Everyone wants to be as healthy as possible well into their golden years, and adding certain foods to the diet can help. An abundance of nutritional benefits linked to orange-colored fruits and vegetables help promote healthy aging. Chock full of nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, lutein, and zeaxanthin, orange foods like citrus fruits, bell peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and butternut squash make a wise and delicious choice for the shopping cart.
Beta-Carotene and Retinoic Acid
Orange fruits and vegetables are perhaps best known for being a rich source of beta-carotene, the powerful antioxidant that gives them their color. As people age, beta-carotene offers benefits for eye and brain health and protects the skin from sun damage. Because beta-carotene is a fat-soluble nutrient, one scientific study questioned whether the body could access more of the nutrient from certain orange vegetables if prepared with oil. It was determined that stir-frying carrots and pumpkin with a little oil increases the amounts of beta-carotene the body can use by 63 percent for carrots and 53 percent for pumpkin.
Beta carotene is a precursor for vitamin A, which also goes by the name retinol or retinoic acid. This nutrient helps ensure healthy night vision and neutralizes free radicals, which promotes a thriving immune system. Research conducted at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia showed that retinoic acid can help fight early-stage breast cancer (stages one and two) but does not offer help in later stages.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
According to a study published in The Archives of Ophthalmology, consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin found in orange vegetables may support healthy aging by preventing cataracts. Researchers followed more than 35,000 women and found that those who consumed the highest amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin in the diet showed an 18 percent lower risk for developing cataracts when compared to women who consumed the lowest amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin.
The vitamin C found in orange citrus fruits and bell peppers can help destroy free radicals, which boosts immunity and plays an important role for healthy aging of the skin. The elimination of free radicals results in better skin texture and less wrinkles. Vitamin C is also essential for the production of collagen, the skin's main structural protein. One study showed that vitamin C added to a culture of skin cells in the laboratory resulted in a significant increase in the production of collagen.
As people get older, they appreciate any foods that contribute to healthy aging. With so many nutritional benefits, it makes sense for people of all ages to fill the shopping cart with the color orange. In protecting the eyes, skin, the immune system, and more, orange fruits and vegetables help keep people looking and feeling good for a very long time.