Carrot: nutrition facts and health benefits

Carrot

The term “carrot” includes both the plant garden as the tuber, more or less elongated, it is consumed as a vegetable. The carrot is grown in all temperate areas of the world.

History of the carrot

The term “umbelliferae” was until recently the carrot family which it belongs to. It comes from the latin umbella (umbrella) and ferre (wear), in reference to the shape of the flowers that look like tiny umbrellas. The new name for this family is today “umbelliferae”.

Given its current importance in Western diets, it’s hard to imagine that, until recently, the carrot was consumed marginally. The ancient Greeks referred to it in their publications. But, as its primitive form was rather bitter and fibrous, it is especially interested in its many medicinal properties.

 

The plant would been discovered 5,000 years ago in what is now known as Afghanistan. The wild colonies, red or brown root, still abound. Then begins a long journey through the centuries, which brought the carrot, according to explorations, in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, as well as in Europe where it grew in the 18th century. At this time, people knew several varieties to flesh or skin white, yellow, red, green, brown and black, but no orange carrots.

In fact, the orange carrot is the product of human intervention. They are Dutchmen who, eager to show their loyalty to the House of Orange, a Protestant of France Principality, cross in the 16th century of the red and white varieties and eventually get a root of a beautiful bright orange color.

This new arrival will soon supplant all others. Breeders will focus exclusively on it to create many modern varieties, round or conical, and more or less wide and long root according to their use. It still dominates the market, although we’re starting to find brown carrots in large stores.

It is however on the side of amateur gardeners and a few specialized producers found the widest assortment of colors. It’s old varieties, whose flavor is sometimes outstanding, sweet wish with, on occasion, a hint of bitterness.

In North America, despite an appearance around 1620, the carrot will take its place in the human diet until the end of the first world war. Before that, it was used mainly animal feed and treat for horses. The discovery of carotene and its benefits, by researchers, in 1910, has certainly helped to popularize her.

The carrot is cultivated virtually everywhere on the planet, except in tropical regions whose climate is not suitable for its development.

The carrot health profile

The dark color of the carrot comes from its many pigments. They would help prevent many diseases, including cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

The benefits of carrot

Cardiovascular disease. Two animal studies have shown that consumption of carrots was on factors promoting cardiovascular health. Thus, consuming carrots (or carrot juice, but in a lesser extent) would improve the antioxidant capacity and the rate of vitamin E in the blood, reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and liver.

Cancer. Consumption of carrots would have protective effects against lung cancer. A study conducted with more than 120,000 women found those who consumed 2-4 servings of carrots a week were 40% less risk of developing lung cancer compared to those consuming less carrots. With a consumption of 5 servings or more, the risk was reduced to 60%. Moreover, an observational study finded that people who ate 2 servings or more carrots or spinach a week had 44 percent less chance to have a breast cancer than those consuming less.

Cataracts. Two observational studies have found a decrease in the prevalence of cataracts among men and women with more alpha and beta carotene in the blood. The same results were observed among those who consume the most lutein and zeaxanthine. All these compounds are present in the carrot.

What is the carrot?

To better assimilate the carotenoids in carrots

-Eat them with a source of fat, for example, a little oil, nuts or cheese. What for? Because carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds (soluble in the fat).

-Cook. Cooking also seems to increase their absorption.

Carotenoids

The main carotenoids found in carrots (raw, cooked or in juice) are beta carotene, lutein and the zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are compounds having, among other things, the antioxidant properties, which means that they are able to neutralize free radicals in the body. Consumption of carotenoid-rich foods would be linked to a lower risk of suffering from several diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and some diseases related to ageing, for example cataracts. Several carotenoids are also precursors of vitamin A, that is, the body turns them into vitamin A as needed.

Carotenoids have a protective effect against cancer, since the foods that contain them decrease oxidative damage to the DNA. When DNA is damaged, there may be a greater risk of cancer. There is also evidence that people with cystic fibrosis have blood levels of carotenoids lower than normal limits. Some studies have shown that taking supplements of beta carotene by cystic fibrosis patients improved their antioxidant plasmatic ability. To date, no study has however evaluated the effects of consumption of carrots with people having low rates of carotenoids in the blood.

Fiber

Authors have argued that the simultaneous intake of fiber and carotenoids, both present in the carrot, maximizes the protective effect of this vegetable. Indeed, it has been shown that some types of fiber, especially soluble fiber, could reduce cholesterol and prevent the process of atherosclerosis among animals as well as among humans. During the study, carrot juice (which contains little fiber) had less effect on blood lipids, compared to consumption of carrots. The effect of synergy between 2 compounds could explain, in part, this phenomenon.

More they are colored, the better!

Brown carrots contain 2 times more beta carotene than orange carrots, while the yellows contain very little carotene and the white ones contain nothing.

The brown carrot gives the impression to be sweeter that the orange carrot whose taste is hidden because of its volatile compounds. However, the amount of total carbohydrates in these carrots differs significantly depending on their variety.

White carrots contain very little amount of vitamin C, unlike the orange or brown ones, carrots which contain the most.

Precautions

The carrot is a food incriminated in oral allergy syndrome. This syndrome is an allergic reaction to certain proteins to a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts. It affects some people with allergies to pollen in the environment and is characterized by symptoms in the mouth and throat. This syndrome is almost always preceded by the hay fever. Thus, when some people allergic to ragweed consume the raw carrot (cooking breaks down usually proteins allergens), an immunological reaction can occur. These people suffer itching and burning in the mouth, lips and throat. The symptoms may appear and then disappear, usually a few minutes after consumption or handling of the offending food. In the absence of other symptoms, this reaction is not severe and consumption of carrot does not have to be avoided in a systematic way. However, it is recommended to consult an allergist to determine the cause of the reactions in plant foods. The latter will be able to assess whether special precautions should be taken.

Can carotenoids in supplements be pro-oxydants?

The scientific literature suggests that carotenoids (beta carotene and lycopene) taken in very high doses supplementsmakes lose their antioxidant capacity and can even become pro-oxydants19. They could then be involved in the development of cancers, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. It would be best to seek the carotenoids in food rather than in the form of supplements in order to make the most of their benefits.

Selection and conservation

Choose

The root should be firm and free of white rootlets, sign that the carrot is too old. The carrot tops should be green and fresh, which indicates that the carrots were harvested recently. Cut the carrot tops quickly to avoid loss of moisture and the softening of the vegetable.

Keep

Able to withstand low frost with antifreeze incorporated in its structure, the carrot keeps ideally at a temperature close to freezing (0.5 ° C) and a relative humidity of 90-95%.

Refrigerator. Keep the carrots purchased in the grocery store in a perforated plastic bag in the drawer. Buy only what you can eat in 2 weeks.

Vault. Put them in boxes by alternating layers of carrots with layers of damp sand, away from the apples and other fruits and vegetables producing ethylene. Remove tops from harvest to avoid moisture loss. You can keep them apart if you want to use it in the kitchen.

It is possible to leave in the ground part of the harvest, covered of a thick mulch of leaves or other organic material. During the thaw, and early in the spring, simply lift the mulch and picking the fresh roots.

Organic gardening

The carrot was happy in soils cool and light, ameublis in depth and fattened the previous year or, if this is the same year, with preferably well decomposed manure or plant compost.

It prefers a pH of 6.5 to 7.8, but settle for more acidic soils. The ideal temperature for its culture is between 16 ° C and 21 ° C. We can make a first crop early in the spring, choosing an early variety that will mature before the heat of summer (along with peas). For a later crop, we’ll lose in June or July, allowing to build up reserves for the winter.

The carrot fly

In the family garden, must fear the fly of the carrot, which lays its eggs at the base of the plants. Those eggs turn into larvae, which dig tunnels in the roots and feed on their flesh. If the infestation is severe, the roots will be so dug that, put in the water, they will float.

To counter the problem in a natural way, there are various solutions:

  • Cover the carrots to a light agrotextile fabric letting light (85%) during the growth of the plants. During the heat, we can remove the fabric for short periods, but it will put it back as soon as the time will be refreshed.
  • The carrot fly is attracted by the smell of the crushed foliage, avoid leaving the plants it will be cleared up near the border.
  • Sow carrots in a windy place: fly-fishing is struggling to combat strong winds.
  • Try companionship with onions in the knowledge that it will be effective if you put 4 rows of onions for 1 row of carrots.
  • The leaves of very fragrant plants – tansy, absinth – deposited at the base of the plants could deceive the fly by changing the ambient smell, but must be replaced as soon as they have lost their power of incense.
  • A weekly watering in the lessis (wood ash diluted in water) is very effective against unwanted insects. Moreover, the ashes are rich in potassium, a mineral that carrot like.

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