Crunchtastic Carrots!

Scientific nameDaucus carota

Type – vegetable root

Availability – widely available in a variety of options (baby carrots, regular carrots, heirloom carrots) and a mix of package sizes

Cost – fairly inexpensive with a cost of $2-6 for about 2lbs fresh carrots (cost dependent on variety).

History of the carrot

When we think of carrots we often think of the traditional orange carrot. However, carrots are available in a variety of colours  – heirloom or rainbow carrots are closer to the “original” carrot, which are purple, white, reddish pink, yellow and orange in colour.

The first carrots were discovered in the wild in Europe, North Africa and West Asia. The first documentation indicates they were used as medicine and not as a food source. These wild carrots were whitish or yellow in colour, very small in length and thin. The taste was not as appealing as today’s carrots as they were tough and bitter. There is documentation of a purple and white variety of carrot in Persia as early as the 10th century. These were also thin and tough.  At some point over the years, a natural mutation occurred in the purple/white variety that removed the dark purple colour. This resulted in a more yellowish colour carrot. Today’s bright orange carrot was created over time through farming selection from the yellow variety. 

At the same time, the size, texture and taste of carrots were also improved through gradual selection of more plump and sweet crops.  This process would have taken a long time but eventually allowed carrots to be used as animal feed for pigs, donkeys and horses.  Some people did consume carrots at this time, though it was considered a lower-class food.  During the World Wars, when food became more scarce, human consumption of carrots began to rise among the entire population. 

Carrots have come a long way, but even today’s farmers continue to work with their crops to further improve taste and nutrition. Heirloom/rainbow carrots have also made a comeback, likely because they are seen as a more natural carrot that provides various flavour differences.  I personally have been growing heirloom carrots in my garden for the last few years and love the colours and flavours they bring to our meals.

Nutrition

Water content: Carrots have a high water content, estimated at between 85-95% water depending on the variety

Calories: Carrots are a low calorie food

Macronutrient breakdown: Carrots are mostly carbohydrates, with very little fat or protein. See my previous blog series “But Mummy why do we have to eat?” to learn more about macronutrients

Fibre: Carrots contain both soluble and insoluble fibre. See my previous fibre post, So you want to increase your fibre?  to learn more about fibre and its benefits.

Vitamins and minerals: Carrots are a good source of a number of vitamins and minerals, including:

Vitamin A  in the form of beta carotene that your body converts into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for vision, healthy teeth, hair, nails and skin, as well as normal cell function, growth and development, immune function and reproduction.

Biotin Biotin is B vitamin that is important for energy metabolism as well as the breakdown and use of fat and protein.

Vitamin K1  Vitamin K1 is the food source of Vitamin K, which is also known as phylloquinones. The main role of Vitamin K1 is in blood clotting. Vitamin K is also important for bone health and may help to prevent osteoprosis.

Potassium  Potassium is an essential mineral.  Along with salt it is involved in maintaining water balance in the body, which can affect many other functions, including blood pressure control. Potassium is also important to maintain stable acid-base balance and promote cell growth.  Potassium is required for muscle movement and formation.

Vitamin B6  Vitamin B6 is a coenzyme that is required for metabolism, which is the conversion of the food we eat into energy. B6 is also used to form an enzyme that is required to make serotonin, a chemical in the brain that has a calming and relaxing effect.

Antioxidants: There are various beneficial antioxidants found in carrots including carotenes (mentioned above), lutein (found more so in yellow and orange carrots, lycopene (bright red antioxidant found in red and purple carrots) and anthocyanins (found in dark-colored carrots).

Nutritional breakdown: The estimated nutritional breakdown for 2 small to medium raw carrots according to the USDA National Nutrient Database is:

41 calories

9.6 grams carbohydrates (of which 2.8 grams are fibre)

0.9 grams protein

0.2 grams fat

Cooking with carrots

Carrots are a versatile food that can be used in many ways, both raw and cooked. Here are a few examples of ways to prepare carrots. Two of my favourites are roasted carrots with olive oil and rosemary and carrot cake. My birthday request is always carrot cake (with cream cheese icing!).

Simply raw – sliced small in a salad/coleslaw, on their own, or with a yummy dip such as French onion or hummus

Roasted – in the oven with a small amount of olive oil and your favourite herbs. I will often toss my carrots and potatoes in with my meat/chicken for the last hour of roasting which creates a wonderful combination of flavours. It also uses less dishes!

Boiled – in plain water or in salt beef water as part of traditional Newfoundland “Jiggs Dinner” meal

Soup/Stew – Carrots are often the base of most soups and stews along with celery, onions and herbs (also known as a mirepoix)

Baked – as cake or muffin or loaf (Coming soon… a favourite carrot muffin recipe of mine)  

Juiced – carrot juice can be a nice addition to a smoothie or mixed juice

Blended – blended carrots can be added to many dished including a wide variety of sauces, such as tomato sauce, to add a little extra nutrition. I have also used blended carrots in my homemade dehydrated fruit leathers

Sliced into coins, julienne or sticks, shredded, roasted, blended, juiced, stewed or baked in a cake. However you decide, enjoy this delicious, nutritious and often underrated vegetable.

Let me know if you enjoyed this post and what food you maybe interested in learning about next in the comments section below or email me directly at tanyabrownrd@gmail.com.

Disclaimer:  The above information is intended for general public education and is not intended to be dietetic advise in any respect or to any person. Use of this information does not make any person a direct client of Tanya Brown,RD for any purpose and no such relationship will exist unless a formal client relationship has been entered into. Please consult your Doctor or a Registered Dietitian for individual recommendations prior to making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

REFERENCES:

Krause’s Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy 11th Edition

The history of carrots, World Carrot Museum Website. www.carrotmuseam.com

USDA National Nutrient Database


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