Carotenoids have been researched for a while now and are known for their incredible benefits. Carotenoids are essentially the pigments that give foods their color. For example, they give sweet potatoes their orange color and blueberries their bright blue color.
Dietary carotenoids are known to protect the body against cancer. They are thought to be very beneficial because of their ability to function as antioxidants in the body. The most well-known carotenoids are beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and astaxanthin.
Beta-Carotene is known as a carotenoid that has the ability to be converted to vitamin A in non-toxic doses. This is great news since a supplement of vitamin A usually gives the body more vitamin A than it can handle and can damage the liver. Since beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A, it has the same benefits of vitamin A. These benefits include the ability to protect the brain from cognitive decline, keep the eyes and lungs healthy, and replenish the antioxidants in the body. Some natural sources of beta-carotene are apricots, broccoli, asparagus, kale, spinach, peppers, carrots, peas, and sweet potatoes.
Lycopene is an antioxidant in fruits that are red or pink. It is one of the most powerful antioxidants, has numerous benefits for the skin, helps prevent cancer, helps keep the eyes and heart healthy, is beneficial for the brain, can lessen neuropathic pain, and can lessen oxidative stress in our bones. Some natural sources of lycopene include tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, asparagus, red cabbage, grapefruit, guava, and mango.
Lutein is an antioxidant found in the eye and can be found in yellow or orange foods. It helps protect the eyes against macular degeneration and cataracts. Natural sources of lycopene include mangoes, corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, squash, collards, and bok choy.
Astaxanthin is a dark red color and can support the muscles, nerves, skin, and eye health. It can also protect the brain, digestive system, and can support exercise recovery. Astaxanthin can protect the nervous and immune system from oxidative stress. It is seven times stronger than vitamin E and suppresses DNA damage. It is also different from the other carotenoids because astaxanthin is primarily found only in seafood. Common sources include krill, shrimp, crab, lobster, crawfish, and salmon.
Overall, carotenoids are very beneficial in protecting the body against oxidative stress. It is very important to keep the levels in the body balanced since a decrease in antioxidants and an increase in free radicals is a critical factor of the pathogenic processes to chronic illnesses.