A carrot is a root vegetable, typically orange in color with a woody texture. The younger the carrot the smaller and more tender the flesh is, so 'baby carrots' are often preferred for raw use. Note that the 'baby carrots' you can buy bagged, washed and pre-peeled in US supermarkets are not actually 'babies' at all - they are larger carrots that have been mechanically shaped into stubs. True baby carrots (often known as 'Dutch carrots') are often sold by the bunch complete with tops. With a carrot that young, peeling is unnecessary - all that is needed is to scrub them under the tap to remove any dirt, and to cut off the hairy 'tail' and the leafy top. Older carrots benefit from peeling as the skin gets a lot more fibrous and hairy with age.
Carrots are often eaten raw, whole or shaved into salads for color, and are often cooked in soups and stews. They are an essential ingredient in carrot cake. The greens are not generally eaten (though they have food benefit to humans, but often taste bitter), but they are technically edible.
Carrots are orange because they contain large amounts of beta carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A). This gives rise to the myth that they will improve your eyesight, by enhancing the performance of receptors on the retina in your eye. They are nevertheless good for eye health. Carrots are also rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals and are alkaline food.
Carrots originally came in purple, white and yellow colours. The now standard orange carrot was developed in Holland in the 16th century. Different colored carrots are coming back in style. New yellow carrots get their color from xanthophylls, which have been linked to good eye health. Red carrots contain lycopene, also found in tomatoes and thought to guard against heart disease and some cancers. Purple carrots’ anthocyanins are regarded as powerful antioxidants that help protect cells from damage. White carrots lack any pigmentation, but do contain other health-promoting substances called phytochemicals, natural bioactive compounds found in plant foods that work with nutrients and dietary fibre to protect against disease.
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