The colour orange – blending the happiness of yellow and heat/energy of red.
Orange radiates warmth and sunshine. Our sunrises and sunsets glow with orange tones representing the start and ends of our daylight – the photographs below are great examples with sunrise at Lake Mungo and sunset in Tasmania.
During their time in the sun, orange fruit/vegetable producing plants use orange pigments (carotenoids) to convert sunlight energy to chlorophyl (via photosynthesis).
It’s a great way to think of orange as concentrated sunshine!
Let’s have a look at why orange fruits and vegetable are so special and why they are beneficial to our health and should be included in our diet.
What are they?
All fruits and vegetables contain different phytochemicals that plants use to help protect them from predators and disease. Diets high in fruits and vegetables provide a range of phytochemicals that help to keep us healthy and allow us to fight disease.
There are many types of orange fruits and vegetables and in turn many different types of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, including beta-carotene which our body converts to vitamin A (more on vitamin A and it’s precursor beta-carotene below).
As with all fruits and vegetables, the amount of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals within them is dependent on climate, growing and storage conditions and ripeness.
Why should I include orange fruits/vegetables in my diet?
A diet high in vegetables and fruit will provide a range of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fibre essential for good health.
As the types of nutrients differ slightly between the colours, it’s recommended we include different coloured fruits and vegetables within our daily diets – eat the rainbow.
Lets have a look at some examples of orange fruit/vegetables and their some of their phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals:
- carrots – carotenoids, fibre, vitamin K , vitamin C
- rockmelon (cantaloupe) – carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B5
- pumpkin – carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, fibre
- sweet potato – carotenoids, vitamin C, manganese, copper.
- apricots – carotenoids, smaller amounts vitamins C, potassium, fibre
- mangoes –
- oranges – vitamin C, fibre, folate, calcium, potassium, vitamin B1
- papaya – carotenoids, vitamin C, fibre, folate, potassium, vitamins K and E – see below for synergy between carotenoids and vitamins C and E
What are these phytochemicals? – lets look at carotenoids
Carotenoids – Also known as provitamin A (precursor of vitamin A).
Common forms are – beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Beta-carotene from vegetables is converted to vitamin A (retinol) within the intestines and liver. Once converted, retinol is transported via lymph system to liver when it is stored. Retinol-binding proteins carry vitamin A around the body via blood, when is is picked up by cells using special vitamin A receptors. The anti-oxidants lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin are not converted and have no vitamin A activity.
Vitamin A is stored in the liver and is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Functions – antioxidants that help quench free radicals. May also play a role in enhancing immune system function, help maintain retinal health (especially for macular degeneration), may help prevent LDL oxidation (reduce atherosclerotic plaque) and play a beneficial role in cell differentiation.
Tip – as vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, serve orange vegetables with a little EVVO, this will help to get the most out of your vitamin A absorption.
Fibre, vitamins and minerals
- fibre – soluble, insoluble and resistant starch. Most fruits and vegetables will have a combination of different types of fibre. Skin will usually be insoluble fibre which will help stabilise blood sugar levels and slow down transit time in the bowel – helping you to feel fuller for longer. Oranges have pectin which is a type of soluble fibre which forms a gel-type substance in the bowel. Pectin may bind to cholesterol in the gut for excretion and therefore lower cholesterol levels. For more information about fibre have a look at my previous post.
- vitamin C or aka ascorbic acid – antioxidant, may help with DNA protection (anti-cancer), infections, immune system and skin health. Essential for collagen production (protein needed for wound repair and healthy skin, tendons, blood vessels, cartilage and bone. Vitamin C also, helps our bodies absorb iron. Tip – when cooking spinach add a splash of lemon juice and EVVO – helps your body absorb more of the iron/calcium from spinach.
- vitamin E – helps to neutralise free radicals (is an antioxidant) – that damage cells, protects vitamin A from oxidative damage and teams up with vitamin C to carry out anti-oxidant functions.
- potassium – helps balance water and acid in the blood and body tissues. Helps build muscle and metobolisation of proteins and carbohydrates.
- manganese – bone formation, thyroid function, immune function, blood sugar regulation and calcium absorption.
- vitamin K – fat soluble vitamin involved in blood clotting, bone formation and density.
- B group – associated with stress management, cell proliferation, energy production and immune system function (and many other functions).
- magnesium – energy metabolism, muscle contraction, bone mineralisation, relaxes nerves and muscles.
- copper – helps the body utilise iron, assists health of nervous and skeletal systems, connective tissue.
- calcium – essential for strong bones, healthy nervous system and muscle function.
- Deep orange vegetables offer health benefits, http://prowellness.vmhost.psu.edu/deep-orange-vegetables-offer-health-benefits
Note – the fruit next to the pumpkin above is Gak, really high in betacarotene. An exotic orange/red Vietnamese fruit I picked up from a farmer’s market in Byron Bay, NSW.