Autumn is here – and with it a whole new cast of vegetables that are in season and at the peak of flavor.
Today’s ‘farmaceutical’ – carrots!
Carrots have gotten a bum rap from a number of well-meaning eating plans. ‘They have too much sugar’ is the refrain I hear most often. And, yes, the sugar content is higher (9.6 g per 100 g serving vs. 6.6 g for a similar sized serving of broccoli) – but, in the context of a healthy whole foods diet – they certainly have their place. To say otherwise is to throw the baby out the bathwater.
We all have heard the story about carrots helping you see in the dark. Well, while this may be partially true – the origins of this story were really perpetuated during World War II when the RAF had advanced radar technology allowing them to see German targets at night. Rather than admit to the technology – they stated that the pilots had superior night vision owing to eating carrots! The humble carrot helped win the war!
Carrots come in a variety of colors and is full of β-carotene, anti-oxidants, Vitamins A, C, K and B6. They are also a good source of fiber.
Carrots can help protect you against cataract development, macular degeneration, fight the oxidative damage that comes from aging, certain studies state that it helps in fighting certain cancers (by killing pre-cancerous cells) and protects against heart disease. There are also studies that show that the nutrients in carrots help keep your complexion youthful by maintaining your skin’s integrity.
Sounds like a lot of great benefits from such an inexpensive and long-storing vegetable!
So, what do you look for when choosing carrots? Well, I personally like getting the ones with the tops on since I know that these are a bit fresher. But, I would not stop you from buying the ones that are bagged. If you can – look for organic. If you can’t get organic – make sure that they are washed to remove residual pesticides and fungicides.
If you buy carrots with the tops. Remove the tops prior to storage as keeping the tops on will cause the carrot to wilt quickly. Then rinse and store in the refrigerator where they will keep for 1 to 2 weeks.
What about baby carrots? These carrots are so popular that I want to provide a little background. ‘Baby Carrots’ exist and they are immature carrots generally sold with the tops on. ‘Baby-Cut Carrots’ undergo a processing step where mature carrots are whittled down to make the perfect sized carrot for snacking. They are then treated with small amount of chlorine to minimize contamination – later they are rinsed to remove the chlorine. There was a lot of false information stating that these carrots were ‘soaked in chlorine’ and that the white surface that appears was due to the chlorine leaching out of the carrots. That information is incorrect – the whitish appearance is just due to dehydration of the surface. So – are baby-cut carrots OK? Well, they do undergo some processing – but, if your family likes to eat these ‘babies’ then, I consider it a ‘Go’ for a healthy diet. Much better than cookies and chips!
Carrots can be used in many ways – we mentioned eating them raw. However, your body only gets about 3% of the β-carotene because it can’t break down the cell walls. However, if you cook the vegetable with adding fat – that amount rises to 39%! In addition, the added fat will help in the absorption as Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin.
So, how do I like to cook carrots? Well, there are a lot of recipes out there for cooked carrots in butter – but, oftentimes – they call for added sugar. Why? Are we so incapable of enjoying the sweet taste of carrots that we have to add additional sweetener? Yes, for what it’s worth – they do taste good – but, almost in a dessert-like way.
Here is how I like to make them – and, it couldn’t be simpler!
Roasted Butter Carrots
2 pounds carrots – peeled and cut into 2 inch slices – then halve or quarter to ensure similar size
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place carrots in a casserole dish and use your hands to coat the carrots with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper (you could even add some ground cumin if you would like)
- Dollop with the butter and cover with foil.
- Cover and roast at 350°F for 50 hour, stirring at 20 minute intervals.
- Remove foil for the last 20 minutes of roasting.
- Serve and enjoy!