With food, there’s always more than meets the eye. Seemingly simple questions such as “Why are carrots orange” can reveal interesting facts about nutrition and health. Keep reading to learn more.
Why Are Carrots Orange?
Roses are red, violets are blue, and carrots are orange.
Well, that’s not the traditional version of the poem. But it might as well be, considering how ingrained the color of carrots is in popular culture.
Carrots owe their characteristic color to natural compounds aptly named carotenoids, which include nutrients like beta-carotene and lutein.
- Orange carrots owe their color to alpha- and beta-carotene.
- Red carrots owe their color to lycopene.
- Yellow carrots get their color from lutein.
- Purple carrots get their color from anthocyanin
In the case of orange carrots, alpha- and beta-carotene offer many interesting health benefits.
Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A. This means that our body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A as needed. Vitamin A is essential to cellular and vision health. Plus, beta-carotene is also a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent a wide array of ailments.
Alpha-carotene, the other carotenoid found in orange carrots, is also a vitamin A precursor. While alpha- and beta-carotene are chemically similar, some studies suggest that alpha-carotene may be more effective at preventing certain illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.
Other Nutrients Found in Carrots
By breeding carrots over the years, farmers have increased the nutrient content of these vegetables. Today’s carrots have 50% more carotene than they did in the 1970s.
But carrots are more than alpha- and beta-carotene carotene. One ounce (28 grams) of boiled carrots without salt contains, among others:
- Vitamin A: 4770 IU, 95% of DV
- Vitamin C: 1.0 mg, 2% of DV
- Vitamin K: 3.8 mcg, 5% of DV
- Vitamin B6: 2% of DV
- Potassium: 65.8 mg, 2% of DV
- Manganese: 2% of DV
- Calcium: 8.4 mg, 1% of DV
- Iron: 0.1 mg, 1% of DV
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