Have a little food for thought about all the vegetables you are devouring before you dig into those hearty festive dinners.
The catalogue below of fascinating facts on all the festive veggies has been compiled by the University of Warwick.
It will definitely put you at ease as you tuck them in.
1. Carrots are orange, but were they always orange?
Having sprung out first in Asia, carrots were originally white and purple, but as farmers began exploiting the changes in the pigment production genes, we have now ended up with the orange ones we know today – along with less familiar colors such as yellow, red and black.
2. Carrots do actually help your night vision
It’s not just a myth your mum made up to get you to finish all your veg. It is a simple truth!
“The orange color of carrots is due to a compound called beta-carotene,” says Dr. Charlotte Allender, from Warwich Crop Centre. “Beta-carotene is needed to produce vitamin A, which is converted to the retinal pigment used by your eyes to detect light. One of the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness – so you could say carrots really do help you see in the dark.”
3. Boiling destroys the good properties of vegetables
British people, like many other peoples, tend to have a standard cooking habit of boiling their vegetables. But it seems that it’s not the best method to get the “green shots”.
Boiling veggies diminishes the anti-cancer properties of many brassicas such as: broccoli, cauliflower and green cabbage.
“If you want to get the maximum benefit from your Christmas vegetables then boiling is out of question,” said Paul Thornalley, professor of systems biology at Warwick Medical School. “You need to consider stir-frying, steaming or microwaving them.”
4. Did you know that parsnips get sweeter in the cold?
Parsnips actually used to be used as a sweetening agent in dishes because when left in the cold they develop a sweeter taste – it all goes down to the conversion of carbohydrates to sugars.
The vegetables are also an excellent source of many nutrients: including vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and potassium.
5. You either love or loathe Brussels sprouts
The dreaded Brussels sprouts cause quite a stir over Christmas dinner and apparently the split is due to our genes – the variants in gene TAS2R38, a receptor on our tongues that perceive bitterness.
“This particular receptor perceives the flavor compounds in Brassicas known as glucosinolates,” explained Dr. Graham Teakle, from Warwick Crop Centre. “The PAV ‘taster’ variant increases the sensitivity to the glucosinolates in Brussels sprouts, causing an unpalatable response, while the AVI variant is referred to as the non-taster form.”
6. Well, cauliflowers aren’t actually flowers
They are actually a proliferation of millions of meristems, growing tip of a plant shoot where all other plant organs develop. And cauliflowers are the only plants that do this!