Carrots, while higher in sugar than many other vegetables and therefore best eaten in moderation, have a number of excellent health benefits, including:
•Brain and nervous system health
•Protection against heart disease and stroke
•Promotion of healthy bones
One serving of orange carrots (one medium carrot or one-half cup chopped) will provide about 210 percent of the average daily recommended allowance (RDA) of vitamin A. The high vitamin A content, for which carrots are best known, comes from beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in your liver.
Your body cannot manufacture beta-carotene, so you have to get it from your diet, and carrots contain some of the highest levels of beta-carotene of any vegetable. A single serving will also give you 10 percent of the RDA of vitamin K, 6 percent of vitamin C and 2 percent of calcium. That said, different colored carrots will provide you with different sets of nutrients.
•Red carrots will be higher in lycopene and beta-carotene pigment, linked to a lower risk of certain cancers, including prostate cancer
•Yellow contain high amounts of xanthophyll and lutein, associated with cancer prevention and eye health
•White or pale-yellow carrots tend to be milder, with high fiber content
•Purple carrots contain higher amounts of anthocyanin, beta- and alpha-carotenes, and have a sweeter and sometimes peppery flavor
Carrots Come in Many Colors
One benefit of growing your own carrots is that you can grow varieties you'll typically never see in a grocery store. Carrots actually come in a number of different colors and shapes, from light yellow to deep purple. As noted by GrowVeg.com:1
"Different colors of carrot originate from different parts of the world. Each color has its own history and particular health benefits … Purple carrots, for example, hail from the Middle East and Turkey and are rich in anthocyanins which are known to guard against heart disease.
Red carrots originate from China and India. Chock full of lycopene, these roots can reduce the risk of macular degeneration, so while they may not help you see in the dark they're certainly good news for eye health.
Carrots that are yellow originate from the Middle East and are just as good for the eyes. They contain [lutein] and xanthophyll that minimize the risk of hardening of the arteries while potentially preventing lung and other cancers … [B]y growing a mixture of varieties you'll be increasing the odds of keeping yourself in exceptionally fine fettle."
Popular Carrot Varieties
Carrots are a joy to grow in your garden,2,3 as they're delicious right out of the ground. If vegetables are unpopular with your kids, grow some carrots and watch them change their mind once they start pulling these sweet snacks out of the dirt.
Depending on the variety you sow, you can grow them in spring and fall, into early winter. The following carrot varieties tend to be popular among gardeners. You can also buy premixed blends that will give you a mixture of different colors. Examples include Rainbow, Cosmic Color and Harlequin blends, which will give you a mix of pale yellow to red carrots. For even more suggestions, see RareSeeds.com.4
Nantes: A fast grower that adapts well to a range of soils and climates
Cosmic Purple: A dark reddish purple variety with solid orange center
Chantenay: A shorter, stockier root that gets sweeter toward the fall as the temperatures drop
Purple Haze: A deep purple carrot with an orange core, Purple Haze adds gorgeous color to any dish
Miniature: Much smaller than the average carrot, miniature carrots are particularly good if you have a lot of clay in your soil
Yellowstone: Smooth-skinned and extra sweet
Imperator: A longer variety, the Imperator needs deep, sandy soil to grow well
Red Samurai: Scarlet-colored on the outside and pink inside, Red Samurai is another eye-catching addition to any dish
Danvers: Particularly popular for juicing and tends to store well long-term
Atomic Red: A very bright orange-red variety