Cook Your Carrots for More Antioxidants, University of Arkansas Researchers Say

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Cooked, pureed carrots do not lose their nutritional value, and may contain more health-giving properties than crunchy raw carrots, according to University of Arkansas researchers.

Food science professor Luke Howard and graduate assistants S.T. Talcott and C.H. Brenes measured antioxidant levels in fresh and pureed carrots and found that the pureed carrots had higher antioxidant levels than their fresh counterparts. The researchers reported their findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, published by the American Chemical Society.

"People think that fresh vegetables are always better for you than cooked ones," Howard said, "but that is not always the case."

Howard and his colleagues processed carrot puree with and without the outer skin. They then measured the antioxidant activity over a period of four weeks, looking at levels of phenolic acids and beta carotene, substances with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals in the body and may help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and irritable bowel syndrome.

The researchers found that antioxidant levels increased immediately after heat processing by 34.3 percent and continued to increase for the first week of storage. After that the antioxidant levels declined, but never went back down to the original levels for raw carrots.

The addition of peels to carrot processing also increased antioxidant activity throughout the study.

"It appears that processed carrots may afford greater protection against oxidative damage than raw carrots," Howard said. He indicated that more research needs to be done to determine the bioavailablity of the carrot puree antioxidants relative to raw carrots.

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