Photography: Ronald Tsang | Food Styling: Christopher St. Onge | Prop Styling: Alanna Davey
The first carrots were grown in the Middle East prior to the 10th century, with the original cultivars being yellow- or purple-fleshed roots. Yellow carrots were preferred in Europe until the 17th and 18th centuries, when the—now more popular—orange carrot was introduced. These days, we’re seeing more yellow, red and purple heirloom varieties grace farmers’ markets and grocery stores. These multicoloured varieties are not only visually appealing, but they offer different nutrients than their orange counterparts, too.
- Pigment Power: Orange and yellow carrots get their bright hues from carotenoids, a group of phyto chemicals that includes more than 700 compounds, and are responsible for the pigmentation in many fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids have powerful antioxidant activity that may contribute to improved immune function and protective effects against many illnesses like cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as degenerative ailments, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), agerelated macular degeneration (AMD) and cataract formation. To top it off, carotenoids have been recognized as a potential inhibitor of Alzheimer’s disease, too.
- Taste the Rainbow: Orange carrots, in particular, are high in alpha and betacarotenes. These nutrients promote good vision and are important for growth, development and immune function. High intakes of alpha and betacarotenes are associated with a lower risk of gastric cancer. Plus, studies have linked higher betacarotene levels with lower bloodglucose levels, suggesting that eating carrots might be good for people with type 2 diabetes. Lutein, which is reputed to have antiinflammatory proper ties, is the star carotenoid in yellow fleshed carrots. Evidence indicates that lutein may be important for eye health, particularly in improv ing or preventing agerelated macular disease in healthy women under 75 years. A diet rich in lutein may also help reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. Purple carrots, like some of our previous superfoods, are rich in antho cyanins, which give them their dark colour. Dietary anthocyanins may help prevent many diseases by acting as antioxidants and reducing inflammation. A diet containing ferulic acid, present in carrots, has been studied recently for its potential to restore memory by reducing neuroinflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, both of which are key aspects of Alzheimer’s disease pathology in humans.
- A++: Consuming just 100 g of raw carrots contributes as much as 120 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A for women. As carrots are being digested by the body, the betacarotene is converted into vitamin A in the small intestine. The majority of vitamin A produced there is transported to other tissues to support healthy vision and other functions. It is also used to produce growth factor for immune cells in the gut. Vitamin A is essential for the proper maintenance of your immune system, as well as bone and skin health. One review that analyzed data from two long term studies found that people with the highest average daily total vitamin A intake were 17 percent less likely to get skin cancer than those in the cate gory with the lowest total vitamin A intake. Those in the high est category reported eating, on average, the amount of vitamin A equivalent to two large carrots each day.
Try this superfood in our Roasted Carrot & Parsnip Soup with Whipped Goat Cheese & Kale Chips recipe (pictured above).