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Carrots Pack Phytonutrient PunchCarrots Pack Phytonutrient Punch

February 18, 2010

2 Min Read
Carrots Pack Phytonutrient Punch

CHICAGOOrange carrots have some nutritious purple and red varieties that pack a phytochemical punch, said a new study published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. The review, published by the Institute of Food Technologists, saed the greatest benefits of carrots are their phytochemical content, including carotenoids, phenolics and anthocyanins, and their fiber.

Selecting nutrient-rich carrot cultivars can increase the nutritive value of the food supply, a concept called biofortification of foods. The first carrots cultivated for human consumption were actually purple and yellow, but those varieties have mainly been replaced in the West by orange cultivars. However, the colorful carrots have been "re-discovered" by modern plant breeders that are looking at improving nutrition.

Carrots' carotenoids are pigmented compounds, some of which act as precursors to vitamin A. These also produce colors ranging from yellow to orange and red. Anthocyanins give the purple carrots a bluish-red hue. Nutrients vary with cultivars and other factors, however a 100-gram serving of raw carrot provides approximately 120 percent of the RDA of vitamin A (as retinol activity equivalents), 4.5 percent of the RDA of vitamin E, 3 percent of the RDA of calcium, 4 percent of the RDA of magnesium, 7 percent of the RDA of potassium, and 11 percent of the RDA of fiber.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest consuming carrots gives the following nutritional advantages: 

  • Red carrots provide the antioxidant lycopene;  

  • Yellow carrots can be tapped as an alternative bioavailable source of lutein; 

  • Dark orange carrots have more concentrated beta-carotene, which might assist those at risk for vitamin A deficiency;

  • Purple carrots' beta-carotene bioavailability is similar to that of orange carrots. 

  • Carrot fiber can potentially increase satiety and decrease energy intake.

Carrots can be considered a functional food that plays a role in optimal health, according to lead author Sara Arscott: "Understanding the bioavailability of carrots nutrients will help researchers determine how to best help a population in need."

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