(Natural News) Fruits and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet. A new study suggests people to eat more fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids as they can help protect against chronic inflammation.
For the study, researchers from the U.S. looked at the link between different doses of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetable intake, plasma carotenoids, and inflammatory markers. Carotenoids are a class of phytonutrients that are responsible for giving many fruits and vegetables their bright red, orange, and yellow colors. Carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and dark leafy green vegetables, such as kale, mustard greens, spinach, and turnip are some fruits and vegetables rich in this phytonutrient.
The U.S. researchers hypothesized that the consumption of these fruits and vegetables would have a beneficial effect on systemic inflammation status. To test their hypothesis, the researchers fed healthy, non-obese individuals with a low-carotenoid diet for six weeks. After that, they gave them a carotenoid-rich diet for eight weeks. The researchers measured their levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and carotenoids at baseline, the sixth week, and at the end of the eight-week feeding period.
The results revealed that the participants’ levels of carotenoids in the blood increased after they adhered to a carotenoid-rich diet. This, in turn, led to significant reductions in inflammatory markers, such as macrophage inflammatory protein-1 beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and an increase in the concentrations of interferon-alpha-2. These findings, which were published in the journal Nutrition Research, indicate that eating fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids may be important in the regulation of inflammatory processes in the body. (Related: Lycopene is found in a variety of fruits, offering an array of antioxidant carotenoid benefits.)
Inflammation is normal; it is an important part of the immune system’s response to things that harm the body, such as infections, injuries, and toxins. It is the body’s way of telling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue, and protect itself from foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. However, it can become a problem if it lasts for too long or if it occurs in places where it is not needed, leaving the body in a constant state of alert. Chronic inflammation could also play a role in the development of diseases, such as heart disease or stroke, and may result in autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Following a healthy diet and lifestyle can help keep inflammation in control.
Other health benefits of carotenoids
In addition to giving color to fruits and vegetables, carotenoids also act as a type of antioxidant for humans. This means that they can help prevent diseases and boost immunity. Here are other health benefits carotenoid-rich foods offer:
- Enhance eye health: Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of carotenoids that are particularly good for eye health. Research has shown that eating foods rich in these carotenoids can keep the cells in the eyes healthy and prevent the growth of cancerous cells. Lutein and zeaxanthin have also been found to help absorb blue light, which can be harmful to the delicate parts of the eye and cause macular degeneration. Studies suggest that adding at least six milligrams (mg) of lutein to your diet a day can cut macular degeneration risk by 43 percent.
- Protect the heart: The anti-inflammatory properties of carotenoids have been linked to preventing heart disease and preventing arterial wall blockages.
- Ward off cancer: Carotenoids have been linked to lowering the risk of lung cancer and skin cancer due to their antioxidant properties. Additionally, some carotenoids can break down into vitamin A, which is essential in preventing premature skin damage from sun exposure.
Carotenoids are best absorbed with fat as they are fat-soluble compounds. Cooking and chopping carotenoid-rich foods enhance the strength of the nutrients when they enter the bloodstream.