I just love writing about anything that helps boost longevity and immunity. And one of my favorite things to talk about are carotenoids. You can see them anywhere you look in any produce department because they are the yellow, orange, and red pigments present in fruits and vegetables. Did you know that there are more than 600 carotenoids? But, I will focus on the most commonly consumed and most-studied which include beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin are converted to vitamin A in the body and are important for proper immune function. Good to know since we are smack dab in the middle of flu season! And while helping you to build your immunity, these carotenoids also help give your skin a healthy glow, defend your body against oxidative damage, and help to prevent chronic diseases and premature aging. That’s a lot of power in a carrot!
Lycopene is found in abundance in tomatoes, grapefruit, and papaya and is concentrated mainly in the prostate, where it helps guard against cancer. Lycopene also helps protect your skin against ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In fact, one study showed a reduction in reddening of the skin, DNA damage, and indications of skin aging due to UV exposure after twelve weeks of tomato supplementation!
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in leafy greens like kale and collards and are the only known carotenoids located in the human retina. This is important because these carotenoids filter some of the blue light that enters the retina which, in turn, protects the eye from damage and improves several areas of visual performance.
Now don’t run out and load up on supplements to get these powerhouses working for you. You want to get your carotenoids from colorful vegetables and fruits. Because, did you know that carotenoid supplements have not really shown good results in producing beneficial effects in clinical trials? Eat the vegetables and fruits! When you eat abundant amounts of vegetables and fruits, not only do you get those fabulous carotenoids, but you also get the benefit of additional phytochemicals that work synergistically to keep your body healthy. To ensure optimal carotenoid absorption during a meal, add a little healthy fat from raw nuts and seeds such as walnuts and flaxseeds, or even some avocado.
To your good health!