Carrots are one of the most popular, versatile vegetables in the world. Botanically known as Daucus carota (Fam: Apeaceae), it is called karaz in Hausa, kaooti in Yoruba and karot in Igbo. There are white, yellow, orange, purple and red varieties of carrot, although the orange carrots are the ones commonly seen in this clime.
Carrots are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre. The vitamins include B1, B2, B6, K and C, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, iron, copper, phosphorus, manganese and potassium. Some important antioxidants in carrots include carotenoids, such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein, cyanidins, poly-acetylenes like falcarinol and falcarindiol, lycopene, coumaric acid and caffeic acid, to mention a few. The carotene accounts for the bright orange colour of orange carrots.
The taproot of this vegetable is the part we are more familiar with and eat most of the time because of its crunchy texture and delicious taste. However, the green leaves of carrots are also beneficial – for instance, in making salads. Carrots may be eaten raw, cooked or juiced. Carrots are widely consumed all over the world in a wide range of dishes and cultural cuisines. Interestingly, research has shown that the benefits of these nutrients can be maximised when carrots are steamed. Carrot juice or pulp may be applied directly to the face. It serves as a fat substitute when used as a thickener in soups, sauces, casseroles and quick breads.
Pharmacological actions and medicinal uses
The health benefits of carrot can be largely due to its rich beta carotene and fibre content. Recent studies have revealed that carrots may play an important role in reducing the incidence of cancers of the prostate, breast, lungs and colon. This anti-cancer effect is largely attributable to phytonutrients found in carrots such as beta carotene, falcarinol and falcarindiol which possess excellent antioxidant properties and help to mop up free radicals.
Beta carotene consumed through carrots is first converted to vitamin A in the liver. Subsequently, vitamin A is then converted to rhodopsin, an important pigment for night vision. More still, beta carotene has also been shown to offer protection against senile cataracts and macular degeneration which are important causes of blindness.
The potassium and coumarin contents of carrot are responsible for its cardioprotective and blood pressure lowering effect.
The carotenoids which are found in carrots tend to prevent insulin resistance. In diabetic individuals, carrots enhance insulin function and glucose metabolism which helps to stabilise blood glucose. The high fibre content of carrots adds bulk to the diet, thus stimulating peristalsis and enhancing onward propulsion of food in the intestine. This helps to prevent constipation and protects the gut from toxic substances that may lead to colon cancer.
Regular intake of carrots slows down the rate at which you age. The several antioxidants loaded in carrots help to shield the body cells from oxidative injury by mopping up harmful free radicals. They also help to protect the skin from sun damage.
Excessive consumption of carrots can cause the skin to temporarily turn yellowish-orange in colour. According to one study, carrots can cause pollen-related allergic reactions in up to 25% of food-allergic individuals
Carrots may serve as raw material in food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. Carrots may be cut to pieces, canned or bagged in sealed nylon bags and sold to large supermarkets where consumers come and pick up as desired. Generally, 100ml of carrot oil sells between ₦1,000 and ₦3,000. Estimate of potential industry earnings for frozen carrots across more than 190 countries runs into millions of U.S. dollars annually,
Though northern Nigeria is the major player in carrot farming in Nigeria, with Plateau state being the highest producers, Vanguard newspapers recently reported that carrot, along with cucumber and garden eggs, are now cultivated in large quantities in Enugu and Ebonyi States in southeast Nigeria. There are opportunities in the cultivation, sales (wholesale and retail), pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries for carrots.