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Veggie Bites for Teens: Carrots

carrotsCarrots are some of the most popular vegetables in the world. But how well do you really know them?

Did you know that the longest carrot ever grown was more than 19 feet? There is also a baby carrot variety shaped like a golf ball.

Did you know that the fattest carrots tend to be the sweetest ones? The sugars are concentrated in the core, so the larger the diameter (up to about 1 1/2 inches), the sweeter the carrot.

Did you know that if you eat way too many carrots, your skin could turn yellowish-orange? Cutting back on the carrots will return your skin to its natural color.

Did you know that carrots weren't originally orange? Carrots grow in a rainbow from white to yellow, orange, red, purple, and even black. The Dutch developed orange carrots in the 16th century.

Carrot Nutrition

Perhaps the best thing to know about the color of carrots, though, is that the beta-carotene responsible for their orange color also does great things for your body.

Mind energy. Improves your memory and learning ability, so you can kick it up during exams!

Skin power. Reduces moles on your skin.

Free radical zapper. Neutralizes the nasty little molecules that, like rust on metal, eat away at your organs.

The long haul. Decreases your chance of getting heart disease and some cancers.   

Super vision. Your body also converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which is great for your eyes. A medium-sized raw carrot provides 77% of all the vitamin A you need in a day -- with no fat and only 25 calories. 

Fast Ways to Eat Carrots

Peeled or unpeeled, raw or cooked. Dip them in hummus or Greek yogurt. Have carrots for dinner, sliced and steamed with a very little bit of butter on top. Bake them with a little olive oil and the spice cardamom for a sweet treat. Or make a super-easy carrot salad: Mix shredded carrots (You can buy them that way.) with raisins and low-cal mayonnaise. Toss in some chopped apples too, if you have a couple of extra minutes.

Eat raw carrots any time, but save the cake for your birthday: one slice with cream-cheese frosting has a lot of calories -- 340 or more.

Where to Find Carrots

Carrots are all over supermarkets -- fresh, frozen, and canned. Go to the produce section, grab a bag of peeled baby carrots, which need no preparation at all, and snack away. On a restaurant salad bar, you'll get a much bigger nutrient blast from the grated carrots than from the iceberg lettuce, so be radical -- put them on the bottom as your salad's base.

More Fun Carrot Facts

Carrots are actually a member of the parsley family. The lacy green tops were once used in England and France as decoration for women's hats and hair.

While there are true baby carrots, harvested before the root reaches its full, mature size, most baby carrots we buy are manufactured. "Imperfect" full-size carrots are cut into 2-inch pieces, peeled, shaped, and smoothed. Baby carrots were developed in the 1980s by a California carrot farmer who was looking for a way to save the 400 tons of twisted, bent, and broken carrots he was throwing out every day.

"Only in dreams are carrots as big as bears." -- Old Yiddish proverb. (Guess they never saw the 19-footer.)

Feeling daring? Take the Vegetable Challenge.

Ready for another bite? Try Broccoli, Edamame, Kale, or Sweet Potatoes.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by William Fredette, MD on February 26, 2012