Original Source: http://lancasteronline.com/features/food/deep-orange-vegetables-offer-health-benefits/article_ed6051d2-906f-11e6-941a-0f37044a05e9.html
Deep orange vegetables, such as squash and pumpkin, contain vitamins A and C, beta carotene and fiber.
Fall is my favorite season because it’s the time of year for change and new beginnings. Children have started their brand-new school year. The air starts to have crispness to it, and the leaves start to change into their beautiful autumn colors.
Fall is also the time of year when an often-underappreciated vegetable sub-group is in season: deep-orange vegetables.
Consumers tend to be less familiar with deep-orange vegetables, and, thus, they are not frequently used in cooking. But vegetables in this subgroup are an especially good addition to fall meals. They come in different varieties; you can purchase them in different forms; and they contain a variety of nutrients.
The orange vegetables I’m describing are: carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins (members of the squash family) and winter squash, including acorn, delicata, Hubbard, buttercup and butternut varieties. Some squash varieties do not appear orange on the outside, but it’s their interior orange flesh that’s important.
It is recommended that adult men and women eat 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily from all vegetable groups (deep green, orange, red, legumes, starchy vegetables and others.). And adults should consume 2 1/2 cups per week of specifically red and deep-orange vegetables.
Deep-orange vegetables are good sources of the nutrients vitamin C and beta carotene (which is converted to vitamin A).
Vitamin C has various functions in our bodies:
- It helps produce collagen, the most abundant protein in mammals.
- It keeps blood vessels and capillaries firm.
- It helps with the absorption of iron and folate from plant-based foods (especially important for vegetarians).
- It promotes mouth and gum health.
- It helps cuts to heal.
- It boosts our immunity and protects us from infection.
- And, along with beta carotene, vitamin C’s most important role is to act as an antioxidant to combat harmful free radicals in the body. Harmful free radicals occur in the body during normal metabolism, as well as when we expose ourselves to an unhealthy diet or pollutants such as tobacco and alcohol. If destructive free radicals react with oxygen in our bodies, they can cause damage such as skin wrinkles and diseases such as cancer.
Consuming foods such as deep-orange vegetables is one way to ensure your body is receiving good, naturally occurring antioxidants.
The lack of enough vitamin C in a diet can also lead to a deficiency called scurvy. Instances of scurvy are rare in the United States because of the abundance of vitamin C in the food supply, but it’s still a possibility.
Scurvy causes wounds not to heal properly and teeth to become loose, resulting in gum and mouth issues.
Beta carotene/vitamin A
The carotenoid beta carotene is all around us in the fall.
Carotenoids are the plant pigments that give red, orange, and yellow produce — and the leaves on the trees — their beautiful vibrant colors.
Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in our bodies, and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes contain 146.8 percent, 244.6 percent and 521.6 percent of vitamin A per serving, respectively. The serving size is 1 medium carrot, 1 cup mashed pumpkin or 1 potato, respectively.
Vitamin A is needed by our bodies to keep our skin, eyes and tissue linings healthy.
Deep-orange vegetables are also high in dietary fiber, which is essential to the regularity of our digestive system.
Consuming foods high in fiber also helps us with satiety, as we feel a sense of fullness while eating them.
Most adults need to consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily. Orange vegetables range from 2 to 6 grams of fiber per serving.
Stacy Reed is an educator with Penn State Extension in Lancaster, specializing in food safety and nutrition.