Carotenoids are a group of phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that provide the yellow-orange-red pigments found in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, mangoes, pumpkin, tomatoes, papaya, peaches, squash, and other similarly colored foods. You may have heard of beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene, all of which are specific types of carotenoids.
While there are over 700 different carotenoids in nature, only about 60 are found in food. And the average person in North America eats fewer than a dozen different kinds and only in modest amounts.
Some carotenoids, specifically alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and cryptoxanthin, convert to vitamin A in our bodies, which is essential for healthy skin and vision. Astaxanthin, another carotenoid, has also become known for its study-proven ability to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is increasingly linked to diseases like cancer, arthritis, brain disease, diabetes, and over 100 health conditions. Lutein, another carotenoid, has become known for its study-proven ability to protect the eyes against degenerative diseases like macular degeneration. While carotenoids’ ability to form vitamin A is important, they play other valuable roles.
Not only do carotenoids help strengthen our eyesight and boost our immunity to disease, they are powerful antioxidants that help ward off cancer and protect against the effects of aging. Studies at Harvard University of more than 124,000 people showed a 32 percent reduction in risk of lung cancer in people who consumed a variety of carotenoid-rich foods as part of their regular diet.
Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) conducted a study of women who had completed treatment for early-stage breast cancer. Researchers found that women with the highest blood concentrations of carotenoids had the least likelihood of cancer recurrence.
Besides the brilliantly colored foods I mentioned earlier, dark green vegetables like broccoli, and leafy greens like collard, kale, and spinach also contain high amounts of carotenoids.
It’s easy to eat a carotenoid-rich diet just by paying attention to the colors on your plate at every meal. Try to include fruits and vegetables that are yellow/orange, red, and green at each meal and you’ll know that you are benefiting from many health-promoting carotenoids.
For therapeutic purposes you may also wish to supplement with a combination of carotenoids. Here is one of my preferred brands. Additionally, there are excellent products containing high doses of specific carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein, or astaxanthin. I’ve linked to some of the brands I prefer. Follow package instructions for each product since dosages tend to widely vary.
For more information consult my e-book CANCER-PROOF: All-Natural Solutions for Cancer Prevention and Healing. Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive weekly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow me on Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook. Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook. All rights reserved.