We are often told that most vegetables contain the maximum amount of vitamins when they are raw. However, in case of carrots, the body can easily produce 5 times more vitamin A from cooked carrots than from raw carrots.
First, some facts.
- Carrots contain beta carotene (sometimes also called provitamin A). Our bodies use it to produce vitamin A. It is also an antioxidant (it protects cells from free radicals, i.e. it reduces cancer risk).
- Beta carotene is not destroyed or transformed when mid-heated, for example, when a carrot is steamed or shortly cooked.
- Beta carotene is “trapped” behind cellular walls. When eating a raw carrot, the body can absorb only about 5% of beta carotene.
- The cellular walls dissolve when the carrot is cooked/steamed. Therefore, more beta carotene is released and can be absorbed.
- Body absorbs beta carotene better when fat and/or oil is present in the food.
- Carrots contain also water soluble vitamins, such as B vitamins and vitamin C. When carrots are cooked, these vitamins dissolve in the water. They also get partially destroyed when heated up.
So how to prepare carrots in order to get the most out of them? It depends on what you want to get the most.
If you want to maximize the amount of beta carotene that body can absorb, blend carrots first and then boil them shortly. Add butter or eating oil to make sure that maximum of beta carotene is extracted and also digested.
If you want to get a reasonable balance of vitamins, you need to steam the carrots shortly. By doing so, the cellular walls will dissolve and beta carotene will be released. The water soluble vitamins have almost no way to dissolve in water and not enough time to get destroyed because of the heat. Put bit of butter on steamed carrots when serving them.
Another alternative is to drink carrot juice. Add a table spoon of eating oil to the glass of carrot juice in order to help the body to absorb beta carotene.
Limitations and Side Effects
High level of beta carotene in body can be harmful for those who drink alcohol regularly and/or smoke frequently.
The short movie The truth about raw carrots shows evidence that about 5% of beta carotene can be extracted from raw carrots when chewed. 60% can be extracted from boiled carrots and 90% from carrots, which are first blended and then boiled.
The article Finding the Best Way to Cook All Those Vegetables summarizes benefits of cooking vegetables.
Read also about health benefits of carrots.