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From Mangoes to Butternut Squash to Carrots:
Why You Need More Orange in Your Diet

Orange fruits and vegetables are among the most highly recommended foods for your health because they contain naturally occurring pigments called carotenoids.


Carrots are not the only healthy orange vegetables out there. Try sweet potatoes, apricots, mangoes and squash, too.

Carotenoids are usually thought of as "provitamin A" because about 50 varieties of them (out of a total of 600) can be converted into vitamin A by your body. This is why orange carrots are often the first veggie people think of when it comes to getting plenty of vitamin A.

However, there's much more to carotenoids than carrots and vitamin A. In fact, carotenoids are not only found in orange fruits and veggies, but also red, yellow and even dark green ones.

What Makes Carotenoids so Healthy?

Carotenoids, which include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and more, are powerful antioxidants that help protect your body from damaging free radicals. Further, they:

  • May help to prevent cancer

  • Play a role in anti-aging

  • Enhance the function of your immune system

  • Promote proper cell communication, which may help prevent cancer

  • Help support your reproductive system

fruits and vegetables

To get the broadest range of health-promoting nutrients, eat a colorful array of fruits and veggies, including red, orange, yellow, green and purple varieties.

While eating plenty of carotenoid-rich fruits and veggies is known to benefit your health, if you don't consume enough of them, over time your risk of chronic disease, including heart disease and cancer, will increase.

How to Make Sure You're Getting Enough Carotenoids in Your Diet

In most cases, you can get all the carotenoids you need from eating plenty of orange, red, yellow and green fruits and veggies. However, there are some things you should know:

  • Carotenoids are fat-soluble, which means you must eat healthy fats in order for your body to absorb them. If you eat an extremely low-fat diet, you may not be able to absorb enough carotenoids.

  • Certain food additives, such as the fat substitute Olestra and margarines that contain plant sterols (like Benecol and Take Control), may decrease your body's absorption of carotenoids.

  • If you drink alcohol or smoke regularly, you may have lower levels of carotenoids in your blood.

Meanwhile, most fruits and veggies provide the most benefit when eaten raw, as cooking tends to destroy many of the valuable nutrients. This is also the case with carotenoid-rich fruits and veggies, except in the following cases:

  • Lycopene is more readily absorbed from cooked tomato products than fresh tomatoes

  • The carotenoids in carrots and spinach are more easily absorbed if you lightly steam them before eating

Finally, what are some ideal food sources of carotenoids (remember, they can be orange, yellow, red or green)? Here are some of the top contenders:

  • Apricots

  • Mangoes

  • Squash

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Carrots

  • Kale

  • Spinach

  • Collard greens

  • Tomatoes

  • Guava

  • Pink grapefruit

If you include plenty of the above fruits and veggies in your diet, you can feel confident that you're getting all the beneficial carotenoids that your body needs.

Recommended Reading

Rhubarb: Delicious, Nutritious ... and for More Than Just Pie!

10 Delicious, Nutritious Fruits You've Likely Never Heard of That Are Growing in Popularity


The World's Healthiest Foods

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