Carotenoid Benefits: Stress and Brightly Colored Vegetables
Today, people are often subjected to stress on a daily basis. Some argue that stress has become a part of life and we need to do what we must to deal with it. The problem is, dealing with it can wreak havoc on your body, more than you realize. In fact, stress can cause a cascade of symptoms that could seriously impact your quality of life. One of the best ways to relieve your body from this is by consuming more foods with high nutritional value. One of these nutrients is carotenoids, as there are several carotenoid benefits that can help your body recover in times of great stress.
What are Carotenoids?
Carotenoids refer to the organic pigments that you commonly see in various fruits and vegetables. In fact, carotenoids are the reason why these natural foods take on shades of vibrant orange, yellow, and deep red. Carotenoids are considered a class of phytonutrient. That means they help plants stay healthy, and they benefit human health as well.
Currently, there are more than 600 types of carotenoids recognized by health experts. The most common ones are lycopene, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin. They are found in various vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, kale, spinach, bell peppers, and yams. Moreover, they are also found in fruits such as papaya, mangoes, cantaloupe, and watermelon.
In the human body, carotenoids are recognized for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also known to be great at boosting the immune system. Some carotenoids get converted into vitamin A by the body. This is essential in maintaining healthy vision, bones, and immune system.
Carotenoid benefits also support the body’s ability to deal with stress.
Your Body’s Stress Response and How Adrenal Fatigue Can Occur
Your body has a natural process that gets activated the moment stress is perceived. This is known as the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system.
The NEM stress response is made of several systems and organs that work together to allow the body to cope with stress. Among the responses is the metabolism response. This involves certain functions of the thyroid, liver, and pancreas.
The moment a person encounters stress, the thyroid produces thyroid hormones that increase the body’s basal metabolic rate. This allows the body to ensure that there is always enough energy available while dealing with stress. Meanwhile, the pancreas produces insulin to provide cells with much-needed glucose. This is also responsible for giving your body an energy boost under stress. Finally, the liver moves to clear away any excess metabolites in the body due to the response of the thyroid and pancreas.
As the stress goes away, the thyroid decreases its production of thyroid hormones and everything starts to return to its normal state. However, in the face of unending or chronic stress, the thyroid never gets to take a break. It keeps on producing thyroid hormones until it has reached its maximum output and can no longer keep up with demand. This results in compromised metabolic function.
Thyroid function can also become compromised as a result of disrupted adrenal function. Once the adrenal glands can no longer produce enough of the stress hormone cortisol to deal with stress, it creates a hormonal imbalance in the body. This can result in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). A person suffering from this can become seriously exhausted and weak, in addition to enduring a host of other symptoms.
How Carotenoid Benefits Help AFS
Fortunately, foods such as those rich in carotenoids can help the body recover from adrenal fatigue and stress. In fact, a recent study conducted by Sun Yat-sen University School of Public Health in Guangzhou, China found that carotenoids are effective for lowering levels of oxidative stress in the body.
Another study done in Belvaux, Luxembourg found that carotenoids can block oxidative stress altogether. A study conducted in Basel, Switzerland found that lycopene can enhance the body’s oxidative stress defense system.
Researchers from the University of Georgia have found that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin possess anti-stress properties. These particular carotenoids appear to lower one’s psychological stress levels and can even reduce serum cortisol in the body.
Oxidation is a massive form of stress for your body and adrenals. Vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant and vital ingredient for your adrenal glands as well. If you have high levels of oxidation in your body, then there is less vitamin C for your adrenals. Thus, keeping antioxidants in your diet is important for keeping oxidative stress down.
Carotenoid Rich Recipes that Support Adrenal Health
Now that you know the value of carotenoids, it’s time to discover how you can enjoy more carotenoid-rich foods on a daily basis so that you can reap the carotenoid benefits. Lucky for you, there are a number of healthy and delicious recipes that utilize various carotenoid-rich foods.
Before you start preparing anything though, it is always a good idea to check with your physician to see if the new foods are safe for your body. This is especially true if you have advanced adrenal fatigue or other health conditions, or if you have food sensitivities. Due to the increased sensitivity to foods and chemicals among AFS sufferers, it is always wise to consult your physician prior embarking on any self-navigation effort.
That said, here are some adrenal friendly recipes you can try at home to easily add more carotenoids to your diet:
- 1 medium carrot
- 1/3 banana
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 inch fresh ginger, peeled
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 cup water
- Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until you get a smooth mixture.
- Add more water if necessary.
Carotenoid-Packed Scrambled Eggs with Goat Cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 1/3 cup goat cheese
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the carrots. Cook until the carrots begin to soften.
- Crack the eggs into the pan and mix together with the carrots. Let this cook over low heat for a few minutes before adding in the goat cheese.
- Make sure everything is mixed together well before removing the eggs from the heat. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve.
Super Carotenoid Soup
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- Coconut oil
- 1 cup butternut squash, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
- 4 cups chopped carrots
- 8-10 cups organic vegetable broth
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- Zest of an orange
- Chopped fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, scallions)
- Heat some coconut oil in a large pot and add onion, garlic, and ginger. Sauté these together until they are soft.
- Add in squash, sweet potato, and carrots, and season with salt and pepper.
- Pour in enough vegetable broth to cover all the vegetables by an inch. Cover the pot and let the soup simmer until the vegetables are tender.
- Add the almond milk and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a blender and process until smooth and creamy.
- Top the soup with orange zest and chives for serving.
As you can see, there are many delicious ways to incorporate more carotenoids in your daily diet. If you don’t have time to prepare foods throughout the week, try whipping up some of these dishes in large batches and reheat them through the week to make sure you are getting plenty of carotenoid benefits.
To be able to experience more carotenoid benefits, it is recommended that you consume at around three to four servings of carotenoid-rich vegetables and fruits a day. This is a great way of helping your body relieve itself of adrenal fatigue. Not only that, but carotenoids are part of a diet that helps make your body healthier and stronger for the future.
© Copyright 2019 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What are the carotenoid benefits for someone under stress?
In general, carotenoids are known to decrease oxidative stress levels and prevent further weakening of various body functions. At the same time, carotenoids like lutein can also lower psychological stress levels. They have also been known to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.