Carrots. What image comes to mind when you hear the word? Most of us think of the color orange. Now take a moment to visualize carrots on a plate. Are they purple carrots cooked whole and slathered in butter? Or do you envision raw orange baby carrots on a platter with other veggies usually found at parties? For most of us, the latter is what our mind conjures up. It's typical. We often choose the most convenient option when shopping at the market.

What if I were to tell you that you could get eight times more beta-carotene from carrots by choosing and preparing them a certain way? Would you take the time to do so? I certainly will after reading Jo Robinson's book Eating on the Wild Side. Jo has compiled some very intriguing information about the nutritional content of many fruits and vegetables. In the coming weeks, I'll do my best to break down some of her insightful findings and share them with you so that you too can get the most out of your food.

Purple carrots are the most nutrient dense of the four colors you can find at the market. As is the case with most vegetables, the color of carrots is a good indicator of the amount and kinds of bionutrients they contain. A nutrient known as anthocyanin, found in purple carrots, has more antioxidant value and more health benefits than the more commonly known beta-carotene found in orange carrots.

If you can't get your hands on the purple variety, don't fret. There are plenty of nutrients in the orange varietals which can be tapped into by following the steps below.  

  1. Choose the whole carrot over baby carrots. 
  2. Cook carrots whole, not sliced.
  3. Steam or sauté them rather than boiling.
  4. Serve them with some oil or fat.

Ever wonder where baby carrots come from? I did until recently. They're actually normal-sized carrots that have been pre-trimmed and scrubbed to appear more uniform and appealing to the masses. I don't know about you, but I like my produce looking like it was just plucked from the earth. Not to mention, as is the case with most fruits and veggies, most nutrients are found in the outer part of carrots, so you're not getting much nutritional value in the pre-cut and packaged option. When cooked whole, carrots have 25% more falcarinol than when cut before cooking. Be sure to serve cooked carrots with some fat. I like to use butter. The beta-carotene found in carrots is a fat-soluble nutrient that needs to be coated in fat to be absorbed by the body. Don't you love hearing that?

When purchasing carrots, buy the ones that have the green still attached as they are only a few weeks old and taste sweeter, as compared to others that have a  bitter flavor and are typically sold a few months old. You can store them for weeks, after cutting the tops off, in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer away from any ethylene gas-producing foods like apples, cantaloupe, scallions, tomatoes, etc.