Orange foods are not too different from red foods, with the added benefit of supporting reproductive health in these times of ailing fertility.
Don’t stop reading now because you’re not planning a baby. In fact, regardless of whether you want to procreate or not, your reproductive system needs to be functioning optimally. After all, the entire chemistry of your body is influenced by your biological sex from the moment you were conceived. They’re even involved with your brain, mood, and cognition.
|Phytonutrients in orange foods|
What distinguishes orange from red (apart from the hue, of course) is the presence of carotenoids, like beta-carotene and its characteristically vivid shade that you see in carrots. But these pigments are not only easy on the eye, they’re incredibly functional molecules too!
Carotenoids are fat-soluble antioxidants, which means they can be deposited in fat cells, and they can pair up with free radical electrons to prevent damage at a cellular level. Interestingly, these molecules are found in specific fat stores depending on what type they are.
In particular, carotenoids love your baby-making parts. Indeed, these antioxidants favour the ovaries, and are linked to higher sperm concentrations in men. One study even showed that supplementing women with beta-carotene, along with other antioxidants, accelerated the time to pregnancy for couples struggling with fertility.
This matters because, for many, fertility problems are real. According to the World Health Organisation, it’s literally a global public health issue: infertility and subfertility affected 10% of women in relationships for 5+ years who were trying to conceive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the rate of this problem in men is unknown, as they are less willing to seek professional help.
Studies have identified an association between citrus fruit and endometriosis, a painful condition where the cells of the uterine lining grow elsewhere, like the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and intestines. Women who had one serving of citrus per day had 22% lower risk of developing endometriosis, compared to those who consumed one serving per week.
The study even identified beta-cryptoxanthin, a carotenoid in orange citrus fruit, as the only nutrient studied that was correlated with this decrease. Beta-cryptoxanthin was also linked to later onset of menopause.
In addition to antioxidants, orange foods contain phytoestrogens — oestrogen that comes from foods, not from the endocrine system. Don’t worry male readers, plant oestrogens won’t give you boobs. In fact, the fiber in plant foods actually carries away excess oestrogen with your stool.
However, these plant-derived hormones can be particularly beneficial for ladies in, around, and after menopause. Research shows that wild yams can enhance estradiol production in postmenopausal women. Furthermore, carrots are linked with lower rates of prostate and breast cancer.
Eye health and carotenoids
There are many carotenoids out there in nature, and not all of them are plant-based as expert Miguel reminds us: “Egg yolks are also orange. Along with fresh corn (maize) they contain the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, another couple of carotenoids known to have a range of benefits to human health, particularly for healthy eyes / vision.”
“Research shows that these carotenoids function as antioxidants and/or as a blue light filters, protecting the human retina from phototoxic damage. Orange citrus fruit like oranges and tangerines, as well as orange peppers, also contain good levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, so that’s another good reason to make those part of your weekly food rainbow.”
In addition to the reproductive health benefits of orange foods, they also contain bioflavonoids and curcuminoids. Despite the -oid, these compounds are not from space. They actually also play important roles.
Bioflavonoids, also known as flavonoids, are a class of phytochemical of which there are about 6,000 that add colour to fruits, herbs, vegetables, and medicinal plants. They help prevent oxidative stress, inflammation, cancer, and even protect against permanent changes in DNA. They also modulate the activities of enzymes — substances that activate chemical reactions in the body.
You might be more familiar with curcuminoids, because they are what makes turmeric (also known as curcumin) so orange. In addition to dazzling colours, curcuminoids have dazzling properties. Not only are they antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, they have protective benefits for the brain.
Curcuminoids also help protect from harmful radiation, while combating cancer and even arthritis. Heck, they can even be used against tooth decay by preventing mouth bacteria, particularly Streptococcus mutans, from creating a biofilm that allows them to adhere to teeth.
Orange fruits & vegetables ideas: