Carotenoids Color Your Food Healthy

Imagine a beautiful autumn day. Leaves of red, orange, and yellow rustle in the branches overhead. The colors of the season belong to carotenoids, or plant pigments that generally are red, orange, and deep yellow.

The array of colors in fruits and vegetables also comes from carotenoids. The clues to their presence are obvious in the vibrant palette of produce in your supermarket. It's no surprise that apricots, cantaloupes, mangoes, carrots, red and yellow peppers, and sweet potatoes, for example, all contain carotene. Broccoli, kale, romaine lettuce, and spinach have carotene, too—even though they're dark green! The orange-yellow color of their carotene gets hidden by the chlorophyll in the leaves. "Vitamin A and Carotenoids: Good Picks" earlier in this chapter lists good food sources and amounts.

Beta carotene is the carotenoid most familiar to us. Actually, the plant world has more than six hundred known carotenoids. Of those, only a few have been analyzed in fruits and vegetables: alpha carotene, beta carotene, beta cryptoxanthin, gamma carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin; even then, the data are limited.

Beta carotene and other carotenoids perform as precursors to vitamin A; also see "Vitamins: The

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