Carrots were first mentioned in written records in ancient Greece 2,500 years ago. Its Latin name, Daucus, comes from the Greek “daiou” (”burn”), due to its stimulating effect, which is especially embodied in seeds.
Until Renaissance, carrots were not particularly popular. Probably the reason was that the first varieties had very hard roots with fibrous structures. In the early 17th century agronomists cultivated several varieties of carrots and were able to get the orange carrot roots with much tastier flavor than its predecessors. Europeans mostly grew this variety, while purple carrots were popular in southern Asia and northern Africa. Thanks to its great popularity, the carrot was the first vegetable that was canned in the early 19th century.
Although Europe is considered to be the primordial homeland of carrots, where it still grows abundantly as a wild plant, carrots are eaten all over the world. From the ancient ancestor of the small root, red, yellow or purple in colour, breeding has evolved over 100 varieties, which differ in colour and size. The closest relatives were her parsnip, fennel, cumin and dill. Today, this plant has a fleshy, thick root of intense orange colour and green, pinnate leaves overhead. The root has a sweet, crunchy texture, while the leaves are bitter.
Energy and nutritive value
Carrots consist of 89% carbohydrate, 6% protein and 5% fat. Accordingly, carbohydrates are the main carriers of energy value, which amounts to 41 kcal / 171 kJ per 100 g of fresh food.
Carrots satisfy even 308% the daily requirement for vitamin A. This vegetable is also a great source of vitamin K (21%.) , dietary fibers and potassium. We should not forget the vitamins – thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate and the mineral manganese.
Carotene gives carrots the characteristic orange colour. It is usable in different levels depending on the preparation of carrot: from raw is 2%, from boiled 18% and from raw grated as much as 82%. Some nutritionists believe that the nutrients from a carrot can be better used if it is cooked. Anyway, a good nutritional profile will fix the fact that carrots have a very small amount of saturated fat and cholesterol.
Carrots are rich in antioxidants – carotenoids, which help protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer, regulate blood sugar and improve eyesight. The best-known carotenoid (yellow or orange pigment) is beta – carotene, which the body transforms into vitamin A.
Several researches showed that people who took at least one serving of carrots daily, reduced the risk of heart attack by 60%. Also, the intake of carotenoids is associated with reduced breast cancer by 20% and even 50% reduction of cancer of the urinary bladder, uterus, prostate, colon, larynx and esophagus. One of the larger studies also showed that eating just one carrot a day reduces the risk of developing lung cancer by 50%.
Vitamin A is especially important in the body of smokers. Specifically, benzopyrene, an ingredient from cigarette smoke, significantly reduces the amount of vitamin A in the body, thus leading to greater opportunities for development of a disease such as emphysema and lung cancer. The same is true for passive smoking.
Beta-carotene also helps protect the eye. After transforming into vitamin A, it goes to the retina, where it crosses the rhodopsin, a pigment necessary for night vision. In the later years of life protects against the appearance of eye cataracts.
Carrots contain a special type of fiber, calcium pectate, which lowers blood cholesterol levels. It also acts as a diuretic, reducing fluid retention and soothing cystitis. It also helps to release mucus from the respiratory tract and because of its antiseptic properties can help treat infections.
Carrot encourages physical development of children, strengthens bones and increases resistance to infections. It increases the number of red blood cells, suppresses anemia and has beneficial effect on liver function.