Why You Should Care About Carotenoids
Just What Are Carotenoids?
Simply put, carotenoids are pigments that plants synthesize. These pigments are usually red, orange or yellow, and give various fruits and vegetables their bright colors. They are essential for photosynthesis and plant growth, and are also a natural source of vitamin A for people.
There are over 600 identified carotenoids. They are divided into two classes:
- xanthophylls, which are the yellow pigments, and
- carotenes, the orange and red pigments..
Why Should I Care About Carotenoids?
Carrots are orange and full of carotenoids, and you’ve surely heard about eating carrots for good eyesight, right? This is because approximately 50 carotenoids are known to act as forerunners to vitamin A, an essential vitamin source for helping eyesight and seeing in the dark.
Not only are these food nutrients essential for good vision, they are potent antioxidants, help with immune function, and are involved with the growth and repair of tissues.
What Are Some Of The Better Known Carotenoids?
Even though there are over 600 known carotenoids, only a few are mentioned frequently on their own accord. Some of these include:
- alpha-carotene: one of the most abundant carotenoids, it can be converted in the body into retinal, an active form of vitamin A
- beta-carotene: found in dark green and dark yellow fruits and vegetables, and another known precursor to vitamin A
- beta-cryptoxanthin: abundant and able to be converted to vitamin A, this carotenoid is a strong antioxidant
- capsanthin: carmine-red carotenoid pigment occurring in paprika, often used as a natural dye in foods. Accounts for 30-60% of total carotenoids in fully ripe fruits.
- lutein: yellow pigment that does not readily form vitamin A, but powerful antioxidant, and found in the retina of the eye.
- lycopene: found in tomatoes and responsible for their red color, this carotenoids does not readily for vitamin A, but is known to help prevent certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration
- zeaxanthin: one of the two carotenoids contained within the retina of the eye, gives saffron and corn their yellow color
What Are Some Of The Best Natural Food Sources For Carotenoids?
Yellow vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, squash and sweet potatoes are full of these food nutrients.
Broccoli, peas, kale, lettuce, peppers, and spinach are some of the green vegetables containing carotenoids.
Fruits such as apricots, cantaloupe, papaya, peaches, watermelon, cherries and tomatoes also have these food nutrients in abundance.
Tell Me Again – Why Are Carotenoids Such Important Food Nutrients?
The body uses carotenoids to make vitamin A, which is essential for good vision, growth and development, plus it strengthens the immune system.
Carotenoids are potent antioxidants, helping with immune function and the growth and repair of tissues.
These health food nutrients are also associated with reduced risk of several chronic health disorders including some forms of cancer, heart disease and eye degeneration
Health Food Made Easy Tip: If a food has carotenoids, it’s got some good food nutrients! So eat up!