Carrots, as well as other root vegetables, are native to Europe and Asia. They provide more carotenoids, the substance responsible for their color, than any other vegetable, including sweet potato. Baby carrots are regular carrots peeled and cut to snack size.
Health Benefits of Carrots
Carrots contain a high amount of vitamin A in the form of alpha- and beta-carotene. Carotenes are metabolized into vitamin A when bile salts are present in the intestines. Then, this vitamin A gets absorbed by the body in the presence of fats, and plays many different roles to keep us healthy. Our eyes in particular need vitamin A, and this is why we often hear that carrots are good for the eyes. This is actually true of all orange vegetables.
Carrots also contain fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and some calcium. Carrots are a great detoxifier and a very good food for our liver and digestive tract. They are an ideal high-fiber, low-calorie snack food.
Buying and Storing Carrots
Choose bright, firm carrots with a deep orange color. Avoid carrots that have been spread with a lot of pesticides; you may not be able to know when you buy them, but they will usually taste bad and won’t stay fresh for long. Your best option is to buy organic carrots.
If you buy a bunch of carrots with their greens, cut those and store them in a container in the refrigerator until you use them. They are actually edible and can be added to soups. Otherwise, just discard them.
Carrots without their greens should be stored in the refrigerator and will usually stay fresh for a week or two.
Raw carrots are delicious in salads; however, you should know that only 3% of the beta-carotene in raw carrots is released during digestion. It is improved to about 40% if carrots are cooked. Eating raw carrots is great, however, to get more vitamins, as heat will destroy most vitamins.
This is why cooked carrots or carrot soups are a good idea. Boil them quickly, or steam them, or cook them al dente when making soup. Overcooking is never a good thing, as vitamins are highly reduced in the process, and in the case of carrots, it may even reduce the amount of beta-carotene.
When carotenes are turned into vitamin A, in order for this vitamin A to be absorbed and used by the body, it needs some fat. Indeed, vitamin A is soluble in fats, not water. This is why you need to add some fat, a pad of butter or a tablespoon of olive oil, to your carrots.
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