Thinking Carrots

carrotsBy Beth Cecil
Owensboro Health Healthpark dietitian

I read an article the other day about carrots. They are in season this time of year so I asked my daughter Shelby if she had any idea why.

She said it must be “because rabbits represent Easter, which is coming up, and rabbits eat carrots.” I loved her analysis. Not bad for an eight year old.  

Actually, carrots are available year round but fresh young carrots that are the sweetest are available March through October so now is the perfect time to include them in your diet.

Your parents were right

Growing up, I always associated eating carrots with better vision. I can still remember my parents telling me to eat my carrots so I could see better.

Turns out they were right. Carrots contain beta-carotene, which helps to protect vision, especially night vision. Beta-carotene's powerful antioxidant properties may even protect against macular degeneration and senile cataracts. Color can be powerful and the bright cheery orange hue that carrots exhibit comes from beta-carotene. In addition to the vision benefits, these carotenoids may help reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancers. High carotenoid intake has been associated with a decrease in breast cancer along with cancers of the bladder, cervix, prostate, colon, esophagus and larynx. 

Carrots go way back

girl holding a carrotInterestingly, carrots originated about 5,000 years in central Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Back then however, carrots looked a little different than most do today, as they were purple or white in color. Eventually, a yellow-rooted carrot variety appeared in Afghanistan, was further cultivated, and has developed into the carrot we known today.

Carrots were the first vegetable to be canned commercially. California grows over half the carrots grown in the United States .

Carrots are fat free, cholesterol free, low in sodium, an excellent course of vitamin A, a good source of fiber and vitamin C and are low in calories. One cup of raw carrots has only about 50 calories.

Adding orange to your diet

Carrots are extremely versatile so their wonderful flavor and health benefits can be enjoyed in many ways. These orange jewels can be eaten raw or cooked. Try them shredded in salads, soups, chili, meatloaf or marinara. They are great roasted with pork or chicken or included with a lean pot roast. 

Carrots make a perfect snack or addition to any lunch. And of course we can’t forget that carrots can even be enjoyed in desserts such as yummy carrot cake or bread. 

When selecting carrots, pick ones that are firm with a deep orange color and fresh bright green tops. Remove the tops, and they can be stored in the refrigerator crisper for up to 2 weeks.

Here is a healthy carrot recipe to try.

Asian Carrot Slaw

  • Three-fourths a pound of carrots, peeled and shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Toss and season with pepper as desired.

Makes 4 servings:  Per serving: 83 calories, 4.8 grams fat (0.4 grams saturated), 10 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams protein and 2.8 grams fiber