includes the protection by phytonutrients against some cancers including prostate, breast, lung and colon cancers as well as protection from some chronic diseases.
As you have seen from pictures in some past posts, carrots come in an array of beautiful colors with each packing its own dose of nutritional power:
Black/Purple~ One of the original colors of carrots, black (sometimes called purple) carrots are ever present in Afghanistan and the Middle East where it is believed they have originated. As with other vegetables of similar color, black carrots are rich in anthocyanin which is believed to be key in preventing certain forms of cancer (see above) and improving heart disease. It also plays a key role in preventing inflammation, maintaining healthy aging and improving memory function.
Red~ Another historic color also rooted in the Middle East, the red carrot is credited with containing large quantities of lycopene which has been proven to decrease prostate cancer occurrence rates and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLs), also known as the bad form of cholesterol, while improving our body’s immune system function.
White~ For it’s bold carrot flavor found in most varieties along with the brilliant white of its ancestral charm, the white carrot is by far my favorite cooking (lightly) variety. Although not thought to be as nutritionally dense as its other colored relatives, consuming this color does give you a healthy dose of fiber and B vitamins.
Yellow~ The result of a slight variation of the white, the yellow carrot is laden with alpha and beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin which is credited for reducing the risk and occurrence of age related macular degeneration. Yellow carrots are also effective in reducing one’s risk for prostate cancer, high blood pressure and LDLs all the while improving collagen production and joint health.
Orange~ Developed in the Netherlands somewhere around the 1600s, this color is a deliberate result of the evolution of the yellow carrot. Thus, it packs on all of the nutritional benefits of its yellow counterpart while being superior to all other colors in regards to its quantities of beta-carotene. It also happens to be the most accepted and prominent color known in the Western world today.
So the next time you pass by the carrots at your local market or grocery store, be sure to stock up on this life-sustaining root and crunch your way on to good health.