Antioxidants are everywhere in nature. An easy way to spot them is to look for foods that have a natural, deep color. Most of the compounds responsible for these intense colors are called phytonutrients, and they have been found to have a plethora of benefits for human health. Our previous post looked at the benefits of red phytonutrients; in this post, we will look more closely at their orange and yellow counterparts.
Orange & Yellow Phytonutrients
There are lots and lots and lots of orange colored vegetables and fruits in nature. The phytonutrients that make these colors possible are incredibly powerful antioxidants which provide a wide range of benefits when consumed.
The carotenoids are a group of organic pigments found in many plants. There are over 700 known carotenoids, with beta-carotene being one of the most well researched. Beta-carotene is responsible for the orange color of carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, cantaloupe, mangoes, apricots and peaches. Beta carotene, like many of the carotenoids, is a powerful antioxidant. It has been found to boost immunity, reduce the risk of cancer and heart attacks and help maintain good vision. Beta-carotene was once thought to be a viable precursor to vitamin A in the body; however, recent research indicates that while it is theoretically possible for the body to convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, it doesn’t happen very well in real life. However, beta-carotene, like the other carotenoids, has been found to be incredibly beneficial for human health in its own right. We should strive to consume foods that contain beta-carotene on a daily basis.
Bioflavonoids are an incredibly large and diverse group of phytonutrients that are found throughout the plant kingdom. Eating a wide array of vegetables and fruits – especially oranges, grapefruits, lemons, tangerines, clementines, peaches, papaya, apricots, nectarines, pears, pineapple, yellow raisins and yellow peppers – will insure a good dietary supply. Bioflavonoids have been found to work with vitamin C to reduce the risk of heart attacks and cancer; help maintain strong bones and teeth; promote healthy skin and maintain good vision. There are numerous other bioflavonoids that impart other colors, including the anthocyanins in blueberries, polyphenols in red wine and catechins in green and black tea, that have also been found to provide a wide range of health benefits for humans.
The orange and yellow phytonutrients are especially important for those looking to maintain the health of the heart, reduce their risk of cancer and improve or maintain healthy vision. Another group of phytonutrients that that can also have a dramatic impact on vision and reducing the risk of cancers are the green phytonutrients, such as lutein, zeaxanthin and indoles; we will take a closer look at this in the next part of this series.