The Nutritional Magic in Orange Foods

Gina Marie
By Gina Marie
May 9, 2022Eat Bettershare

Written by: Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D.

A car needs the right kind of gas to run smoothly, and it’s similar for humans. They need the right kind of food to optimize their health and well-being.

The best foods for our bodies and our brains are the freshest and they’re made in our own kitchens. They’re not made in industrial plants.

Also, eating should be delicious and bring us joy. It’s no good to shovel “healthy” food into our mouths while standing by the sink, stressing about work, school, or the latest deadly infection!

It’s also a mistake to stress about food. If we prepare a beautiful meal, but we do it resentfully, worried about the mess we’re making, we miss the opportunity to nourish our minds and bodies.

This brings me to why I love to eat orange foods! Colorful fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients are chemicals that help protect plants from invaders and the great thing about them is that they’re also beneficial to humans.

Unlike green leafy vegetables, orange foods usually aren’t bitter. Like green leafy vegetables, eating orange veggies daily will help you have more energy, improve your digestion, and feel more vibrant.

So, grab an orange pepper out of the fridge, squeeze yourself a glass of fresh orange juice, and I’ll tell you more about these foods and why you should eat them. Here are a few orange fruit and veggie ideas to get you started.

Orange Vegetables

  • Acorn squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Kabocha squash
  • Carrots
  • Orange peppers
  • Orange tomatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Saffron
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turmeric

Orange Fruits

  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Guavas
  • Kumquats
  • Loquats
  • Mandarins
  • Mangos
  • Tangelos
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Persimmons
  • Tangerines

Crazy About Carotene

All of these vegetables and fruits are high in carotene. This is the yellow-orange pigment that gives them their bright orange coloring.

Carotene is one of a group of orange, red, and yellow pigments known as carotenoids that are made by plants. They’re also made by animals, and even fungi!

For the most part, the deeper the orange color of the food, the higher the carotene content it has. So why do we want to eat foods high in carotene? Our bodies convert this plant-made hydrocarbon into vitamin A in the liver.

In grade school, a teacher likely told you that if you eat carrots, you’ll see better at night. It’s true! Vitamin A helps to maintain good eyesight, but it’s also responsible for keeping us healthy in a variety of other ways.

Carotenoids promote the growth and repair of the tissue lining your mouth and intestines, bones, and teeth.

They help prevent acne and maintain healthy skin, which is why so many people report seeing their acne improve when they start eating a more whole-food, plant-based diet.

Carotenoids are crucial in helping protect against colds and the flu. They also protect against infections of the kidneys, lungs, bladder, and mucous membranes.

But that’s not all. They also aid in digestion and help prevent gastrointestinal ulcers. Your body’s natural vitamin A also functions as an antioxidant, which means that it helps the body get rid of harmful agents called free radicals. But we should eat a lot of orange foods for more than just their carotenoids.

Many orange foods are also high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and micronutrients.

There’s no question that eating these fresh, healthy foods—in the form of whole foods—helps our bodies function better and avoid illness.

Fighting Macular Degeneration With Healthy Food  

According to a 1998 study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, some orange vegetables can help older adults avoid macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that can eventually lead to partial or total blindness. Indeed, scientists in Germany found that foods such as orange peppers and corn contain high quantities of these two nutrients.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that help the body fight against macular degeneration. Orange peppers are especially high in zeaxanthin, and orange citrus fruits and squashes also contain high levels of both lutein and zeaxanthin, according to research. 

Lowering Your Risk of Cancer

Consuming a variety of orange vegetables and fruits may also protect you against cancer.

According to a 1986 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, men in New Jersey who reported eating the highest portions of dark yellow and orange fruits and vegetables had the lowest incidents of lung cancer.

much larger study, of over 470,000 participants aged 50 to 71, also found that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables may protect against lung cancer.

Getting Your Daily Dose of Orange

Eating raw fruits and vegetables, preferably ones that are local, freshly picked, and organically grown, is often the best way to maximize their nutrient and fiber content.

However, cooking these foods can increase bioavailability, according to a summary of research prepared by Oregon State University.

You can also add to your daily dose of orange vegetables by using puréed canned pumpkin to make pumpkin bread or pumpkin cookies, or adding turmeric to your favorite smoothie recipe.

My favorite smoothie contains:

  • 2 cups of raw milk
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 knob ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • ½ cup mango
  • 1 orange

5 Fun Ways to Eat Orange

Slice some peppers: Make yourself a veggie plate with orange, yellow, red, green, and purple peppers. Serve with a bowl of sweet potato hummus to make it an extra healthy and delicious snack.

Host a citrus taste test: This is one works well with kids! Cut up five or six different kinds of citrus fruits and do a taste test. Give each participant a score sheet so that they can rate their favorites.

Or have them see if they can tell each fruit apart in a blind taste test. They’ll have so much fun figuring out which is which that they won’t realize that they’re eating such healthy food.

Roast a sweet potato: Cut a sweet potato in half lengthwise and put it face down on a baking tray. You don’t need to oil the tray first. Roast it at 425 degrees F for about 20 to 25 minutes or until soft and fragrant.

You can eat it with your hands, as the skin makes a perfect “wrapping.” Or you could drizzle it with olive oil and enjoy it with a knife and fork. The skin is edible too, as long as the potatoes were organically grown.

Whip up some butternut squash soup: Roasted butternut squash, sweet potato, and carrot soup are delicious and nutritious. It also freezes well, so you can make a double recipe and reheat it at your convenience.

Make orange rice: I love sautéing a lot of chopped vegetables, adding broth, and cooking them in rice to make what I call “busy rice.”

To make orange-colored busy rice, sauté 1/2 cup to 1 cup of minced carrots and orange peppers with half a chopped onion and two cloves of chopped garlic until all the vegetables soften (about 5 minutes).

Season with salt and pepper, along with a teaspoon or more of paprika and turmeric and a pinch of saffron if you’ve got it.

Then add 2 cups of broth or water and 1 cup of white rice, simmer for 15 minutes (depending on the rice variety), let stand for 1 minute, taste to adjust seasonings, and serve piping hot with a vegetarian stir fry or meat entrée.

So next time you’re out at the grocery store or local farmers market go ahead and forage for orange foods. They’re tasty and deliver unique phytonutrients.


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