Because of their benefits, antioxidants are gaining much popularity in the health world. However, not many people understand that antioxidants are not created equally. In fact, there are many types, each having its own set of benefits. Among its many types are the carotenoids. Examples of carotenoids are beta-carotene, astaxanthin, and vitamin A and E.
Not many people know that carotenoids exist all around them. Carotenoids are a family of pigment antioxidants, meaning they give color. They are responsible for the vibrant colors of certain fruits and vegetables, plants, and even sea animals. Right now, there are 700 naturally-occurring carotenoids but only a few are known to people.
Apart from giving a beautiful combination of colors, carotenoids are known to give outstanding benefits. Studies link them to anti-aging effects and the suppression of free radicals. The good thing about carotenoids is that you can actually obtain them from numerous dietary sources. To give you an idea, here are some of the most common carotenoid antioxidants and their sources:
- Astaxanthin – You probably haven’t heard much about astaxanthin, but it is actually gaining much popularity around the world. Studies regarding astaxanthin benefits are growing, and show that this antioxidant contains more antioxidant properties than its carotenoid counterparts.
Astaxanthin can be found from the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis, or from marine animals that consume the microalgae, such as salmon and krill. Astaxanthin is actually responsible for giving these animals a pinkish or reddish hue. A high-quality astaxanthin supplement is also an ideal source of this antioxidant, especially if it is sourced from the microalgae.
- Beta-carotene – This is probably one of the most famous antioxidants. When inside your body, it is converted to the essential nutrient vitamin A. It is responsible for giving orange and yellow fruits and vegetables their colors. Carrots are by far the richest source of beta-carotene. Other dietary sources are pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and certain types of greens. This antioxidant, like astaxanthin, can also be found in supplement form.
- Lycopene – Lycopene is yet another popular carotenoid antioxidant. Lycopene is responsible for giving a deep reddish color to certain fruits and vegetables. The most common source of lycopene is tomatoes. It is said that the absorbability of lycopene is enhanced with tomato products, like tomato sauce or tomato juice. However, much research is needed for this. Other sources of lycopene are apricots and watermelons.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin – These carotenoid antioxidants are linked to eye health because they can be found in the lenses and retina of your eyes. These two antioxidants give a yellow color, but at high concentrations, they induce an orange hue. The best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and lettuce. When consuming these foods, it is best to consume them raw as there are studies showing that lutein’s amount is reduced due to cooking.
When consuming foods rich in carotenoids, it is crucial to include a source of dietary fat to your meal. This is because carotenoids are fat-soluble or lipid-soluble nutrients. When consumed, these nutrients influence your cell membranes. They cannot be absorbed effectively without the consumption of fat. For example, some astaxanthin supplements contain omega-3 fats in order to improve the availability of the nutrient. This is the same for the other carotenoids.
Never settle for just one kind of antioxidant. It is a myth that when you consume antioxidants, you should eat only one type to make it more effective. There are always more benefits in numbers. Make sure that your sources are free of any chemical toxins and are all-natural or organic. Many of the carotenoid sources above contain extra nutrients that contribute to optimal health.
About the Author
Mishka Thomas is an advocate of natural health and a dedicated blogger. She began her blog a year ago and has been writing about recent health news. She also shares helpful information on how to achieve optimal health. Her recent articles involve antioxidants, such as astaxanthin, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids, as well as their sources.