We had quite an abundance of carrots in the fridge over the weekend so I wanted to use them and did so by making these Baked cannellini bean and carrot falafel and a Carrot and orange salad. I started doing some research on the potential health benefits of carrots and found that carrots are a rich source of the carotenoids phyotene and phytofluene.
Carotenoids are produced by plants, bacteria and some fungi. In contrast, humans cannot produce these compounds and must rely on dietary sources (1). Carotenoids are necessary for the synthesis of vitamin A, which is involved in embryo development (2), the immune response (3) and for vision (4). Phytoene and phytofluene are the precursors (building blocks) of all the carotenoids and are unique among the carotenoids because they are colourless. Carrots contain a high content of phyotene and phytofluene (0.5mg-2mg/100 grams) (1, 5).
A number of studies have looked at the potential health benefits of phyotene and phytofluene. The oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) is associated with cardiovascular disease and these carotenoids have been shown to inhibit this oxidation in a biological system (6).
Interestingly, during my reading I found that phyotene and phytofluene actually absorb UV light, therefore, a number of studies have looked at the ability of these carotenoids to protect against UV light induced erythema (the technical name for sunburn) and there appears to be evidence that these compounds may offer protection (7, 8).
Studies in humans have shown that both phyotene and phytofluene are bioavailable, meaning that these compounds reach the circulation unchanged (9). However, the issue with the majority of studies that investigate a particular dietary component with a possible therapeutic or preventative effect is that the concentrations used are typically very high and far exceed the concentration found in the food from which they are derived. So keep this in mind when you interpret these results. What I can say is that epidemiological studies suggest that a diet high in vegetables is associated with lower rates of disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Plus eating a diet full of a variety of vegetables will assist with maintaining a healthy weight range and make you feel good. So enjoy more carrots by making the following recipes:
Baked cannellini bean and carrot falafel
Makes 8 falafel
1 brown onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Small handful of fresh parsley
Small handful of fresh coriander
- Place the onion, carrot and garlic in a food processor. Process until finely chopped.
- Cook the onion, carrot and garlic in a non-stick pan with sufficient water to line the bottom of the pan. Add the cumin and cook until the onion is soft.
- Add the cooked onion, carrot and garlic back into the food processor along with the cannellini beans, parsley, coriander, salt and pepper. Process until well combined.
- Add the egg and continue processing.
- Using a dessert spoon, shape the mixture into 8 small falafels onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Bake for 30 minutes in the oven at 180°C. Gently flip the falafel with a spatula and bake for a further 10 minutes.
Note: These falafel are a little bit crumbly as they are not deep fried in oil.
Carrot and orange salad
3 carrots, grated
Juice of ½ an orange
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Combine all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
- Biehler, E., Alkerwi, A., Hoffman, L., Krause, E., Guillaume, M., Lair, M. and Torsten, B. (2012). Contribution of violaxanthin, neoxanthin, phytoene and phytofluene to total carotenoid intake: Assessment in Luxembourg. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 25: 56-65.
- Morris-Kay, G., Ward, S., 1999. In: Jeon, K. (Ed.), Retinoids and Mammalian Development. Academic Press Ltd., London.
- Hughes, D.A., 1999. Effects of carotenoids on human immune function. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 58, 713–718.
- Simpson, K.L., Chichester, C.O., 1981. Metabolism and nutritional significance of carotenoids. Annual Reviews of Nutrition. 1, 351–374.
- Meléndez-Martínez, A., Mapelli-Brahm, P., Benítez-González, A. and Stinco, C. (2015). A comprehensive review on the colorless carotenoids phytoene and phytofluene. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. doi: 10.1016/j.abb.2015.01.003
- Shaish, A., Harari, A., Kamari, Y., Soudant, E., Harats, E. and Ben-Amotz, A. (2008). A Carotenoid Algal Preparation Containing Plytoene and Phytofluene Inhibited LDL Oxidation In Vitro. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 63: 83-86.
- Aust, O., Stahl, W., Sies, H., Tronnier, H. and Heinrich, U. (2005). Supplementation with Tomato-Based Products Increases Lycopene, Phytofluene, and Phytoene Levels in Human Serum and Protects Against UV-light-Induced Erythema. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research. 75: 54-60.
- Fuller, B. Smith, D., Howerton, A. and Kern, D. (2006). Anti-inflammatory effects of CoQ10 and colorless carotenoids. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 5: 30-38.
- Muller, H., Bub, A., Watzl, B. and Rechkemmer, G. (1999). Plasma concentrations of carotenoids in healthy volunteers after intervention with carotenoid-rich foods. European Journal of Nutrition. 38: 35-44.