Colorful Carrots Pack a Nutrient Punch

Photo by frenchbyte courtesy of morguefile.com

The other day, I perused our garden and noticed the robust carrots waiting to be harvested. Bright orange carrots are always a popular item on our menu, and you can try other varieties that vary from white to purple.I recall a conference event where I planned the snack menu, and, unfortunately, colorful carrots with dip were not very popular.

“The guys didn’t eat the carrots. I picked up 65 packs of carrots after their break,” one of the conference planners told me.

I felt guilty. I was the person who had put together the conference menus.

I felt a little better when one of my male colleagues walked over to me and said, “I really liked the carrots. It was nice having a healthy snack option.”

I appreciated the comment. However, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t you eat about 10 more packs of carrots? Then there only would have been 55 packs left over.”

I was thinking I would receive a special delivery of carrot packets to consume. If I ate that many carrots, however, my skin probably would turn orange, among other consequences.

I certainly would meet my vitamin A recommendation because the beta-carotene, which provides carrots their color, is converted to vitamin A. Vitamin A helps us see normally in the dark and keeps our cells and tissues, including our skin, healthy.

For anyone who skips carrots or other vegetables on a regular basis, be aware that you are skipping some valuable nutrition, plus soluble and insoluble fiber.

Americans consume only about 10 percent of the amount of fiber they did a century ago. Most people need 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Most do not hit that mark.

Fiber is carbohydrate material that cannot be digested. It can be placed in two categories: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk to the diet and helps prevent constipation.

Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as carrots, celery, whole-wheat breads and cereals, zucchini and other foods.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance. Soluble fiber, which is found in foods such as carrots, oatmeal, citrus fruits, apples, legumes, lentils and berries, has powerful health benefits.

For people with diabetes, soluble fiber can help control blood sugar levels. The fiber slows gastric emptying, thereby slowing the absorption of glucose.

Soluble fiber can help lower total cholesterol by reducing “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels. Lower cholesterol levels are associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Eating more foods high in fiber also can help with weight loss or weight management. High-fiber foods tend to keep us feeling satisfied longer, therefore helping us eat less.

Next time I help plan a conference and include carrots for a snack, perhaps the carrots will be in the form of a healthful cookie.

Here is a recipe from the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service. It received a five-star rating.

Carrot Cookies

1/2 c. soft margarine
1 c. honey
1 c. grated raw carrots
2 well-beaten egg whites
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. oatmeal, quick cooking
1 c. raisins

In a large bowl, cream together margarine and honey. Stir in carrots and egg whites. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, oatmeal and raisins. Gradually stir flour-oatmeal mixture into creamed mixture, just until all the flour is mixed. Do not overmix. Drop from teaspoon on greased baking sheet. Flatten slightly and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

In place of honey, you can use 1 1/4 cups sugar mixed with 1/4 cup water.

Makes 30 servings, two cookies per serving. Each serving has 130 calories, 3.5 grams (g) of fat, 24 g of carbohydrate and 1 g of fiber.

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