How to Get Plenty of Carotenoids in Your Diet

People eat carotenoids every day without really knowing what they are.  The brightly colored fruits and vegetables that are recommended every day contain carotenoids.  Humans use carotenoids in much the same way plants get energy from photosynthesis.  If the word carotenoid is still unfamiliar, that is probably because they are better known as beta-carotene and alpha-carotene.  Many studies on carotenoids are still going on, but there is good research to suggest that they protect the body again many different types of cancers.  People can get carotenoids by eating at least five servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables every day.  Over the counter carotenoid supplements are available, but it is highly unlikely that a person needs them, unless they do not eat fruits and vegetables on a regular basis.

A Basic View of Carotenoids

Most people are aware of the fact that plants get energy from photosynthesis, which is when a plant converts sunlight into energy.  In some ways, carotenoids work in the same way for humans.  At a basic level, carotenoids are a group of fat-soluble plant pigments that are generally brightly colored.  There are approximately 600 types of known carotenoids.

How do Carotenoids Work in Humans?

There are two main ways that we use carotenoids on a daily basis.  First of all, all carotenoids are also antioxidants.  The second way carotenoids are used by the human body is that some are also converted into vitamin A.  Those that do convert to vitamin A are referred to in the medical circle as “pro-vitamin A carotenoids.”  If you are still unfamiliar with what a carotenoid is, maybe the words beta-carotene and alpha-carotene. 

Benefits of Carotenoids?

While there are no complete studies on carotenoids available yet, there are some very large benefits to making sure you are getting enough carotenoids in your body.  Carotenoids have been shown to protect against certain types of cancers, such as lung, skin, and cervical, as well as macular degeneration and cataracts in some studies.  Still other studies have shown that carotenoids have done nothing to prevent certain cancers and diseases.  Studies are still being done to determine the benefits of carotenoids.  How much of any seen benefit is directly linked to the carotenoid and how much is simply the result of a better diet is yet to be determined.

Finding Carotenoids in Food

To make finding carotenoids as easy as possible, just look for brightly colored foods.  The general rule is the more intense the color, the more carotenoids are there.  Green vegetables are a large source of beta-carotene, a true carotenoid.  Carrots, apricots, yams and squash are dominated by pro-vitamin A carotenoids.  Lutein, another carotenoid is found in yellow vegetables. Tomatoes, cabbage, berries, plums, legumes, and grains all contain at least some carotenoids.  If it’s good for you and bright in color, it probably contains some form of carotenoid.

Taking Carotenoid Supplements

Because carotenoids are found in a wide variety of foods, it is unlikely that you are lacking a significant amount of carotenoids.  However, if you feel that you’re not getting enough brightly colored fruits and vegetables in your diet, there are over-the-counter carotenoid supplements available.
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