Health Benefits of Carrots
All our lives we've been told to eat our carrots, they help improve your eyesight. Maybe you've wondered - what exactly is it about the carrot that is good for my eyes? That would be the beta-carotene. In addition to giving the carrot its name and orange color, it also converts to vitamin A in the body which helps improve vision. The vitamin A forms a purple pigment called rhodopsin the eye needs to see in dim light. Rhodopsin production is spurred by vitamin A, raising the effectiveness of the light-sensitive area of the retina.
But that's not all that carrots can do for you. The beta-carotene in carrots is an antioxidant combating the free radicals that contribute to conditions like cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration. Medical studies conducted in Texas and Chicago indicates that men with the high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C had a 37% lower risk of cancer than the men with lower levels. Carrots also contain another antioxidant called alpha-carotene. A study conducted in Bethesda, MD concluded that men who consume high amounts of alpha carotene have a lower incidence of lung cancer.
Cooking carrots actually raises the nutritional benefits. The fiber in carrots can trap the beta carotene, making it difficult for your body to extract. By cooking them slightly, you free the beta-carotene, from the fiber, which allows your body to absorb it better. Eating only a half-cup serving per day will give you more than the recommended dosage of beta-carotene. Remember, when you buy carrots raw at the store, you should cut off the leafy tops before storing for maximum vitamin retention. Getting your carrot-a-day is easy, considering the vegetable's versatility and “blendability”. Carrots can subtlety enhance but don't overwhelm. Here are a few ways to put more carrot power on your table.
Cook grated carrots with beans, split peas, lentils, rice, or pastas. Carrots are great in stuffing. Try them roasted - split large carrots lengthways and brush with a little olive oil then put on a roasting tray in a 400 degree (F) oven for about 45 minutes until tender and browned. Try roasted carrots, potato, sweet potato and pumpkin served with steamed green vegetables and a nice sauce.
Toss grated carrot with potatoes for hash browns. (Toss in grated zucchini and minced onion, too.)
Add to sauces, white or red. Grated carrots give body and impart subtle flavor, and they fit any tomato or creamy soup, sauce, or casserole.
Mix finely-ground carrots into peanut butter for a new kind of healthy crunch. (If you want to make a really GOOD Peanut Butter & carrot sandwich, add a few slices of banana.)
Hot & Cold Salads: Sauté onions, green peppers, and grated or finely sliced carrots. Remove from heat and pour your preferred salad vinegar over hot veggies. (It will hiss and steam.) While hot, add to chilled salad greens. Toss and serve.
Herb and Vegetable Bread or Biscuits: To your regular dough, add finely grated carrots; minced onion (dried flakes or fresh green); parsley; garlic powder; sprinkle of basil and pinch of oregano or sage. Top it all off with some dried or pesto tomatoes and a few hearty shakes of parmesan cheese.