Orange is the New Green

The health benefits of fall's bright and beautiful orange fruits and veggies

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Assorted orange fruits and vegetables
By Joanne Camas

If every season has a color, Fall’s has to be orange. From pumpkins sitting squatly on front porches to sweet potatoes to falling leaves, orange is everywhere. When we think of orange foods, beta-carotene comes to mind as the “orange” nutrient, but other health benefits are hiding under the surface as well.

“While beta-carotene is the shining star of the orange family, there are definitely other important nutrients in orange-fleshed fruits and vegetables,” explains Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Eating in Color. Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body, which we need for skin and eye cell growth. It’s also crucial for building healthy immune and reproductive systems. One study found that three daily servings of orange fruits and vegetables can measurably improve your skin’s appearance.

Which orange fruits and veggies are the healthiest to eat? One of the most widely consumed fruits in the world is at the top: “Mangoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and also contain phenolic compounds, which provide the structure for antioxidants and help boost the body’s immune system,” says Largeman-Roth. Mangoes are also a good source of fiber, aiding digestion, and loaded with cancer-preventing antioxidants.

Mango

She also makes a strong case for the sweet potato, a trusty fall staple. “A medium baked sweet potato with skin has just 103 calories, 4g of fiber, and four times the recommended daily intake of beta-carotene,” she notes. “Plus, it contributes 35 percent of your vitamin C for the day, as well as manganese, a mineral that helps keep your blood-sugar level steady.” Freshly squeezed orange juice can also be a winner: “One 8-ounce glass counts as two servings of fruit and contains more than a day’s supply of vitamin C, and it has as much potassium as a banana,” she says. “Pure OJ is also a good source of folic acid, which is vital for a healthy pregnancy.”

Orange juice can also be a winner: “One 8-ounce glass counts as two servings of fruit and contains more than a day’s supply of vitamin C, and it has as much potassium as a banana,” she says. “Pure OJ is also a good source of folic acid, which is vital for a healthy pregnancy.” (Obviously, fresh organic juice is best.)

Potassium is also found in juicy cantaloupe. Nutrient-rich and with a high-water content, this melon makes for a hydrating post-workout treat. get the best boost from your orange foods, cook them, which makes beta-carotene more bio-available or abler to be absorbed, and serve them with a small amount of healthy fat, such as a drizzle of olive oil or a sliver of grass-fed butter. The good fats in walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or avocado also help you absorb orange nutrients more efficiently.

Cooking sweet potatoes, butternut and spaghetti squash and other red veggies makes beta-carotene more easily absorbed, especially when served with a small amount of healthy fat, such as a drizzle of olive oil or a sliver of grass-fed butter. The good fats in walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or avocado also help you absorb orange nutrients more efficiently.

Cooked carrots

For more on orange foods, check out our article on what to know before buying orange juice, or cook up a creative mango quinoa recipe or gluten-free sweet potato scones recipe.