It’s the color of the month and a hue that’s known to support good health. Are you eating enough orange foods? The benefits of these brightly colored plant products – think pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes and carrots – stem from a family of natural compounds called carotenoids, which function as powerful free radical-fighting antioxidants.
Carotenoids found in orange foods offer many benefits, from supporting healthy immune function and mucous membranes to fighting inflammation to protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays. Eating too many orange foods eventually will give your skin an orange tinge. This can be a good thing, especially if you’re planning a winter vacation, because it might help prevent or minimize sunburn.
While it’s commonly thought that orange foods are especially rich in vitamin A, this isn’t exactly true. What they contain is provitamin A, which is actually beta carotene. Unlike vitamin A, beta carotene isn’t toxic when ingested in high amounts. Eating orange foods helps boost your vitamin A levels indirectly by increasing beta carotene in your diet.
Let’s take a look at three of the most nutritious orange foods high in carotenoids:
Pumpkin – It’s almost Halloween, and there’s no better time to enjoy pumpkin! This favorite fall fruit is delicious and nutritious—high in fiber, low in calories and a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, manganese and, of course, beta carotene. According to Chinese medicine, pumpkins are energetically “warming,” so cooking them during the fall and winter helps keep you warm internally. For a quick pumpkin treat, try whipping a little agave syrup and cinnamon into a pumpkin mash.
Carrots – Get your crunch on with a healthy snack of raw carrots. Rich in fiber and extremely high in beta carotene, carrots also contain vitamin C, calcium, iron, vitamin K, potassium, folate, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamin E and zinc. The deeper the orange color, the more beta carotene a carrot contains.
Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are among the very best when it comes to highly nutritious orange foods. One medium-sized sweet potato packs a powerful nutritional punch, providing 400 percent of your daily beta carotene needs! Sweet potatoes also provide plenty of fiber, potassium, a host of B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, manganese, calcium, iron and zinc. Bake a batch of thinly sliced sweet potatoes at least once a week, and snack on them instead of potato chips or corn chips. Sweet potato fries, also baked, are another healthy and easy-to-make snack. Or, enjoy sweet potato pie for dessert.
Here’s a healthy sweet potato or pumpkin (your pick!) recipe to help fill your daily quota for orange foods. Enjoy!
Vegan Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie
Recipe courtesy of Honolulu-based vegan chef Alyssa Moreau
2 cups cooked sweet potato and/or kabocha pumpkin
1/2 pkg. (12.3 oz) soft silken tofu
2 Tbsp. light oil
1 Tbsp. dry egg replacer
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. liquid stevia or 1/3 c maple syrup or honey
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon with a dash of nutmeg)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- For crust, combine all dry ingredients I a large bowl and mix well. Stir in oil and maple syrup, adding more as needed to create a moist mixture. Pat crust into oiled 9” pie plate.
- For filling, combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Pour mixture into pie crust.
- Bake pie for 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
- Cool pie on rack before slicing and serving. (Note: For best taste and texture, refrigerate pie overnight before serving!)