The Benefits of Carotenoids
What are carotenoids? The pigments in those beautifully vibrant oranges, yellows, and reds in fruits and vegetables. While the pigments may look appealing to your eyes, their benefits for your body go beyond that aesthetic.
Let’s take a closer look at what are carotenoids and why they are so beneficial for our health.
What Are Carotenoids?
Carotenoids are a type of pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their warm colors. They are produced by plants to protect the cells from damage caused by UV radiation and other environmental stressors.
There are over 600 different types of carotenoids, but only about 50 can be absorbed by humans due to differences in chemical structure.
Health Benefits of Carotenoids
What you’ll want to know about carotenoids, such as lutein, is that they are potent antioxidants needed to keep free radicals in check.
Left to their own devices, free radicals attack your cells and ravage your body, potentially resulting in degenerative eye disease, diabetes, dementia, aging, inflammatory issues, and even potentially cancer.
You need antioxidants to prevent free radicals from running amok in your body.
The most well-known benefit of carotenoids is that they are converted into vitamin A once consumed.
Vitamin A helps maintain healthy vision, supports immune system function, and plays an important role in cell growth and differentiation.
Carotenoid-Rich Food List
The best way to get more carotenoids in your diet is to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Not only do they contain high amounts of carotenoid pigments, but they also provide other essential vitamins and minerals that promote overall health.
- dark leafy greens like spinach contain lutein(1) which has been linked with improved eye health;
- carrots contain beta-carotene(2) which converts into vitamin A;
- tomatoes contain lycopene(3) which may help reduce inflammation;
- apricots contain beta-cryptoxanthin(4) which may help lower the risk of lung cancer;
- sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene(2) which helps boost immunity;
- strawberries contain ellagic acid(5) which may help reduce cholesterol levels;
- pumpkins contain alpha-carotene(6) which may help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes; etc.
You don’t have to limit yourself solely to fresh produce either – many frozen fruits/veggies have similar nutrient profiles!
As mentioned above, dark leafy greens are a power-packed nutritional powerhouse, full of lutein – a special carotenoid that our bodies actually need for healthy vision. (Or supplements.)
This colorful compound makes its way into the eyes, where it helps filter out harmful light and protects the retina from oxidative damage and macular degeneration.
However, that isn’t where this eye-catching ingredient ends – lutein also works as an antioxidant in other parts of the body; shielding cells from free radical damage and reinforcing cell walls to improve immunity.
We could certainly call it goodness in disguise!
Beta-carotene, as found in carrots and sweet potatoes, is a fiber-rich nutrient that provides many benefits for our bodies.
Not only does it protect against cell damage and support the immune system, but it can also potentially reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and eye problems.
Beta-carotene is one of the most powerful antioxidants available to us and assists in reversing oxidative damage caused by free radicals – molecules that are linked to many chronic diseases and accelerated aging.
Eating a diet rich in this miracle pigment will give your body a much needed boost of nourishment and help ensure your overall health and wellness. (Supplements are also available.)
Lycopene, the carotenoid found in tomatoes, is a powerhouse of nutrition for our bodies.
Its vibrant red hue is more than just a pretty color – it’s packed with antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and fight off free radicals.
Studies have shown that regular consumption of lycopene can help lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Additionally, lycopene gives us vital vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are essential for a healthy body. Eating lycopene can also help decrease oxidative stress as well as improve immune health – making it an essential nutrient to boost long term health. (Also available in supplement form.)
Apricots are truly a gift of nature – they bring us not only delightful, juicy flavors, but also an abundance of health benefits.
One such component is beta-cryptoxanthin, which promotes healthy skin and bones through its antioxidant effects.
It may also help reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer by improving the body’s capacity to rid itself of harmful toxins.
In addition, evidence suggests it can be beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis as it has anti-inflammatory properties.
Maybe the next time you’re reaching for an apricot – or any other orange-colored fruit – consider just how much goodness is packed inside this sweet treat!
5. Ellagic acid
Strawberries are often praised as a healthy snack. But have you ever wondered why?
One powerful element behind this juicy super fruit’s plethora of health benefits is the presence of ellagic acid.
This organic compound, which you can only find in a handful of other foods, has been associated with several positive health attributes.
Ellagic acid works by acting as an antioxidant in our bodies, helping to reduce the damage caused by free radicals that can harm tissue and even lead to cancer.
Additionally, it helps to preserve collagen, one of the major proteins that form tissues throughout our body and give skin its elasticity.
So rest assured! A delicious bowl of strawberries makes an excellent snack choice – now you know why!
With its beautiful orange hue, pumpkin is a captivating presence at autumn gatherings. Its charm goes beyond just looks however, as it is jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients such as alpha-carotene.
This powerful carotenoid not only provides a natural source of Vitamin A, but also counteracts oxidative stress within our bodies that can damage cells. Alpha-carotene helps to protect us from certain types of cancers and promotes healthy vision – the ultimate jack o’ lantern reward!
Therefore, making friends with those pumpkins this fall could prove to be an incredibly beneficial move for your health.
Carotenoid pigments not only make produce look beautiful, but also provide a variety of health benefits when consumed regularly.
Fruits and vegetables should be a staple in any healthy diet because they provide essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants such as carotenoid pigments – all while being low in calories!
So next time you go grocery shopping or plan out your meals for the week – try adding some brightly colored fruits and veggies into the mix for an extra boost of nutrition!