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What in the World Are Carotenoids?

December 16, 2019

What in the World Are Carotenoids?

Carotenoids 101: The Lowdown on Gac’s Chief Phytonutrient

 

If you’ve tried one of GacLife’s delicious drinks, you’ll see reference to something called “carotenoids” in the ingredients list. The question is, however, what exactly are they and why are they important?


Well, it turns out that carotenoids are actually an important nutrient in a healthy diet and they can significantly impact your overall nutrition!

 

Carotenoids Broken Down

 

 

Let’s start with a simple explanation of what carotenoids are. Carotenoids are a type of plant chemical called phytonutrients, and are plant pigments that give vegetables and fruits bright orange, red, or yellow coloring. These compounds are found inside plant cells as well as in algae and bacteria. 


So what role do they play other than adding colors to plants? Carotenoids help these bacteria and flora absorb light energy which they use for photosynthesis. On top of that, they act as an antioxidant and deactivate destructive oxygen atoms that can interact with other molecules and harm plant growth. 


Interestingly enough, plants aren’t the only ones who need carotenoids! In the human body, carotenoids also have antioxidant properties and provide the body with vitamin A, immune system protection and benefits, and anti-inflammatory protection. On top of that, these compounds are being studied to see if they could act as cancer-fighting supplements. 

 

Carotenoid Sources

 

 

As stated earlier, carotenoids can be found in many plants, bacteria, and algae. While bright colors are a good indicator of a carotenoid containing fruit or vegetable, that doesn’t always mean that they will contain these phytonutrients. 


A few common fruits and vegetables that contain carotenoids include: 


  • Carrots
  • Yams
  • Papaya
  • Mangos
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Watermelon
  • bell peppers
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • And gac fruit 

While you won’t find carotenoids in animals naturally, animals can store carotenoids in their fat cells when they eat plants containing these compounds. Their bodies will absorb the nutrients which can then be consumed by humans when eating the animal. 

 

The Carotenoid Family Tree

 

 

 

Carotenoids come from a complex family tree. In fact, there are over 600 different kinds of carotenoids! Most people in the Western hemisphere consume carotenoids such as:


  • Alpha-carotene
  • Beta-carotene
  • Beta-cryptoxanthin
  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin
  • And lycopene 

These carotenoids also happen to be the most studied, meaning we have more information on how they benefit our bodies than we do on other types of carotenoids. 


While there are hundreds of types of carotenoids, most of them can be divided into two main categories: carotenes and xanthophylls. These groups are differentiated by their oxygen composition; carotenes are hydrocarbons which do not contain any oxygen while xanthophylls contain oxygen as part of their chemical makeup. 


On top of that, these two types of carotenoids absorb different wavelengths of light during photosynthesis, which means the colors they produce are slightly different. Xanthophylls tend to have a yellow coloring to them while carotenes tend to appear more orange. 


Outside of these two main categories of carotenoids, there is also a type of carotenoid called provitamin A. Provitamin A carotenoids are converted into vitamin A in the intestine or in the liver, and provide the body with important nutrients from human health. 


Just because a carotenoid is a provitamin A carotenoid, however, doesn’t mean that it isn’t also either a carotene or a xanthophyll. Alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin are two examples of provitamin A carotenoids. 

 

Common Carotenoids

 

 

 

Some of the most common carotenoids have specific properties that are worth mentioning and looking into. That way, you know exactly how each one is benefiting your health!

 

Lutein

 

Lutein is one carotenoid that you’ll find in a lot of common fruits and vegetables. It’s most commonly found in kale, spinach, squash, pumpkin, paprika, avocado, and enriched eggs. 


But why is lutein important? Lutein is one of two carotenoids found in the retina, which means that it can significantly help improve eye health. Lutein helps protect your eyes from blue light, which is especially important in a society focused on using computers and screens!


Additionally, a study conducted by the National Eye Institute has found that lutein may be associated with reducing the risk of macular degeneration.


The eyes aren’t the only part of the body that are helped by lutein, however; it’s also good for helping prevent the formation of plaques which can prevent blood flow to the heart and lead to heart disease. And, it can act as an antioxidant on cholesterol and prevent it from building up and clogging the arteries. 

 

Beta-carotene

 

As we mentioned earlier, beta-carotene is a provitamin A carotenoid, which means that it produces vitamin A in the human body. It’s most commonly found in cantaloupe, mangoes, gac fruit, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and kale. Orange foods are commonly colored by beta-carotene, so choosing orange fruits and vegetables is a safe bet for introducing beta-carotene into your diet. 


Beta-carotenoids also help protect against sunburn, which make them an important part of a summer diet! They also have been studied for their properties to lower the risk of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. Their antioxidant properties help to mitigate these types of maladies and keep you healthy!

 

Lycopene

 

The third most common type of carotenoid is lycopene. Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid that is found in watermelons, tomatoes, guavas, and gac fruit. You can also find lower amounts of it in asparagus, carrots, and parsley. 


Lycopene is important because of its unique molecular shape which deactivates free radicals and acts as a powerful antioxidant. Many studies have also shown that it may be linked with fighting prostate cancer and osteoporosis, making it another important compound for daily health and disease prevention.

 

Get Your Carotenoids With Gac

 

 

Gac contains high levels of carotenoids of any fruit or vegetable; in fact, it contains 70 times more lycopene than tomatoes and 10 times more beta-carotene than carrots! By incorporating gac fruit into your diet, you can stay healthy and fight disease naturally. 


Not sure how to get gac into your diet? GacLife offers a wide range of drinks that are infused with gac fruit to help your body get the nutrients it needs from a natural and organic source. Check out our drinks today!