So What the Hell is a Carotenoid?

…and why do we need them?

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Carotenoids are phytochemicals in plants that give them yellow to orange to red hues. Two carotenoids that get a lot of attention are beta carotene and lycopene.

Beta carotene is what gives sweet potatoes and carrots their orange color. The body can convert this into a usable substance called retinol, or what we know as vitamin A. Vitamin A is commonly associated with vision health and prohibiting night blindness.

Although beta carotene is considered an antioxidant, lycopene is the more powerful of the two. Lycopene is the redder hue found in tomatoes and watermelon. Antioxidants such as these can help strengthen the immune system, protect skin from harmful UV damage, and as mentioned above, protect vision.

Sounds great! But too much of a good thing isn’t always better. Studies have shown that supplementation of antioxidants were no more beneficial than the food sources and could even be harmful. http://www.compass.fhcrc.org/caretWeb/about/rationale.aspx

Keep your plate colorful and you shouldn’t have any problems getting your daily dose of antioxidant power!