Healthy ingredients: Crunchy carrots

First cultivated in Afghanistan thousands of years ago, the original white, yellow, red and purple carrots bore little resemblance to the popular orange carrots we know and love today, which were cultivated by Dutch farmers in the 17th century. Whether you enjoy them raw in salads or with some home-made dip or prefer adding them to soups and stews, carrots are one of the healthiest vegetables you can add to your diet.

One medium carrot contains around 25 calories, with 6g carbs, 3g sugar and 1g protein. Carrots are also packed with fibre, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate, manganese, vitamin E, phosphorus and zinc. But that's not all! These humble orange veggies are loaded with beta-carotene, which is converted by the liver into vitamin A. Healthy vision relies on adequate levels of vitamin A, which the retina transforms into a purple pigment known as rhodopsin, needed for night vision. So there is some truth in the saying, "Carrots will help you see in the dark!" 210% of the average adult's daily requirements of vitamin A are contained in just one medium sized carrot.

Carrots have anti-cancer properties too. They produce their own, 100% natural pesticide called Faclarinol, which can reduce the risk of lung, colon and breast cancer. Studies show that mice who ate carrots reduced their risk of cancer by up to a third (1). Want healthy, glowing skin? Chuck some carrots into your salad - they can help to slow down the effects of ageing. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant and vitamin A prevents dryness, premature wrinkling, acne, uneven skin tone and blemishes.

As if that wasn't enough, even your heart could benefit from a daily dose of carrots - diets high in carotenoids could reduce your cholesterol levels, cut your risk of stroke and lower your heart disease risk - wow!

Recipe ideas

Carrots are not only delicious and super-healthy, they're affordable too, with most supermarkets selling value packs of carrots that are every bit as good as organic and 'premium' ranges - or pick some up at your local market, if you're lucky enough to have one! Carrots can be used in a huge range of recipes, from sweet, sticky carrot cake to Irish stew. In case you need some inspiration, here are a few ideas to get you eating more carrots. They're a popular choice here at Expertrain HQ!

Carrot and Courgette Muffins

Combine two of our favourite vegetables and make muffins - loaded with vitamin A from the carrots and vitamin C from the courgettes! It might sound like an odd combination, but actually the veggies keep the muffins incredibly moist, and this is a great way to introduce your kids to healthy eating - they won't even know they're eating vegetables!

Gluten-free Venetian Carrot Cake

This less-traditional (or more traditional, depending on how you look at it) carrot cake recipe leaves out the sweet cream cheese icing and makes a more simple cake that can be enjoyed with a cup of tea - we recommend chamomile tea as a great way to relax in the evening. It's gluten-free, so it's ideal for everyone!

Carrot Cake

With cinnamon, walnuts and a cream cheese icing, this cake may be naughty, but it's also nice! It's a far better option than buying cake at the supermarket or bakery, as you get to control the ingredients.

Carrot Halwa

Another delicious sweet, this time a traditionally Indian one. Halwa is a spicy, creamy carrot-based dessert traditionally served after curry. It only takes a few minutes to whip this up in a microwave, so it's perfect if you need to come up with a quick dessert!

Fiery Red Rice Salad

We love Mary Berry's recipes, and this light, fresh salad is perfect served with fish (such as salmon) or marinated chicken. With carrots, spring onions, red rice, coriander and a chilli and lime dressing, it takes minutes to make and would also be perfect served on its own as a healthy lunch option.

Roasted Carrot, Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Even though the weather is getting warmer, chillier days are still a great time to enjoy a bowl of hearty vegetable soup, and with carrot, squash and sweet potato, this soup is packed with vitamin A, which will leave your skin glowing!

Gingered Carrot and Kale Ribbons

This delicious side dish is loaded with vitamin C, iron and vitamin A, and the addition of ginger gives the vegetables a real kick. We love to serve this with salmon or even tuna steaks as a great way to boost your way towards five a day!

Carrot, Apple and Ginger Smoothie

Adding vegetables to smoothies is nothing new, but how about adding some carrots to your fruit smoothie? Not only does this up the vitamin A content, it also gives it a deliciously fresh flavour - fantastic served for breakfast or as a post-workout snack.

Sicilian Style Carrots

Who said carrots have to be boring, boiled or roasted? Adding a few simple ingredients can turn the humble roast carrot into something magical. Don't believe us? Try this recipe, which roasts carrots with garlic, anchovies, parsley and extra-virgin olive oil for a delicious side dish. Perfect served with fish or chicken!

Add some carrots to your shopping list next time you're doing your weekly shop and marvel at all the amazing recipes you can make with them - they're ideal if you're eating on a budget!

READ THIS NEXT: Healthy ingredients: Cruciferous cauliflower

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Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 26th May 2015 at 13:27

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