Carrots

Carrots ~ Super Vegetables

Healing Power...

Can Help:

Decrease the chance of macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older people.

Improve night vision

Reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease

As kids, we all heard how good these super vegetables are for our eyes.

But nowadays, researchers are seeing this super vegetable in a whole new light.

Their healing potential goes far beyond their ability to help our vision.

They contain a variety of compounds that may help prevent certain cancers, lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks.

Carotene's Namesake

The same substance that gives these veggies their brash orange color is also responsible for providing many of their health benefits.

They're rich in beta­carotene, an antioxidant compound that fights free radicals, the unstable molecules in the body that contribute to conditions ranging from heart disease and cancer to macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older adults.

Research suggests that the more antioxidants we get in our diets, the less likely we are to die of cancer.

In a study of 1,556 middle-age men, researchers found that those with the highest levels of beta-carotene and vitamin-C in their diets had a 37 percent lower risk of death from cancer than the men with the lowest levels.

Even when vitamin-C isn't added to the mix, beta-carotene has powerful effects.

Large population studies have shown that having low levels of beta-carotene leaves people more open to developing certain cancers, especially those of the lungs and stomach.

What's good for your body's cells is also very good for your heart.

Evidence shows that eating large amounts of these super veggies, as well as other fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotene and related compounds, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

A half-cup cooked serving contains 12 milligrams of beta-carotene, about twice the amount you need to get the benefits.

It's not only beta-carotene that gives these super vegetables their protective edge.

They contain another antioxidant, alpha-carotene, that also appears to help fight cancer.

In one study, researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that lung cancer occurred more often in men with low intakes of alpha-carotene than in men who got more.

In the Kitchen

Although baby carrots are succulent and tender, the larger, whole type that you buy in a bag are often too large and tough for munching.

To get the goodness without straining your jaw, it helps to remove the tough, fibrous core.

To do this, use a sharp knife to trim off the ends.

Then cut it in half lengthwise.

The core should be clearly visible.

Slip the tip of a small paring knife beneath the core and gently pry it free.

Better Vision

Slice one in half crosswise and it's easy to see that the veggie resembles an eye.

Look closely and you'll even notice a pattern of radiating lines that mimic the pupil and iris.

And the old wives’ tale is true: Munching on these root veggies will actually promote healthy eyes.

They're filled with vitamins and antioxidants, like beta-carotene, that decrease the chance of macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older people.

The beta-carotene does double duty.

It converts to vitamin-A in the body and helps improve vision.

This eye appeal is so well-known that researchers in World War II cultivated carrots that were high in beta-carotene to help pilots see better at night.

Vitamin-A helps vision by forming a purple pigment that the eye needs in order to be able to see in dim light.

This pigment, called rhodopsin, is located in the light-sensitive area of the retina.

The more vitamin-A you get, the more rhodopsin your body is able to produce.

Conversely, people with low levels of vitamin-A may suffer from night blindness, which can make it difficult to drive after dark or to find your seat in a dark theater.

Food Alert

The Color of Indulgence

Orange and yellow are attractive colors for autumn leaves, but not at all pleasing when it's your own skin that's making the change.

People who enjoy their carrots a bit too much may experience a colorful condition called carotenosis, in which the skin turns a faint orange hue.

Doctors tell stories of frantic parents rushing to the hospital because they think their children are jaundiced, when in fact they just ate a lot of baby-food carrots.

Children are particularly prone to it because parents will give them pureed carrots or squash or sweet potatoes, usually in a number of servings.

Carotenosis is harmless.

It's also easy to remedy.

Stop eating them, and within a day or two your skin color should return to normal.

Getting the Most

Add a little fat.

Beta-carotene needs a small amount of fat to make the trip through your intestinal wall and into your body.

So the next time you're serving carrot sticks, you may want to accompany them with a small amount of a dip such as ranch dressing.

Eat them cooked.

While many foods are more nutritious raw than cooked, these super vegetables actually benefit from a little cooking.

The reason is that they have a lot of dietary fiber, over 2 g. in just one, which traps the beta-carotene.

Cooking them helps free beta-carotene from the fiber cells, making it easier for your body to absorb.

Save the nutrients.

One problem with cooking these veggies is that some of the nutrients escape into the cooking water.

To get nutrients into your body instead of pouring them down the sink, try re-using the cooking water, in a sauce, for example, or for moistening mashed potatoes.

Enjoy some juice.

Another way to release more of the beta-carotene is to make a carrot cocktail.

Processing them in a blender breaks apart the fibers, allowing the beta-carotene to get out.

Trim them well.

When you buy these super vegetables with the greenery still on them, it's important to trim it off before storing them.

Otherwise, those pretty, leafy tops will act like nutrient vampires, sucking out the vitamins and moisture before you eat them.

The Color Purple

Did you know that purple carrots have all the tasty and nutritious benefits of their orange counterparts, and then some.

And believe it, purple is not just a novelty.

Their unique color reflects their healthy phytochemical constituents.

Not only does 'Purple Haze' have the vitamin-A and beta-carotene of the ordinary variety, evident in its orange center, it's also rich in anthocyanins, the antioxidant compounds that give blueberries their distinctive color and super-food health benefits.

Studies have found that these blue and purple pigments can improve memory, enhance vision, protect against heart attacks, act as anti-inflammatories, and even help control weight.

So, if you don't know what to have for dinner tonight ...

Carrot and Ginger Soup

Another delicious recipe from The Complete Root Cellar Book, by Steve Maxwell and Jennifer MacKenzie.

Makes 8 cups (4 to 6 servings)

Carrots were originally purple, red, white, and yellow rather than the now-familiar orange.

The different colors of heirloom varieties are coming back into fashion and are fun to grow and eat.

For this soup, though, the classic orange looks best.

The zing of ginger and the slight sweetness of carrots are a delightful combination.

The small amount of rice gives body to the soup while keeping it light.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

6 c. chopped carrots (8 to 12)

2 Tbs. minced gingerroot

1⁄4 c. white rice (any type)

4 c. vegetable or chicken stock or reduced-sodium ready-to-use vegetable or chicken broth

2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Chopped fresh parsley

Preparation;

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes or until starting to soften.

Add the carrots and ginger; sauté for 5 minutes or until the carrots start to soften.

Stir in the rice.

2. Add the stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the carrots and rice are soft.

Using an immersion blender in the pot or transferring soup in batches to an upright blender, purée until very smooth.

Return to the pot.

3. Add water or more stock to thin to desired consistency.

Reheat over medium heat until steaming, stirring often.

Stir in the lemon juice.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle into warmed bowls and serve sprinkled with parsley.

Tips: If using store-bought broth, reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth works best for this recipe.

If it's not available, use 3 c. regular broth and 1 c. water.

This soup can be prepared through step 2, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

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