Carrots: Nature’s Nutrient Packed Version of Fast Food
Carrots, along with apples, are one of the staple foods we take for granted. Next to potatoes, carrots are the top vegetable aisle seller; they are cheap, easily accessible and readily available in almost every grocery across the country and around the world. Most households have carrots in their refrigerator on a regular basis, but don’t realize this standard snack-food contains a powerhouse of nutrients.
It’s too bad bunches of carrots are not sold along side candy bars and bags of chips at convenience stores because, for about the same price, carrots pack in vitamins, minerals, naturally energizing sugars, satiating fiber, and a satisfying crunch and flavor. Carrots, unlike processed junk food, don’t require any preservatives or artificial ingredients and don’t leave you craving more sugar a few minutes after consumption, but they do satisfy your craving for something sweet, crunchy and filling.
For the same $2 that buys you a candy bar, a bucket of fries or a cup of coffee, you can buy at least two pounds of carrots. While the processed, fried or caffeinated foods may be the more appealing choice, you may find your cravings for sweets, starches or energizing foods can actually be quenched by the natural flavors, starches and sugars in a carrot. In addition to their natural sugars and high fiber content that packs most of the carrot’s appeal they have also been studied for several healing properties throughout the body:
- In Eastern medicine traditions, the carrot is respected for strengthening the lungs, spleen, pancreas and liver, and for improving the digestive process and elimination of waste and toxic materials. Carrots are also used as a natural remedy to increase the milk supply of nursing mothers, while helping to regulate their hormones in the first few months after their child’s birth.
- In Western medicine, Beta-carotene, which is recognized for its vision enhancing benefits, is also known to be a potent anti-oxidant that helps protect the body against cancer. Beta-carotene (also called vitamin A) is also beneficial for the skin (when both ingested and applied topically), and has anti-inflammatory properties. Carrots are one of the best and most concentrated whole-food sources of beta-carotene/vitamin A you can get your hands on!
- Carrots also contain a large amount of silicon, which plays a role in the strength and health of your connective tissues and calcium metabolism.
For the most concentrated source of these benefits, carrots should be eaten raw or juiced. However, cooked carrots can help strengthen or re-build weakened digestive systems. Since their sugar content is high, it is better to pair carrots with a bitter food (like their leafy tops) which will help your body better maintain blood sugar levels. Carrot tops are bitter on their own but are mineral rich, and add a great flavor to carrot juice, or in soups or stews.
In the morning, when your body is looking for a quick and easy pick me up, raw carrot juice is an excellent option. This time of year I like to combine them with the sweet and tart seasonal apples and a dash of lemon juice to help clear the digestive system. In the evening, as I wind down the day and look for a bit of warmth to take the chill off the evening air, carrot ginger soup is my go-to. Get the recipes and more information on Thursday!