NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
September 14, 2000
While working in a food chemistry lab, I had a friend named Lois. She was a smoker and, of course, couldnt smoke around flammable chemicals. Instead, shed eat a carrot just outside the lab every time the desire to smoke arose. She ate lots of carrots over the course of the day. Over time, her skin, particularly the palms of her hands, took on a rather orange appearance. Some people teasingly asked if shed purchased cheap self-tanner. After a time when carrots lost their novelty, she turned to another snack and her skin resumed its normal color.
The color of carrots, like the color of orange fall foliage, is due to the natural pigment beta-carotene. Have you ever seen a baby whose favorite food is mashed carrots or squash? Being a fat-soluble substance, beta-carotene in excess can concentrate in skin tissue and lead to a rather jaundiced appearance, which will reverse when the diet is changed.
Carrots are popular among American consumers. On average, we eat about 14 pounds per person each year. The availability of ready-to-eat "baby-cut" carrots sold in one- or two-pound bags probably has something to do with their popularity. These carrots are cut from large peeled carrots. Chefs often prefer miniature carrots, which are pulled from the ground in an immature state. They contain about one-tenth the beta carotene of mature carrots.
Heres a recipe from the Sun-Maid Growers of California. Its colorful, nutritious, a little exotic and can be assembled in about 15 minutes.
Moroccan Raisin-Carrot Salad
Makes six servings
1 lb. baby carrots
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil1/4 c. minced parsley
1 c. raisins
Slice carrots diagonally into two or three pieces. Cook carrots in boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. While carrots cool, in a medium bowl combine lemon juice, sugar, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Stir in olive oil, parsley and raisins. Add carrots and toss. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour to chill and blend flavors. Stir occasionally. Serve on lettuce leaves, if desired.
A serving (one-sixth of the recipe) of Moroccan Raisin-Carrot Salad contains about 135 calories and 2 grams of fat. A serving also provides ample beta carotene, which our bodies use to make vitamin A. Beta-carotene is only one chemical among 600 different members of the carotenoid pigment family.
Did your mom ever tell you to eat your carrots because theyre good for your eyes? One study found that people who ate a diet high in carotenoid-rich vegetables were 43 percent less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, an eye disorder common among the elderly that can lead to blindness. Carotenoids also may be good for your heart. One study found that men with high cholesterol who ate plenty of vegetables high in carotenoids had a 36 percent lower chance of heart attack and death than their counterparts who shunned vegetables.
One medium carrot (about 2 ounces) provides about twice our daily need for vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy skin and eyes. Darker orange carrots are more nutritious than paler ones. Lycopene, an orange-red carotenoid pigment found in red peppers and tomatoes, helps the body absorb beta-carotene. So add some red peppers and even shredded carrots to tomato-based sauces.
Choose firm, well-shaped carrots and keep them in plastic bags away from apples, which produce ethylene gas that could promote the development of bitter flavor. Stored properly, carrots will last about three weeks.
Home-grown carrots should be harvested when theyre about an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. Gardening experts suggest storing carrots in containers, like large crocks, between 32 and 40 degrees F. If carrots are stored at higher temperatures, remove the carrot crown and store in a container filled with damp sand to prevent shriveling.
So add some color -- and good nutrition -- to your diet with a variety of carotenoid-rich vegetables and fruits. A handful of baby carrots counts as one serving toward the recommended 5-a-Day. Other good sources of beta-carotenes are sweet potatoes and cantaloupe. And even though broccoli is green, it also contains beta-carotene hidden by the green pigment chlorophyll.
NDSU Agriculture Communication
Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187
Editor: Tom Jirik, (701) 231-9629