Fresh Carrots Top the List for Beta-Carotene

Posted: Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Although beets edge out carrots as the sweetest of all vegetables, carrots place first as the top source for beta-carotene. If you're interested in the science, beta-carotene is a carotenoid, responsible for giving carrots and other vegetables, like pumpkin and sweet potatoes , their bright orange color. Interestingly, studies show carrots that have been cooked briefly, for periods of less than 15 minutes, actually contain more levels of beta-carotene than carrots that are raw. Beta-carotene is converted in the body as vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that studies say, among other things, may help protect us from certain kinds of cancers, boosts bone growth, and benefits our immune and reproductive systems. Vitamin A is also credited for helping to maintain good eyesight (particularly night vision) and skin. Carrots are the versatile workhouse of the kitchen and an important mainstay in recipes from muffins and cakes, to soups, stews, salads and so much more. Dieticians warn, however, that it is possible to eat too many carrots, with adverse results, so it's wise to check with a health care provider regarding how many carrots are just right for you. For more information regarding vitamin A and carotenoids, visit The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements at

Photos By Sue Ade
Photos By Sue Ade
Carrots sold with their tops intact are fresher than carrots sold in plastic bags. Look for carrots with a firm texture, smooth skin and bright orange color. Most of a carrot's nutrition likes just beneath the skin, so unless a recipe specifically calls for peeling carrots, like the ones used for Carrots in Cream with Fresh Mint (lower left), prepare carrots for recipes by scrubbing, rather than peeling, their skins.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at

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