I’m sure most of you remember being told to eat your carrots to help your vision right? I’ve been wearing glasses since the age of 6 so it’s ingrained in my memory! How did this story come about? Well, it seems that in World War II, Britain's air ministry spread the word that a diet of carrots (already known to be a good source of Vitamin A, essential for healthy eyesight) helped pilots see Nazi bombers attacking at night. That was a propaganda story originating from Britain's Ministry of Food, intended to cover the real reason for the Royal Air Force's successes: Airborne Interception Radar, also known as AI. This secret system pinpointed enemy bombers before they reached the English Channel. Apparently the motive was twofold — it also encouraged folks to eat more vegetables (that could be grown in their own ‘Victory Garden’) during ration time, when meat and imports were scarce.
Can eating carrots really improve your eyesight?
Sorry Mom, but the answer is no! They can, however, help to keep your eyes healthy and not deteriorate as quickly. Both vitamin A and beta-carotene are known to lower the risk of eye disease, hence the carrot's association with eyesight. The University of Wisconsin has developed a variety of carrots that contains 3 to 5 times more vitamin A than the average carrot. Named the Beta III, it was bred especially for growing in countries suffering from severe vitamin A deficiency and epidemic blindness.
Carrots are also good sources of vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin K, biotin, fiber, potassium and thiamine. Here are other health benefits of carrots:
The body can only change so much beta-carotene into Vitamin A and any excess boosts the immune system and is a powerful antioxidant in its own right. Antioxidants prevent free radical damage to cells, tissues and most importantly to the fat in our bloodstream that can lead to blocked arteries and heart disease. Studies show that people who eat carotene-rich foods have lower risk of heart disease and arthritis. .Also, it is believed that regular consumption of carrots reduces cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber in carrots can help lower blood cholesterol levels by binding with and removing bile acids, cholesterol triggers would be pulled out from the bloodstream to make more bile acids.
Carrot soup has been found an effective natural remedy for diarrhea. It supplies fluid to combat dehydration, replenishes sodium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur and magnesium. It is a good source of pectin and coats the intestines to calm inflammation. It slows the growth of harmful bacteria and prevents vomiting.
Carrots contain a lot of beta-carotene, which serves as an antioxidant that helps the body fight the cell damage done to the body with dirt in the bloodstream and even oxygen. It also help slows down the aging of cells and various negative effects associated with aging.
Many studies have shown that eating carrots may help lower the risk of breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer. Recently, researchers have isolated a compound called falcarinol in carrots that may be largely responsible for anti-cancer benefits. Falcarinol is a natural pesticide found in carrots that protects their roots from fungal diseases, such as licorice rot that causes black spots on the roots during storage. A published study suggested it could also prevent the development of cancer. In daily diet, carrots are almost the only source of these compounds.
Carrots can even help clean your teeth. They act as natural abrasives, helping to eliminate dirt from the teeth and stimulate gums. They also trigger a lot of saliva, which helps to scrub away stains. Minerals in carrots help to kill germs in the mouth and prevent tooth damage.
In spite of all the benefits, a person can eat too many carrots or carotene rich foods. There is the likelihood of the development of a condition called "carotoderma". The skin takes on an orange hue from having too much carotene in the blood. Scientists have not fully investigated other physical problems that might be associated with this condition. The way to cure carotoderma is to simply reduce carrot consumption.
The most nutritional way to eat carrots is by cooking or juicing them as the cellular walls of the carrot are quite tough. Cooking or juicing carrots breaks down the cell walls and, when served alongside some fats, the body is then able to absorb over half the beta-carotene.
I have to be honest; carrots have never been my favorite. This changed recently when my son surprised me with dinner. I’m always looking for great vegetarian burger recipes and this recipe was refreshing and delicious.
Jerk Vegetable Patties
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons jerk seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups grated carrots
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
3 large eggs or egg replacer
1/2 cup soy milk
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet.
- Add onion, and cook, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Add garlic, jerk seasoning and salt; cook, stirring often, 30 to 60 seconds, until fragrant.
- Stir in carrots. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook 5 minutes, or until carrots are tender.
- Stir in peas, and cook 1 minute more.
- Transfer mixture to large bowl, and fold in breadcrumbs. Let cool slightly.
- Put egg and milk in bowl, and whisk together. Stir into carrot mixture. Form into 12 3/4-inch-thick patties, using generous 1/3 cup mixture for each.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add half of patties, and cook about 5 minutes on each side until golden.
- Transfer patties to plate; keep warm. Serve with salsa.
Carol DiPirro has been passionate about cooking, nutrition and healthy eating since she was a child, baking her first eggless cake from scratch at 8 yrs old. Growing up in an Italian family, clean healthy eating was the furthest thing from her dinner table. She has enjoyed years of re-creating her family’s favorite meals in a lighter, healthier way. She is currently studying towards a degree in Nutrition. Join Carol's Facebook Fan page: Chilly Peppers