One more group of vegetables that is very supportive of our health is the orange and yellow group. Our grandmothers already told us it was good for our eye sight. This advice, modern research is teaching us, was worth following. But we are also learning now that there are other health benefits too.
These health benefits are due to specific properties of the carotenoids (beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, astaxanthin, zeaxanthin and gamma-carotene) in the plants. These carotenoids are also responsible for the yellow and orange colors. Carotenoids serve two key roles in plants and algae: they absorb light energy for use in photosynthesis, and they protect chlorophyll from damage caused by sun rays. In the human body, ~40% of carotenoids are also precursors of vitamin A, (meaning that they can be converted to retinol which converts to vitamin A) while the other 60% serve mainly as antioxidants. Carotenoids act directly to absorb damaging blue and near-ultraviolet light in order to protect the macula of the retina. This is the part of the eye which is responsible for sharp vision. The same mechanism prevents the damaging effect of the sun on the skin.
The following vegetables are rich in alpha-carotene:
The following vegetables are rich in beta-carotene:
· In vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, chives, dandelion leaves
· Fruits such as apricots and grapefruit
Some of the health benefits found in scientific research are the following:
1. Prevention and management of cancers such as bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, endometrial cancer as well as cancer of the mouth.
3. Eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Because most of the sources of carotenoids are well known vegetables, it should be very easy to incorporate in the diet. Most of the yellow vegetables (carrots, sweet potato and pumpkin) work well as soups, side dishes and stews in the winter time while the greener vegetables make lovely salads (broccoli, green leafy vegetables and avocado) in the summer. Dandelion tea served hot or cold, is very refreshing once you are used to the taste - which could be different from the usual black teas. And when in season, apricots and grapefruit could be served on its own.