The Carrot: A Symbol of Health
By Joan McDaniel August 6, 2014
The common carrot has become the symbol of a healthy food. The pre-fast food 1950s Bugs Bunny image and even Popeye’s spinach further symbolizes the importance of vegetables in a healthy diet. Another proverb symbolizing the power of natural food is “Eat an Apple a Day To Keep The Doctor Away”. A proverb attributed to Benjamin Franklin in “Poor Richard’s Almanack”. Another traditional statement is “Rabbits don’t wear glasses they eat carrots”.
We don’t need to be told that eating vegetables can improve our health, decrease signs of aging and increase our life span, because our parents and their parents have already told us.
Antioxidants and Carotenoids
But why Vegetables?
It has to do with something called antioxidant and in the case of a fruit or vegetable it is called a Carotenoids.
Antioxidants are found in natural unprocessed food. Antioxidants is nature’s way of protecting the cells from free-radical damage. Antioxidants stabilizes the cell membranes, prevent oxyradicals or free-radicals from poking holes in the cell membranes and for the loss of energy (ATP), nutrients, and oxygen. See my article Free-Radicals and the health benefits of nuts.
Carotenoids are antioxidants found in fresh fruit and vegetables. Carotenoids contain Carotenes which are plant pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vivid and vibrant colors. Colors like blue, green, orange, purple, red, white, and yellow. Carotenoids like antioxidants fight the free-radical damage done by eating processed food or food without natural nutrients and exposure to environmental toxins. The best known Carotenoid is Beta-Carotene named after the carrot. The carrots vivid orange color is provided by Beta-Carotene.
Take Note: Carotenoids are fat-soluble which means you need fat to digest. Fat like butter, coconut, olive and other real oils – I don’t mean lab created trans-fat vegetable oils.
Also note: You need the whole fruit or vegetable, supplements are created and may or may not come from a real plant. Your body needs the real thing not something created in a lab. Modern science may treat the human body like a Robot but we are alive and moving. Science may understand machines but Mother Nature understands living human beings.
The Idiom “Carrot and Stick”
Speaking about tradition and symbols; while researching the carrot I ran into the term “carrot and stick”. A common phrase or idiom used in my day that refers to a form of behavior adjustment or brain washing.
The driver of the cart pulled by a donkey ties a carrot on a stick. The driver holds the stick behind the donkey and dangles the carrot in front. The carrot is an incentive for the donkey to pull the cart. The donkey will pull the cart all day long and never get any closer or further to the reward of the carrot. The carrot will always just be out of reach.
I Ate what I Researched
I include this somewhat depressing picture only to illustrate how I got well from being very sick. I had no energy or strength. I began to research food and nutrition. My research lead me to the eating of natural healing foods. I found my energy and strength slowly returning day after day.
When I look back I often think of myself as that poor donkey pictured. Getting ill ended my indoctrination and remove my blinders. I was blindly following the promise of the sweet carrot, until I finally “Saw the Light” and kick up my heels and refused to pull the sugar cart around anymore. I wonder how many others are still pulling the cart for a reward that never comes. The reward in this case being the promise of good health that slowly disappears never to return.
A Rainbow of Colors
The carrot symbolizes another saying that being “Variety is the spice of life”. Another saying is “Eat a rainbow of colors”. It is true about variety and Mother Nature offers us just that – a wide variety. The foods from nature are rich in vibrant colors. Processed foods are dyed by lab created chemicals to have color and taste.
To get all the enzymes, nutrients, and vitamins you need to stay healthy you need nature’s rainbow of colors of fruits and vegetables. Pigments in fruits and vegetables are different carotenes which is another form of antioxidant. There are five basic colors: Blue/purple, Green, Red, Yellow/Orange and White.
Each Color of the Vegetable Rainbow has a Different Health Benefit.
The many pigments or color in fruits or vegetables represent different health benefits. Different Carotenoids mean different colors, enzymes, and vitamins the food contains. To be healthy we need them all.
Different Colors Mean Different Benefits.
Blue or purple contain ingredients like lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids, ellagic acid and quercetin.
Green – Xanthophylls which contain chlorophyll, lutein,
Orange and Yellow contain Beta-Carotene, flavonoids, lycopene, and potassium. Vitamin A is good for vision as we may or may not know.
Red contain ellagic acid, hesperidin, lycopene, quercetin and hesperidin.
White contain ingredients like beta-glucan EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), SDG (Secoisolariciresinol diglucoside) and lignin.
A very small list of the different carotenoids
Beta-Carotene – Makes Vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant important to the human body including bone, the eye, immune system and skin.
Chlorophyll – Is what makes green vegetables green. It captures light energy from the sun.
Lycopene –Helps fight heart disease and several types of cancer.
Lignin – Immune system support and detoxing.
Luten – Helps the eyes
Resveratrol – substance to fight both bacteria and fungi.
retinol, which helps to generate nerve impulses in our retinas.
Vitamin A is an antioxidant important to the human body including bone, the eye, immune system and skin.
Orange or Yellow Color Foods Project Energy.
Orange Foods according to color therapy the color orange is said to release energy like the sun and promote a sense of well-being. Foods like (carrots, cantaloupe, mangoes, pumpkins, oranges, sweet potato or yams).
What is the Carrot?
The carrot is a root vegetable usually orange in color but carrots do come in multiple colors like purple, red, white, and yellow varieties. The carrot has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. The domestic carrot has been selectively bred to make it more palatable, increase its sweetness, and minimize the woody core or taproot.
The carrot was first cultivated for its leaves not its taproot. Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family, named after the umbrella-like flower clusters of the family related to carrots. Carrots are related to the same family as anise, caraway, cumin, dill, fennel and parsley, parsnips.
Carrots are available throughout the year, but locally grown carrots are in season in the summer and fall when they are the freshest and most flavorful.
The Carrot is Naturally Sweet
The carrot has a crunchy texture and a sweet minty aromatic taste. The carrot has the second highest natural sugar (7 g per cup) count in vegetables the beet is number one with (9 g per cup).
Natural Sugar is better for you than High Fructose Corn Syrup. But all sugar counts natural or processed. Read more in my article Good Carb Bad Carb
We tell the sugar addicted to get off sugar and eat a carrot. Carrots may be sweet and the bigger the carrot the more sugar it contains but in our world of sugar you would need to eat a whole lot of carrots to equal the 28 g of sugar in one Coco-Cola 8 ounce bottle.
Coco-Cola Nutrition Label Showing Sugar Content
Carrots Come in an A Variety of Amazing Colors
Carrots are orange right? Wrong there are an amazing variety of colors found in carrots. All these color varieties still belong to the genus and species of plant, Daucus carota. Note the white and yellow is a carrot not a turnip. Also note not all carrots are pretty and straight.
Did You Know You Can Eat the Carrot Leaves?
When I buy my carrots from my local farmer he offers to remove the unwanted leaves. I would never think of actually eating the tops and I’m eating a lot of natural things. I normally say no and cut the tops off myself for my own compost patch. I assumed carrot greens were simply inedible. Research has shown what the ancient Greeks already knew. The ancient Greeks raised the carrot for its leaves not its taproot which grows under the ground.
Are Carrot Tops Bad for you?
The carrot is related to cumin, dill, fennel and parsley which are all famous for their feathery tops. The carrot like the rest the tops are eatable. Carrot tops are bitter and I have learned to fight illness you need the taste of bitter. See my article “Bitter is Better”
So How Do You Eat the Tops?
The author think it is a waste to throw away the carrot tops or discard them in the compost patch. “Many root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, radishes, and beets, are grown for the roots and the tops are discarded or composted. What a shame to waste all the nutrients and deliciousness of those bushy tops. Carrot tops, which some believe are poisonous, and they are not, are such a treat to use.”
Check out Diane’s recipe for carrot top pesto:
When using carrots for juicing the Bolero, and Ingot a Nantes type, are the best. One of the most popular carrots is the early or late Half-Long. Please note there isn’t anything called a “baby carrot”.
How Are Baby Carrots Made?
But before you go and buy what is called “Baby Carrots” off the Grocery Store shelf you better first ask the question – What are Baby Carrots?
A Baby carrot is made not grown. You see Carrots are a root vegetable and they can grow to a pretty good length. Nature is not perfect and the Earth isn’t either. I live in the New England area and the land literally grows rocks. No matter how I turn the soil or how often I till it I always find rocks and so do carrots.
Carrots don’t all grow in a nice row like what we get in the plastic bags found in the Grocery Store’s produce section. Carrots grow crooked, deformed, and imperfect.
Well since we expect food to look perfect like processed foods our carrots need to look all neat and pretty so an industrious Farmer started cutting down the ugly carrot and creating a “Baby Carrot”. The cutting is pealed and washed and hardly resembles the original carrot. Since the peel has been removed the carrot is soaked in chlorine and put in a plastic bag for protection from bacteria.
After processing the “Baby Carrot” is anything but a carrot. After eating fresh carrots and deformed carrots grown in my garden or my local farmers garden the baby carrot tastes more like dish soap or swimming pool water.
If you look close at prepared carrots like the “Baby Carrot”, cocktail carrots, or the shredded carrot you will see some carrots are covered in a white film, this is caused by dehydration of the cut surface. I don’t think there are many nutrients left except of course the sugar.
How do they make baby carrots Video
Benefits of Carrots
Carrots contain high concentration of carotenoids, notably beta-carotene which is named after carrots. Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A. Besides being really good for eyesight strengthens the immune system. The Vitamin A in carrots help stop free radical damage and macular degeneration.
Helps Fight Cancer
There is increasing evidence that eating foods high antioxidants protect the body at a cellular level from damage. Vegetables and Fruits with a dark orange pigment like carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes are known to pack a serious alpha, beta and other carotenoid punch. These antioxidants protect the body at the cellular level from antioxidant or free-radical damage.
Prevent cognitive decline
Studies have shown diets rich in Vitamin A and beta-carotene over an extended period of time show significant improvements in brain aging, cognition and verbal memory skills. It may also have to do with the body is simply under less stress when inflammation has been decreased and increase of antioxidants do just that. By reducing or eliminating oxidative stress or decrease oxygen supply to the brain. Natural treatment for leukemia Bioactive compounds found in carrots and carrot juice are being studied to help induce cell death on human lymphoid leukemia cell lines. Help Prevent Heart Disease Eating a rainbow of colorful, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables are effective in treating cardiovascular disease (CVD) several studies have found. The color deep orange or yellow found in carrots provided the most protection.
Helps with Good Gut Health
Carrots are high in fiber, low in calories but a little high in natural sugar. Carrots help with detoxing and losing weight.
How to Store Carrots
Carrots are hardy and will keep longer than many other vegetables the key to carrots is to keep them from drying out and cracking or becoming soft and rubbery. If you have purchased your carrots with the green feathered tops they should be removed and keep separate. The leaves had a tendency to draw out the natural moister in the carrot. To keep the carrot moist, I store it in the crisper of my refrigerator in a plastic bag. Storage in a plastic bag is good for vegetables for it becomes a separate world and will not pick up the flavors of other foods.
Before storage I washed the carrots but do not dry them. I let them drip dry in the plastic bag or use a splash of water. The trick is to keep them from drying out but to prevent them from getting too wet.