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November 10, 2020

Tip Five - Boost Nutrition with Food Pairings: Carrots or Sweet Potatoes with Plant fats

Carrots are orange because they are rich in beta-carotene which gives them their trademark orange color. But I was surprised to learn that sweet potatoes are also rich in Carotene. Both of these vegetables contain many healthy nutrients in addition to fiber. 

Let us consider their health benefits:

Carrots are crunchy, tasty and in addition to beta-carotene, they are a good source of fiber, vitamin K, potassium, and antioxidants. In addition to these nutrients, carrots are weight-loss friendly due to low calories, reduce risk of cancer, and improve eye health with Vitamin A formed from beta carotene in our body. Carrots also contain a 241% DV, a daily value of Vitamin A.

Carrots contain pectin which is a soluble fiber that can lower blood sugar levels by slowing down our digestion of sugar and starch. It can also feed the friendly bacteria in our gut leading to improved health. It can also impair the absorption of cholesterol from the digestive tract, lowering blood cholesterol. The insoluble fibers in carrots are cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin which reduces the risk of constipation and promotes regular bowel movement.

Sweet Potato:

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes may be one of nature's unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene which raises the blood levels of vitamin A particularly true in children. Betacarotene is an antioxidant that protects our body from free radicals (which damage DNA and trigger inflammation) that are linked to causing cancer, heart disease, and aging. Therefore eating antioxidant-rich foods is good for your health. A 100g serving of sweet potato consists of 769% DV, a daily value of Vitamin A.

Like carrots, sweet potatoes also contain a soluble fiber called viscous fiber that absorbs water in our gut and softens the stool. The insoluble fibers add bulk and also get fermented by the bacteria in the colon release short-chain fatty acids that feed the cells of the intestinal lining and keep them strong and healthy.

As we have seen here both carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in betacarotene that forms into Vitamin A to boost our eye health. But beta-carotene absorption is boosted in our body when these vegetables were eaten along with some plant fat as it is a fat-soluble nutrient.

We propose to pair carrots with hummus (or some type of fat like peanut butter) as an excellent snack, the oil content in hummus from the sesame paste will help absorb more beta-carotene.

For sweet potatoes, it is a better option to saute or steam them and cut into pieces and pair them with nuts like sunflower or pumpkin seeds to enhance the carotene absorption. Cooking reduces the beta-carotene but it can retain 70% of this nutrient and still considered an excellent source.

So next time you are at a supermarket, remember to grab a few carrots or sweet potatoes or both to help boost your health in many good ways.

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