(NaturalNews) First and foremost beta carotenes are one of the many brightly compounds called carotenoids that make foods red, yellow, and orange. Also, those red or orange colored hydrocarbons found in carrots and other vegetables change into vitamin A in the body, which helps regulate the growth of cells and control immune system reactions.
The cells that are affected most by vitamin A live in your digestive tract, in organs like the stomach.
Not coincidentally, eating foods chock-full of vitamin A, alpha carotene, and beta carotene seem to slash stomach cancer in half.
Beta carotene may protect against other cancers as well, including esophageal, liver, pancreatic, colon, rectal, prostate, ovarian, and cervical cancers due to their potency as an antioxidant.
People with low levels of antioxidants in their diets or their bloodstream are more likely to develop certain cancers. By comparison, people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables cut their risk of getting cancer in half.
The best sources of beta carotene are pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot, tomato, red bell peppers, asparagus, bok choi, apricot, mango, orange, cantaloupe, papaya, and watermelon. The less obvious are spinach, kale, and collards and believe it or not, frozen mixed vegetables and fruits as well.
In addition to cutting cancer risk there is so much more. You could defeat heart disease, high cholesterol, heart attack, and stroke by loading up your plate with colorful foods.
One of beta carotene's biggest effects for heart health is its effect on your cholesterol. As an antioxidant, it puts out free radicals like pouring water on a fire.
Understand that free radicals harm the body through oxidative damage brought on by the body's inability to detoxify adequately. Fortunately, antioxidants like beta carotene keep cholesterol from oxidizing, which is the process that causes the walls of the arteries to thicken, leading to atherosclerosis.
Because deficiencies in vitamins A, C, E, and beta carotene have been linked to heart disease, if you build more into your diet, prevention has no price.
Various studies have proven that antioxidants from supplements do not really protect your heart in the way that antioxidants from food do. And the evidence out there shows that foods rich in carotenoids, including beta carotene, could reduce your risk of a heart attack.
Other research indicates that two carotenoids in particular - beta carotene and lycopene, which are found in tomatoes - could put a lid on stroke risk.
To really combat these diseases though, you'll need to maximize the beta carotene in every meal. To do this, just add a bit of fat. If you saute your vegetables use a bit of coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. For salads, use some coconut or olive oil and some balsamic vinegar as your dressing, with a bit of fresh squeezed lemon. To take a walk on the wild side use some hummus as your dressing. Also, lightly cooking, chopping, and grating carrots and other vegetable containing beta carotenes help to make for easier release and absorption of the beta carotenes.
You could eat the healthiest salad piled high with carrots, leafy greens, and other high-carotenoid foods, but if you pour on a fat-free dressing or none at all, you will not absorb any disease-fighting carotenoids. Yes, the low-fat dressings have an adequate amount of fat to help you absorb some carotenoids, but to get the most beta carotene out of that salad you need to eat, you really need to increase the fat.
Just adding a little bit of fat to the orange, yellow, and leafy greens you usually eat every day, and you will get all the beta carotene you need without really changing your diet. But, be smart about what fat you use. Coconut oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, avocado and hummus are the best.
Now that Halloween is pau (Hawaiian for finished), what did you do with your pumpkin? Remember, pumpkins, squash, and other high-beta-carotene foods like these, that are rich in vitamin A, fight cancer.
But wait, there's more. Foods rich in beta carotene are a brain protector as well.
As vitamin A, it normalizes the way your body processes beta-amyloid protein. If this process breaks down it leads to Alzheimer's disease. As an antioxidant, beta carotene seems to increase brain function and brain cell survival as well as to improve the communication between the brain cells.
You already have the brain-saving list so heartily take advantage of these phytochemicals.
There are untold benefits waiting in the produce aisle. Of course, organic is better than pesticide-laden, but the benefits are inherent if the vegetable or fruit. If non-organic, wash them good.
There's an illness called sarcopenia. Sacopenia is the loss of muscle mass and strength. Sarcopenia makes it harder for you to get around, makes you more frail, and increases your chances of falling and being hospitalized. In essence, it takes away your independence.
But muscle loss is not just a product of being lazy. The same oxidative damage behind some cancers, heart problems, and lung disease also plays a role in muscle loss. The oxidation damages your muscles' DNA, protein, and fats in a way that may cause muscles to wither with age.
Luckily, cartenoids like beta carotene help remove the extra free radicals floating around that otherwise cause oxidation. Thin, then, minimizes muscle and DNA damage. By snuffing out free radicals, beta carotene and other antioxidants soothe inflammation as well.
Research has linked high levels of the inflammatory compound interleukin-6 to sarcopenia, loss of physical function and even disability.
For women, in particular, the amount of carotenoid you have in your blood now will predict how much interleukin-6 you will have later in life. The lower your cartenoid levels, the higher your interleukin-6 will eventually rise. Low cartenoids also predict muscle weakness and severe walking disability for older women. The good news is that having lots of beta carotene and other cartenoids in your blood, thanks to a diet filled with fruits and vegetables, results in better grip, hip and knee strength in elderly women.
It is important to note that your cartenoid levels are directly linked to how many fruits and vegetables you eat.
Yes, we know that oxidative damage builds up in the body with age, but id doesn't have to get the best of you. Eating the right combination of foods for 15 days can fight off oxidative DNA damage in older women. An example of such a regimen is as follows: ? cup of cooked spinach 1/3 of a medium carrot or ? cup of pumpkin 1 medium tomato or ? tablespoon of tomato paste Do not forget a bit of coconut or olive oil.
Let's talk about vision, as its value cannot be underestimated. You need it to drive, read, recognize people, and stay independent. Unfortunately, age brings macular-degeneration.
The eye's retina contains millions of cells that sense light and color. The macula sits in the center and allows you to see fine details and gives you central vision. With macular-degeneration, the cells in the fine-vision area shrink or become blocked, sometimes by scar tissue in the eye.
At first, only minor vision problems manifest, but it usually gets worse with age. You must keep your eyesight sharp.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people over the age of 55 who ate foods rich in beta carotene along with vitamins C and E cut their chances of macular degeneration by 35%.
One of the best sources of beta carotene is sweet potato, as they pack more beta carotene ounce for ounce than any other unfortified food - even more than carrots and pumpkins. It is one of the most powerful foods you can ever find.
One medium sweet potato delivers 438 % of your daily vitamin A, in the form of beta carotene. In addition, this sweet potato will give you 4 grams of fiber, more than a third of your vitamin C, and over ? of the day's manganese, all in a tiny 103 calories with zero fat.
If you already suffer from macular degeneration, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found a supplement containing a combination of nutrients. It has 15 mg of beta carotene, 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 80 mg of zinc, and 2 mg of cupric oxide. This supplement slashed the risk of the disease worsening by 25%. It also slowed the disease's progression in people with intermediate macular-degeneration in one or both eyes or with advanced macular-degeneration in only one eye.
For more information on this supplement contact the National Eye Institute at (301) 496-5248.
When you doctor puts his stethoscope on your chest and tells you to take a deep breath, it's all well and good as long as you do not suffer from lung disease. Beta carotene can help decrease your problem as easy as it takes to pile your plate high with colorful foods.
When you eat more beta carotene foods, the results are delivered to your lungs. In your lungs it helps prevent the oxidative damage that contributes to lung problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Natural body processes like breathing actually generate the free radical compounds that cause oxidation. In fact, smoking is even worse at any level especially if beta carotene and vitamin E are at low levels.
So, the bottom line is that it's never to late to eat better or increase your intake of beta carotene and antioxidants. It's always better to do it naturally than with synthetic supplements. Of course, the organic sulfur crystals with their oxygen releasing qualities remove heavy metals, toxins, and free radicals and restore the cells in the body to a healthier state.
About the author: I have been doing a weekly radio show in Honolulu since 1981 called "Health Talk". In 2007 I was "forced" to get a Masters degree in Nutrition because of all the doctors that would call in asking for my credentials. They do not call in anymore. Going to www.healthtalkhawaii.com enables you, among other things, to listen to the shows. I am an activist. In addition to espousing an organic vegan diet for optimum health, I am strongly opposed to GMOs, vaccines, processed foods, MSG, aspartame, fluoridation and everything else that the pimps (Big Pharma, Monsanto and the large food companies) and the hookers (the doctors, the government agencies, the public health officials, and the mainstream media) thrust upon us, the tricks. After being vaccinated with the DTP vaccine as a child I developed asthma. After taking the organic sulfur crystals (they are harvested from the pine trees in Louisiana) in November of 2008 for 10 days my asthma reversed and has not come back over 4 years later, 18 cases, so far, of autism have been reversed, as has cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, osteoarthritis, joint pain, astigmatism, gum disease, increased sexual activity, heavy metal and radiation elimination, parasite elimination, free radicals elimination, faster athletic recovery time, increased blood circulation, reduced inflammation, resistance to getting the flu, reduction of wrinkles, allergy reduction, reduced PMS and monthly period pain, nausea, migraines and so much more. And it's only possible because of the oxygen it releases that floods the cells of the body. The sulfur, as proven by the University of Southampton in England, enables the body to produce vitamin B12 and the essential amino acids. You can find out more about this incredible nutrient also on my website - www.healthtalkhawaii.com -. My book, "a Sane Diet For An Insane World", has been published. It can be viewed at www.asanediet.com.