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Up until a few weeks ago, I was minding my own business, eating my daily veggies to achieve top-notch health, patting myself on the back for filling my body with nutrients.
Then, I learned some shocking news! Researchers have found that our bodies do not properly absorb the important carotenoids (to be explained. Hint: They’re not aliens!) in vegetables unless we eat them with FAT. That’s right…
If you’re not eating FAT on/alongside your veggies, you may not be getting all of their health benefits.
Are you as shocked as I was?!
Let’s explore this further…
The Health Benefits of Carotenoids
Carotenoids are essential for human health, and they’re mainly found in fruits/vegetables:
Dietary carotenoids are thought to provide health benefits in decreasing the risk of disease, particularly certain cancers and eye disease. The carotenoids that have been most studied in this regard are beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. In part, the beneficial effects of carotenoids are thought to be due to their role as antioxidants. beta-Carotene may have added benefits due its ability to be converted to vitamin A. Furthermore, lutein and zeaxanthin may be protective in eye disease because they absorb damaging blue light that enters the eye. Food sources of these compounds include a variety of fruits and vegetables, although the primary sources of lycopene are tomato and tomato products.
Since dietary carotenoids decrease the risk of disease—”particularly certain cancers”!—you want to be sure you’re properly absorbing them!
Proper Absorption of Carotenoids
This is where the exciting research findings come in!
One study concluded: “While both amount and source of co-consumed lipid [fat] affect carotenoid bioavailability from vegetables, amount appears to exert a stronger effect.”
Another study found: “…adding avocado fruit can significantly enhance carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa, which is attributed primarily to the lipids present in avocado.”
And an additional study suggested: “…increasing amounts of meal lipid increases carotenoid absorption compared with lower amounts of lipid or no lipid.”
The research supporting lipid [fat] consumption in conjunction with veggies is abundant!
Soak up the nutrients in vegetables by eating them with these fats…
During the low-fat craze, most of us feared all fats. Now, you should still fear some, whereas others (in moderation!) may be beneficial in the context of a healthy diet.
Fats to fear =
- *Vegetable/seed oils (canola, organic canola, corn, peanut, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, grapeseed, soybean)
- You don’t want to miss my prior post “Canola Oil vs Vegetable Oil: Which Is Healthiest?” (Hint: The answer is neither! Check out the post to learn why…)
- Trans fats
- Chemically derived butter substitutes and shortening (like margarine and Crisco)
*Caution: Most commercial dressings are made with vegetable/seed oils! Very few (like those by Primal Kitchen) are made with the healthier fruit oils (coconut, avocado, olive). Thus, it’s usually best to make your own dressing using a fruit oil than it is to use a store-bought one.
Fats to enjoy (again, in moderation!), especially alongside vegetables =
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Avocado oil
- Preferably from cows that are completely grass-fed!
Next time you make a salad, consider topping it with some olive oil + sliced avocado. Or, dress those roasted veggies with some ghee + nuts (for crunch!).
Happy Carotenoid Consumption 🙂
⇒ To optimize every aspect of your health, visit My Favorite Things! There, you’ll find links to healthy packaged foods, toxin-free products, and overall wellness boosters.
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