Photo Credit: Kang Kim; Styling by Paul Lowe
When it comes to vitamin power, carrots are king of the underground vegetables. They are so important they even named a class of nutrients after them—the carotenoids, of which beta-carotene is a member. Carrots are the major source of beta-carotene in our diet, and beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant that may protect against cancer. Your body only converts beta-carotene into vitamin A at the rate in which it is needed. So, unlike vitamin A, which can become toxic if taken in too large doses, the worst beta-carotene can do is turn your skin a lovely shade of yellow-orange if eaten in excess.
Although we tend to identify these bright orange veggies for their sweet roots, the plant kingdom recognizes them by their tops as part of the Umbelliferae family—the vegetables with feathery leaves, such as parsley, dill, fennel, celery and Queen Anne's lace. Except for beets, carrots contain more naturally occurring sugar than any other vegetable. That explains their universal appeal and why they are so good at sweetening up soups and stews. Carrots are also a good source of fiber, two grams per half-cup. The most delectable way to eat a carrot is fresh-plucked from the organic garden and rinsed under the hose. Try adding grated carrots to muffins, sauces and soups to sweeten them up, add some fiber, and boost nutrients.