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Carrot

Carrots

 

Native to Afghanistan, carrots are our most abundant source of beta carotene, a compound that can function as an antioxidant and can also be converted by the body into vitamin A. The more vivid the color of the carrot, the higher the levels of this important carotenoid. One cup of cooked carrots has 70 calories, 4 g of fiber, and about 18 mg of beta carotene. This provides more than 100 percent of the recommended Dietary Allowance of vitamin A a nutrient essential for healthy hair, skin, eyes, bones, and mucous membranes. Vitamin A also helps prevent infections.

 

A US government study found that volunteers who ate about one cup of carrots a day had an average 11 percent reduction in their blood cholesterol levels after only 3 weeks. Lowered cholesterol levels, in turn, decrease the risk of heart disease. The cholesterol-lowering effect is likely due to the high soluble-fiber content of carrots, mostly in the form of pectin.

 

Seeing in the the Dark

Carrots will not prevent or correct our most common vision problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. But a deficiency of vitamin A does cause night blindness, an inability of the eyes to adjust to dim lighting or darkness. Vitamin A combines with the protein opsin in the retina's rod cells to form rhodopsin, switch is needed for night vision. Eating one carrot every few days provides enough vitamin A to prevent or overcome night blindness, if this condition is caused by vitamin A deficiency.

 

Cooked or Raw ?

Naturally sweet, carrots make an ideal high-fiber, low-calorie snack food. Interestingly, cooking actually increases carrots' nutritional value, because it breaks down the tough cellular walls that encase the beta carotene. To properly absorb beta carotene, the body needs a small amount of fat, because carotenoids are fat, not water soluble. Adding a pat of butter or margarine to cooked carrots ensures that the body will fully utilize this nutrient. Cooked and pureed carrots are an ideal beginner food, as they are naturally sweet and high in nutrients.

 

Carrots also contain other carotenoids, including alpha carotene, as well as bioflavonoids. The beneficial effects of carrots may not be reproduced by taking isolated supplements. Indeed, a number of studies have shown that beta carotene supplements may actually be harmful, particularly to smokers. This is not a problem with an excessive intake of carrots, but it can result in the skin taking on a yellow-orangish tinge. This harmless condition, called carotenemia, disappears in a few weeks of reducing carrot intake. If the yellow skin color persists, or if the white portions of the eyes are also discolored, the problem may be jaundice, a symptom of a liver disorder.

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