Published:  12:00 AM, 07 December 2016

A colorful source of valuable vitamins

A colorful source of valuable vitamins
Carrots are one of the most popular, versatile vegetables in the world! Whether they are eaten raw, cooked or juiced, people from nearly every culture have consumed carrots - in their many forms - throughout history. In Bengali it is called 'Gajor', scientific name Daucus carota subsp.

Molecular and genetic studies, along with written history, support the idea that the cultivated/domesticated carrot has a single origin in Central Asia. The wild ancestors of the carrot are likely to have originated in Persia (regions of which are now Iran and Afghanistan), which remains the centre of diversity for Daucus carota, the wild carrot. A naturally occurring subspecies of the wild carrot was presumably bred selectively over the centuries to reduce bitterness, increase sweetness and minimize the woody core; this process produced the familiar garden vegetable. When they were first cultivated, carrots were grown for their aromatic leaves and seeds rather than their roots. Carrot seeds have been found in Switzerland and Southern Germany dating back to 2000-3000 BC. Some close relatives of the carrot are still grown for their leaves and seeds, for example: parsley, cilantro/coriander, fennel, dill and cumin. The first mention of the root in classical sources is during the 1st century, and the carrot may have been eaten as a root vegetable by the Romans, although there is some ambiguity about this, as they used the word pastinaca for both carrots and parsnips, part of the same family.

Carrots are known for their signature orange color, and they get their color from antioxidants called carotenoids. One of these carotenoids is beta carotene, a precursor to active vitamin A that is responsible for many of the carrot and carrot juice benefits that we know about today. Many studies have shown that beta carotene is crucial for improving immunity in the body, protecting skin and eye health, and fighting free radical damage that can cause various forms of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Health benefits of carrots

*    Sweet and crunchy carrots are notably rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and dietary fiber. They provide only 41 calories per 100 g, negligible amount of fat and no cholesterol.
*    They are exceptionally rich source of carotenes and vitamin-A. 100 g fresh carrot contains 8285 µg of beta-carotene and 16706 IU of vitamin A. Studies have found that flavonoid compounds in carrots may offer protect from skin, lung and oral cavity cancers.
*    Carotenes converted into vitamin A in the liver cells. Beta-carotene is the major carotene present in these roots. Beta carotene is one of the powerful natural anti-oxidant that helps protect human body from harmful oxygen-free radical injury. In addition, it also carry out all the functions of vitamin-A such as maintaining good eye health, reproduction (sperm production), maintenance of epithelial
*    Carrots are rich in poly-acetylene antioxidant, falcarinol. Research study conducted by scientists at University of Newcastle on laboratory animals has found that falcarinol in carrots may help fight against cancers by destroying pre-cancerous cells in the tumors.
*    Fresh roots are also good in vitamin C; provide about 9% of RDA. Vitamin-C is water soluble anti-oxidant. It helps the body maintain healthy connective tissue, teeth and gum. Its anti-oxidant property helps the human body protect from diseases and cancers by scavenging action on harmful free radicals.
*    In addition, they are especially rich in many B-complex groups of vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, pantothenic acid, etc., that acts as co-factors to enzymes during substrate metabolism in the body.
*    Further, they also compose healthy levels of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, manganese and phosphorus. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

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