When I was a kid, I ate a ton of carrots. Probably to the point where I was just short of turning my skin orange. As an already awkward child, life took a traumatic turn when I found out I had to wear glasses. Since everyone knows carrots are good for your eyes, downing baby carrots like they were going out of style was my ticket to 20/20 vision.
Flash forward to today and I am the proud owner of two eyes with a -10.5 and -11 prescription. For those of you blessed with clear vision, all you need to know is that it’s bad, like, really bad.
It's a humorous story, but I share it as a warning against ascribing magical powers to food. In this series, I like to talk about the health benefits of foods to help change the narrative away from food fear and towards thinking of food as nourishment. I think it's so fascinating to know how food positively impacts our health! But big picture, no single food can cure your ills. Health and wellness is determined by the big picture of not just what we eat, but how we feel about what we eat, not to mention stress, sleep, socioeconomic factors, fitness, etc.
So while carrots may not magically give you 20/20 vision, there's still plenty of good reasons to eat them (first and foremost because they're delicious!). Carrots are a root vegetable related to dill, parsley, parsnips, and fennel. We think of them as being an orange vegetable, but actually the first carrots that were cultivated were purple, and you can still find them sold in a rainbow of different colors, especially at the farmers market. Rainbow carrots are just so pretty! See:
While you hear a lot about the vision support benefits of carrots, there really aren't a ton of studies. But we do know the carotenoids in carrots are beneficial for eye health, reducing the risk of glaucoma and cataracts (which unfortunately does no good for a 9-year old trying to ditch the four-eyes label). Carrots are super rich in vitamin A, with 1 cup equaling providing over 100% your daily needs. Probably more than eye health, carrots are healthy for your heart - one study found orange/yellow vegetables compared to other colors of vegetables was the most protective against heart disease. Besides being an excellent source of vitamin A, carrots are also a very good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Plus, they're crazy inexpensive so if you're looking for a cheap and crowd pleasing veggie, carrots are it!
I used to hate cooked carrots as a kid because my parents always served them boiled or steamed. Ever since I discovered how sweet and caramelized they become when they get all toasty and warm in the oven, I've been obsessed. Pro tip: roast them with orange juice and they'll taste like candy. Or throw some chipotle chilies into the mix for that whole sweet and savory thing.
This recipe was inspired by the crazy delicious carrots I got at Dig Inn when I was in Boston for FNCE last year. It's basically like a Subway but with fresh, seasonal dishes that you can make into grain bowls. The combination of tahini, olives, mint and cumin gives it a little Middle Eastern flare. And I just realized chopped dates would be really tasty in here too!
Roasted Carrots with Tahini, Olives and Mint
1 lb carrots, cut into sticks if large
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tahini
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons chopped black olives
2 tablespoons chopped toasted almonds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Toss carrots with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast 20-25 minutes until tender and golden.
While carrots are still hot, drizzle with tahini. Sprinkle with garlic, vinegar and cumin then toss to combine. Toss in olives.
Place in a serving bowl. Garnish with almonds and mint. Serve warm or room temperature.