Why would I say this? You need alpha-carotene (just ask the CDC). These carotenoids are pigments you see in your vegetables (red, orange, and yellow). But, don’t forget the beta-carotenes (Sweet potatoes [of course] and carrots), lycopene (tomatoes, grapefruit) and luteins (spinach, kale). Do so, and your body will thank you. (Ok, it won’t bitch at you!) Please note- the supplements you buy DON’T yield the same results- you need the real thing!!!!!! That’s because these compounds are fat soluble, among other reasons.
The carotenoids are anti-oxidants- they counteract free-radical damage (they are normally produced by our bodies, but alcohol and cigarette consumption augment their production dramatically). These free-radicals oxidize our DNA, proteins, and fats- which means heart ailments, cancer, and Alzheimer’s have better chances to take hold. (Kudos to John Gainer for his pioneering studies some 40 years ago…)
In the Annals of Internal Medicine, five researchers at the Centers for Disease Control describe a 14 year study (Third National Healthand Nutrition Examination Survey Follow-up Study) that outlined the relationships between serum β-carotene and death rates among 15,318 subjects (> 20 y old). The higher the blood level, the lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other maladies.
|Serum -carotene, µg/dL||Death Risk From All Causes|
|0 to 1||1 (set as baseline)|
|2 to 3||0.77|
|4 to 5||0.73|
|6 to 8||0.66|
As you can see, the higher serum β-carotene level provided a 39% lower risk of death over the length of the study. It was more pronounced for risks associated with upper digestive tract cancers (pharynx, larynx, and esophagus), as well as respiratory diseases and diabetes (type 2).
We are supposed to eat 7 to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables daily (that means handfuls, give or take)- but there are equivalencies to note. One would need 3.5 cups of cooked or raw vegetables, 2.25 cups of dried fruit, of 3.5 cups of real (that means 100%) fruit or vegetable juice (or combinations thereof). Here comes the additional kicker- you can’t stockpile this for the end of the day or the early morning hours- the recommendations assume one eats these all day long, as part of a regular diet. And, because they are fat soluble, it may be useful to add a teaspoon of olive oil to your vegetables, as you consume them.
Yellow and dark green vegetables contain plentiful quantities of β-carotenes. Great sources include carrots, squash (winter), collard greens, pumpkins, plantains, and tangerines. Kale, beet greens, broccoli, red bell peppers, apricots, mangos, as well as spinach provide β-carotenes.Â The problem is that β-carotenes are similar to the β-carotenes, they may afford less protection for liver, brain, and skin cancers. (Data is incomplete.) Another kicker to consider: cook the vegetables, instead of eating them raw- cooking lyses the cell walls (these are plants, they have cell walls in addition to cell membranes), rendering more of the carotenes (anti-oxidants) capable of absorption. Frozen vegetables are fine- just don’t overcook them.
So, don’t be chintzy- add cranberries, raisins, banana to your cereal each morning. Try a breakfast smooth (yoghurt or soy) made with strawberries, carrots, and/or blueberries. Make sure you add a tomato to your sandwich at lunch, with some carrot and apple slices for munchies, too. For dinner, have a salad (NOT with iceberg lettuce, please) and sweet potato (stop laughing, guys, that’s why it’s a staple of my diet). And, top off your day with some almonds, apricots, and papaya.
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