Carrots: these brightly-coloured, versatile vegetables are amongst the healthiest foods in the world.
Why is that so? Well, carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant – and antioxidants can help to protect our bodies from free radical damage and disease including cancer and cardiovascular disease – two of the biggest killers in the world.
Beta-carotene is the plant form of vitamin A, which is converted to vitamin A in our bodies. Other rich sources of beta-carotene are green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli (where the green chlorophyll masks the carotenoid pigments) and orange-yellow vegetables and fruit such as sweet potato, pumpkin, mangoes, papaya (paw paw) and apricots as well as tomatoes and red peppers.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is critical to good health and for protection from disease. From influencing cell development and increasing immune activity, to maintaining mucous-forming cells throughout our bodies and protecting our eyes (our grandmothers knew instinctively that carrots could help us see better – especially in the dark!), vitamin A is an essential part of our diets.
Animal sources of vitamin A include liver, fish liver oil, milk and eggs. It’s best not to consume fish liver oil, e.g. cod liver oil. However, fish oil (from the flesh of the fish) is fine if you do not eat sufficient fish.
Almost all vitamin A is stored in the liver, so excessive consumption can cause toxicity. This is particularly important for pregnant women as excessive amounts of vitamin A can harm the unborn baby. So, the right amount of vitamin A is important – too little can cause deficiency and too much can cause toxicity.
However, the good news is that eating large amounts of carrots have never been shown to cause toxicity.
Carrots each day may help keep the doctor away!
The good news continues as carrots fall into the ‘free’ vegetable category, which means they do not contain significant amounts of protein, fat or carb, and can be eaten ‘freely’ in large quantities. So, carrots are low in calories, yet high in nutrition as they are packed full of fibre, and vital nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Amongst the many vital nutrients found in carrots are vitamin K that is important for bone health and potassium an essential mineral, which can help to lower blood pressure.
With only about 16 calories (66 kilojoules) in a small carrot (50g), it is no wonder the humble carrot has long been touted as a great weight loss food!
How to eat more carrots
Fresh or cooked; savoury or sweet, the versatile carrot can be used in myriads of different ways:
- Carrot salads, e.g. grated carrot or carrot ribbons (simply using a vegetable peeler) added to a basic tomato and lettuce salad or bean salad
- Julienne or coarsely grated carrot in coleslaw or for something more exotic, try a delicious Moroccan carrot salad with grated carrot, extra virgin olive oil, orange juice and raisins/sultanas
- Grated carrot in sandwiches, rolls and wraps
- Carrot sticks (crudités) eaten on their own or with low-fat hummus or tzatziki
- Slices of carrot or julienne carrots added to stir-fries
- Baked vegetable dishes with chunks of carrot
- Grated carrot added to pasta and rice dishes
- Carrot soup, carrot hummus, carrot mash/puree, carrot chips
- Carrot in curries, casseroles and bolognaise
- Carrot pancakes, pikelets, muffins (savoury or sweet), cookies and cakes
- Carrot puddings and desserts including Carrot Halva (modified to be healthier)
Here’s a quick and easy carrot mug cake that can be enjoyed as a snack/dessert or even breakfast.
Like all my recipes, it’s heart-healthy, diabetes-friendly and great for weight loss too!
Carrot Mug Cake
- 2 tablespoons* self-raising flour
- 1½ tablespoons sweetener, e.g. Skinny Sugar™ (half regular sugar and half Erythritol)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Large pinch of nutmeg
- 1 omega-3 egg or regular egg
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons grated carrot plus an extra ½ tablespoon to garnish
- 2 teaspoons sugar-free maple flavoured syrup to serve (optional)
- In a small bowl, mix together the flour, sweetener and spices.
- Beat the egg with the oil and vanilla and gently stir into the flour mixture until well combined.
- Fold in the grated carrot and transfer to a lightly greased large, wide, microwave-safe mug.
- Cook in microwave** at high power for 1 minute and 20 seconds or until the cake rises and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Leave to stand for 2-3 minutes and enjoy warm straight out of the mug or turned over onto a dish, garnished with the remaining grated carrot.
- If you have a sweet tooth, drizzle with sugar-free maple flavoured syrup before serving.
*All measures are based on the Australian tablespoon of 20 ml (4 teaspoons). American and European tablespoons are 15 ml (3 teaspoons). However, this minor difference will not be a problem for the majority of recipes.
**These times are based on a 1100-watt microwave. Cooking times and power levels may vary slightly depending on your microwave.
Nutritional value per serve:
Energy: 235 calories or 987 kilojoules
Protein: 9 g
Fat: 10 g
Carbohydrate: 30 g
You can find more carrot recipes in all my Books – Carrot Walnut Pasta and Carrot Walnut Cake in The Omega-3 Life Program; Spaghetti Bolognaise and Vegetable Curry in The Omega-3 Diet Revolution and Moroccan Carrot Salad, Fish and Chips with Potato and Carrot Chips and Carrot and Zucchini Fritters in The Total Life Diet book.
Wardlaw G M and Insel P M. Perspectives in Nutrition. Second edition. Mosby. St Louis 1993.
Xyris Software (Australia) Pty Ltd. FoodWorks. Version 2. 20 Westbourne Street Highgate Hill Qld 4101.