I have read that for humans to absorb the nutrients from carrots, the carrots must be cooked because human bodies can not break down the cell walls in carrots to get the nutrients out. However, I have also been told that purple carrots lose their purple color when cooked. Is the blue phytonutrient in purple carrots destroyed by cooking? Should one eat some cooked and some uncooked carrots to get all the nutrients from carrots? What about ground up carrots in carrot juice? Do they contain the full balance of nutrients in carrots, both orange and purple?
In consulting with our nutrition experts here, we know of no scientific evidence indicating that carrots must be cooked in order to absorb the nutrients they contain. It is true that cooking can reduce some nutrient content in foods, but it can also make some nutrients more available to the body. Cooking veggies such as carrots for a shorter amount of time until they are just tender can help retain nutrients.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) published an article a few years back entitled, “Carrots with Character.” It discusses the various colors of carrots and the studies done on the phytochemicals (phytonutrients) associated with them. You may find this of interest: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/nov04/carrot1104.htm
It is important to note that all fruits and vegetables contain their own unique “thumbprint” with regard to the nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals they offer. Because of this, it is widely recommended to consume fruits and vegetables of all colors to maximize their health benefits. Remember, foods also work synergistically, possibly enhancing nutrient availability when eaten in combination with each other.
The take-home message here is just to include more fruits and veggies in your diet—all colors and all product forms (fresh, frozen, canned, dried & 100% juice). Let color be your guide, and get creative with your meals and snacks! Check out our delicious fruit and veggie tips and recipes right here on the website!