For many, it’s hard to resist the sweet, crisp crunch of a delicious orange carrot. From carrot sticks to delectable carrot cake. We’ve managed to find quite a few spots to stuff this bright veggie into our lives. Because it’s a vegetable, we can expect it to be a great addition to the Paleo diet—right? But what about its sweet, sugary nature? Maybe we’d be better off ditching carrots after all.
There are two main reasons that carrots play such a central role in the vegetable section of our foods.
First, they’ve been cultivated over hundreds of years to encourage that sweet, robust orange root that we enjoy. Originally, they were bred for their leaves and seeds (did you know carrots are related to herbs like cumin?).
Second, carrots have been a big part of the cuisine of many cultures of thousands of years. They originated in the area once known as Persia (now the countries around Afghanistan). And careful cultivation and trade have spread them across the globe.
Many people cite carrots’ impressive vitamin A content as a huge reason to include them in your diet.
Researchers have confirmed that the beta-carotene in carrots is a major contributor to vitamin A consumption (the oranger the carrot, the better!). Vitamin A is known to reduce damaging oxidation and improve eye health.
SOME HEALTH BENEFITS OF CARROTS
Everyone knows that carrots are healthy, but what health benefits do you really see from carrots.
If you lack Vitamin A and have poor or deteriorating vision, then carrots can help increase Vitamin A and in turn vision. Most people’s vision probably won’t change from just eating carrots.
Carrots contain antioxidants. Antioxidants help your body fight cell damage from free radicals and reduce inflammation. Vitamin C provides an immune system boost, which helps protects you from colds and flu.
The antioxidant effects of carotenoids — yellow, orange and red pigments present in carrots and other vegetables — may reduce your cancer risk. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two examples of these carotenoids.
BLOOD PRESSURE/HEART HEALTH
Carrots are high in potassium, vitamin C and beta-carotene which have been shown to be effective in reducing high blood pressure. Carrots also aid in regulation heart and kidney function which can help maintain normal blood pressure.
CAN DIABETICS EAT CARROTS?
Carrots are known for their sweet flavor and have been associated with sugar and sugar problems in people with diabetes. However, carrots can be part of a balanced diet. The GI score (people with diabetes should eat food with a low GI to avoid spikes in blood sugar) “Carrots score 41 when boiled and 16 when raw.”
Eating raw carrots provides the least spike in insulin. Carrot juice should be avoided or used cautiously due to the high sugar content and lack of fiber for absorption.
Just a reminder to always talk with your healthcare provider before beginning a new eating plan.
STAY AWAY FROM BABY CARROTS
In addition, some forms of carrots (particularly baby carrots) have been washed in a chlorine solution. This infuses a small amount of chlorine into the plant. That’s certainly a toxin no one wants to have floating around in their bloodstream!
Buy fresh carrots preferably with the big green tops and cut up your own carrots. The greens of the carrots are delicious as well and great in smoothies!
CAN YOU TURN ORANGE BY EATING CARROTS?
Yes! Carrots are full of vitamins and minerals but eating too many carrots can flood your body with beta-carotene the molecule responsible the bright color in carrots. Too much beta-carotene can actually turn your orange!
With both pros and cons to carrot consumption, it can be tough to tell whether they should be a bigger part of the Paleo diet.
WHAT DO THE PALEO GURUS SAY?
Alison Ver Halen says: “What gives carrots their characteristic orange color is B-carotene, which our bodies convert into vitamin A. They also contain significant amounts of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, so just because these roots come with a little sugar, is no reason to exclude them from your diet.”
PaleoGrubs says: “Carrots are a nice food to keep around because they come in many forms, and are easy to take with you while on the go. Drop a bag of baby carrots into your cart on your next shopping run and you’ll see that they make a cool crisp snack you can enjoy anywhere and they won’t weigh you down.”
SO ARE THEY PALEO?
Carrots are a great source of many vitamins and minerals, and they’re easy to store and use anywhere you go. To avoid the chlorine problem, opt for organic carrots—especially whole ones and not pre-packaged baby carrots, which undergo the bulk of the rinsing. Don’t forget you can also eat the carrot tops!
Here are a few more questions about carrots and some awesome Paleo recipes that are made with whole foods like carrots to begin you on your healing journey.
BEST WAY TO COOK CARROTS TO MAXIMIZE NUTRITION.
Generally, when you think maximize nutrition, raw is the best especially for fruit and vegetables. However, science is showing us that vegetables can be consumed different ways to maximize the nutrient content from eating these nutritious root vegetables. Cooking carrots can reduce the Vitamin C content due to the heat associated with cooking.
The other nutrients like beta carotene might actually be absorbed better with heat and breaking down the structure of the carrot for maximum absorption. Beta-carotene is not a heat-sensitive nutrient, therefore, it is not destroyed with a short cooking time. In fact, when carrots are cooked, the cell walls soften, which makes it easier to digest. A short cooking time increases the absorption of beta-carotene, but don’t overcook. The final product should be still a little crunchy.
Verdict: Steamed or lightly cooked
In addition, you might want to add some oil to your carrots. Researchers have found that adding oil to lightly cooked carrots actually helps absorption.
“We’re certainly not advocating a high-fat diet, or one filled with full-fat salad dressing,” says researcher Wendy White, associate professor of food science and nutrition at Iowa State University, in a news release. “Our findings are actually consistent with U.S. dietary guidelines, which support a moderate diet, rather than one very low, in fat.
“But what we found compelling was that some of our more popular healthful snacks, like baby carrots, really need to be eaten with a source of fat for us to absorb the beta carotene,” says White. “If you’d like to stick with fat-free dressing, the addition of small amounts of avocado or cheese in a salad may help along the absorption.”
Verdict: Add some oil (and maybe fresh herbs too!)
TIPS FOR PREPARING CARROTS
Carrots are a versatile vegetable. People can eat them raw, steamed, boiled, roasted, or as an ingredient in soups and stews.
First, peel and wash the carrots, then:
- Use shredded carrots in coleslaw, salad or wrap.
- Add shredded carrots to baked goods like carrot muffins.
- Have carrot sticks or baby carrots as a snack – make sure to cut up the carrots at home.
- Add carrots to juices and smoothies for a naturally sweet, mild flavor. Make sure to limit juice due to lack of fiber and increase of absorption. This can lead to an increase in blood sugar and could turn you orange (if you drink enough)!
~We have a ton of nutritious carrot recipes and we are working on uploading them right now!