ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday October 7, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 19

A mouthful of vitamins and all that’s healthy

By Dr Harold Gunatillake

They are referred to as nutritional heroes. No other vegetable or fruit contains as much carotene (pigment) as carrots. Carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body. The orange colour of carrots is due to beta-carotene. Carrots are a source of vitamin B, C, D, B6, E, folic acid, magnesium, as well as calcium pectate that has cholesterol-lowering properties due to its fibre content. It contains about 87 percent water and is also rich in micronutrients (minerals), including copper and potassium.

Cooked carrots do not lose their vitamin A, B6, potassium, copper, folic acid and magnesium value. Experiments have shown that eating lightly cooked carrots is much more beneficial than eating raw carrots, which confirms the ancient wisdom in traditional Chinese medicine. Recent research by Dr. Xiangdong Wang at Tufts University showed that beta-carotene in carrots can change in the human body into a substance called retinoic acid, which is used to treat cancers. Carrots also contain small amounts of essential oils and carbohydrates. For the assimilation and absorption of the nutrients in carrots, they should be chewed well. Cooked carrots however, have a higher concentration of sugar and diabetic patients are cautioned to restrict their intake to up to two carrots a day.

The antioxidants, beta-carotene, and others produced by carrots are beneficial in preventing illnesses such as cancer and for longevity. They are Alpha Carotene, Phytochemicals and Glutathione, calcium and potassium and vitamins A, B1, B2, C and E, which also protect as well as nourish the skin. Beta-carotene is found mainly in dark green, red, yellow and orange coloured plants.

Eating carrots boosts the immune system, (especially among older people), reduces photosensitivity and protects the skin from sun damage. This effect is produced by beta-carotene. Carrots also help in the healing of minor wounds and after injuries. Studies show that people who eat carotene-rich foods have lower risk of cancer, heart disease and arthritis.

Carrots fight against infection - vitamin A keeps cell membranes healthy, making them stronger against disease causing germs. It improves eye health, and is beneficial in preventing night blindness. Incidentally, the radiating lines in a sliced carrot look like the pupil and iris of the human eye. The ancients equated that to mean that carrots are good for the eyes. Recent research has confirmed this scientifically.

You can eat in addition to the body of the carrot, the green carrot leaves that are highly nutritive, rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. The tops of the carrots are loaded with potassium, which can make them bitter, so the use of them in food is limited. Carrot greens are antiseptic, so they have been added to mouthwashes and, mixed with honey, to disinfect sores. They are also diuretic (increase urine flow), and can help treat kidney diseases and oedema (leg swelling with water).

Preparing carrots for juicing

Wash carrots thoroughly in cold water, using a stiff vegetable brush. Scrape lightly, but do not peel, as valuable vitamins and minerals lies close to the surface. The juice should be taken immediately it is made. After pouring the quantity to be used immediately, keep the remaining juice tightly covered with a screw-on lid, refrigerate to prevent loss of vitamin and mineral content through oxidation.

Carrot juice blends with practically all other juices. It is a delicious nourishing beverage for all members of the family. Because of its rich vitamin and mineral content, and other valuable nutrients, the daily diet should be fortified with the protective and health benefits of carrot juice.

When eating raw carrots you are only able to absorb about 1% of the beta-carotene. When a carrot is juiced, eliminating the fibre, virtually 100% of the beta-carotene is assimilated.

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