There are many carotenoids that fall into two main groups.
- Carotenes, sometimes called provitamin A, are carotenoids that are precursors to vitamin A, meaning that they get converted into vitamin A. Beta-carotene is the most important carotene for conversion to vitamin A because it yields the most vitamin A. Other carotenes include alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene, cryptoxanthin, and beta-zeacarotene.
Carotenes are responsible for the bright yellow and orange in carrots, persimmons, yams, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, summer squash, pineapples, peaches, nectarines, tangerines, oranges, cantaloupes, papayas, and corn. Leafy green vegetables are also loaded with carotenes, including spinach, kale, collards, chard, broccoli, and asparagus. The yellow-orange color in leafy greens is masked by chlorophyll, giving leafy green veggies their dark green color.
Wild salmon get their pink or reddish flesh color by ingesting astaxanthin, a carotene, through their diet. Farm-raised salmon get their color by ingesting astaxanthin and another carotene, canthaxanthin, which are added to salmon feed. Otherwise the farm-raised salmon would have gray flesh.
- Xanthophylls are carotenoids that are not converted to vitamin A. Common xanthophylls include lycopene (orange-red in tomatoes, and watermelon), zeaxanthin (goji berries), leutein, capsanthin, canthaxanthin. According to Dr. Mao, goji berries have the highest concentration of carotenoids.
Those who eat an abundance of beta-carotene rich foods are less likely to develop lung cancer, including smokers. Leutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, and alpha-carotene are also shown to be significantly more protective against lung cancers and some other cancers. That’s because antioxidant properties in carotenoids prevent free radicals from damaging DNA, which reduces the chances of any mutations occurring that can lead to cancerous growth.
Beta-carotene in supplement form does not have the same preventative effect as eating beta-carotene rich whole plant-based foods. That’s because beta-carotene isolated in a supplement form is separated from the thousands of other phytochemicals present in whole plant-based foods. It’s the combination of all those phytonutrients working together that catalyzes the effects and increases the potency of beta-carotene.
For some great seasonal ideas to add more of these amazing carotenoids into your diet, Kris Carr posted some incredible pumpkin recipes at http://kriscarr.com/blog-video/kris-carr-pumpkin-comfort-food/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=11413NL&utm_content=11413NL+CID_922a0a4b69c33731d5536d44ef955967&utm_source=Email%20Campaign&utm_term=at%20the%20blog