Despite near-perfect weather year-round here in San Diego, there are still several items that are best grown in certain seasons. You’ll see robust, flavorful, and fragrant basil leaves and tomato plants in the middle of summer, and durable and adorable root vegetables and gourds in the winter month. As we cool off from this hot heat, we’ve decided to highlight one of the undervalued cold-weather vegetables as they come into season: carrots! They’re available all year long, but as San Diego cools off, you’ll find more and more vibrant heirlooms and bright local carrots at the market. Here’s why you should eat them!
Health Benefits of Carrots
Carrots Can Give You Superhero Vision
Maybe not Clark Kent-style vision, but you get the point. Growing up, your parents probably told you carrots were good for your eyesight, encouraging you to gobble them down before staring at a television screen for hours. Though the studies are limited, a small-scale study found that women who ate carrots twice a week had significantly lower rates of glaucoma, and beta-carotene is an excellent source for vitamin A. This increase in vision is attributed to this beta-carotene, but in other studies where the equivalent portion of beta-carotene (or other carotenoids) was taken, the results were limited. In short: eat the full carrots, not just the beta-carotene or vitamin A supplements!
Carrots Are Packed With Vitamins
While beta-carotene turns into vitamin A in the body, and is the most notable vitamin in carrots, they contain tons of other vitamins and minerals that can boost your health. They boast decent levels of vitamin C, calcium, and iron, and they contain fiber, vitamin K, potassium, vitamin E, and zinc.
Carrots Are A Natural Source of Sugar
Did you know that carrot cake was invented back when sugar and sweetener prices were too high? Carrot has been used as a sweetener since the medieval times, and the carrot cake as we know it became popular around World War II, when there was an abundance of canned carrots. Carrots are high in natural sugars, making them an ideal way to sweeten your baked goods and desserts without relying on refined sweeteners. They’re great in the ever-popular carrot cake, but also in savory dishes like chili, fried rice, and marinara sauce.
Carrots Are Super Affordable
Carrots are pretty cheap. Although they’re heavy vegetables, their starch content easily fills you up, so a pound of carrots can go a long way both in flavor and volume. However, they’re ranked 22nd on the EWG’s Pesticide Residue data sheet, meaning they had the 22nd highest level of pesticide. While not on the dirty dozen list, they’re still not the cleanest vegetable on the market. It is probably a good idea to go with organic if you can afford it. If not, peeling them will significantly reduce the levels of pesticides that remain, since the majority of pesticides remain in the outermost levels of fruits and vegetables.
Carrots Are Extremely Versatile! Can Be Cooked, Raw, Sweet, or Savory
Whether you’re looking for a delicious side dish, such as roasted parsley carrots, or a way to add a little more flavor to your Hawaiian chili, enchilada sauce, or lasagna, carrots are a fantastic vegetable to keep around at all times! They’re perfect raw, and great for dipping in hummus or Baba Ganoush. We love them in salads, shredded on sandwiches, and added to coleslaw or other raw salads. Spruce up a few weekly snack sessions with vitamin-rich carrots instead of the typical fruit, granola, or nuts!
Carrot Recipes & Related Articles:
- Whole-Wheat Carrot-Applesauce Muffins (frugalnutrition.com)
- Carrot-Ginger Sorbet and Other Carrot Recipes (girlsgonechild.net)
- Carrot-Parsnip Puree (nomnompaleo.com)
- The Truth About Baby Carrots (100daysofrealfood.com)
- How Carrots Became the New Junk Food (fastcompany.com)