Sweet, crunchy and delicious: the favorite food of Bugs Bunny, Winnie the Pooh’s neighbor Rabbit and probably several other rabbit celebrities. We’re talking, of course, about carrots. Most people recognize this common root vegetable by its orange color, but did you know carrots are also available in red, white and purple varieties? In fact, the first carrots were dark purple!
As with most brightly colored fruits and vegetables, carrots are a good source of vitamins and other nutrients. It’s believed the antioxidants in carrots can help protect against cancer and heart disease. They’re also a great source of beta-carotene, a nutrient the body turns into Vitamin A (beta-carotene is also what gives carrots their orange color). Vitamin A is important for maintaining eye health, especially night vision, and is used by the body to help fight off infection.
Raw carrots make a colorful addition to salad, and carrot sticks are a great option for a healthy afternoon snack. Cooking carrots can enhance some of their natural sweetness—try steaming sliced carrots in the microwave for a quick side dish, or adding them to soups or stews. And, thanks to their natural sweet flavor, carrots can cross the line from savory to sweet; several recipes for baked goods include carrots in the ingredient list. Carrot greens (the leafy part on top) are also edible, but they have a bitter flavor that many find unpleasant.
And here’s a fun fact for you: eating a large amount of carrots can cause your skin to turn orange. The same beta-carotene that makes carrots orange can build up in the skin, causing it to turn a yellow/orange color (but don’t worry, it’s harmless—skin will return to normal in a few days if you stop eating them. And, you’d have to eat a lot of carrots every day for it to happen).
Need a side dish idea for dinner tonight? Our nutritionists recommend this one from Eatingwell.com.
(Post content reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department. Photo credit: Jean Scheijen)