Did you know that carrots come in a rainbow of colors beyond the lowly orange commonly seen in grocery stores? In fact, up until the Middle Ages, carrots were available only in red, black, yellow, white and purple! First introduced by the Dutch, the orange variety was recently retooled when scientists created a new powerhouse packed with orange pigments that delivers 75% more beta carotene than its predecessors, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Health Benefits. Carrots are loaded with vitamin A (a single carrot can fulfill an adult’s daily quotient of this essential nutrient, according to the USDA) and chock-full of vitamin C. Depending on its color, this root vegetable also contains other healthy nutrients; for example, lycopene (found in red carrots), which is heart-protective; beta carotene (orange carrots), which supports eye health; xanthophylls (yellow carrots), which are likewise good for the eyes; and anthocyanins (purple carrots), which act as powerful antioxidants. Carrots also provide a healthy dose of lutein, which may decrease the risk for macular degeneration, an age-related disease.
Selection. When purchasing carrots, pick those that are bright in color and well shaped. If the tops are still attached, make sure the leaves are bright green and fresh looking.
Storage. Before storing, remove any green tops to extend the shelf life of the vegetable. Keep carrots in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to 10 days.
Cooking Tips. Carrots are best steamed for 5–7 minutes in boiling salted water. To serve raw, shred carrots into a salad or slaw. Or simply peel carrots and dunk them into a low-fat herb dip or hummus. For measuring purposes, one large carrot equates to 1 cup of shredded produce, whereas a medium bunch yields about 1 pound.