The orange coloured plastic spilling all over every shop window at this time of year may put some people off, the term 'land fill' comes to mind. Equally, when it comes to trick or treating, you may not be desperate for your kids to gobble their weight in sugar and E numbers. However, there's no need to be a Halloween humbug if you focus on the best bits of the celebrations. So with the shelves stocked with pumpkins aplenty, we're blogging about the wonderful antioxidant group: Carotenes.
What are Carotenes?
Carotenes are powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant compounds. They are the yellow-orange and green pigments in plants, which protect the plant against damage from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable particles that are produced in photosynthesis and are present in the atmosphere (pollution etc).
What are the health benefits?
The protective effect that Carotenes have on plants is happily replicated when eaten by humans, so they protect our body's cells against damage - this means lower risk of disease and even the possibility of reducing the ageing process.
As well as being protective antioxidants, Carotenes are converted by our bodies into vitamin A, which is an immune boosting vitamin, and has a role in skin health and eye health.
Which foods contain Carotenes?
They're not only in carrots! Very high levels are found in pumpkins, so get to work on making pumpkin soup with all the flesh left over from carving your masterpiece.
Quick recipe: Fry up your pumpkin chunks in coconut oil, with some onion and garlic, season and add about a litre of homemade stock, some chilli flakes and a can of coconut milk, when the pumpkin is soft, blend up and serve.
Other sources are carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, kale, broccoli, peppers, squash, apricots, peaches.
Quick tip: These lovely cell-protective nutrients are best absorbed with some fat so pop a knob of butter, coconut oil or a drizzle of olive oil on your veggies before eating - they'll taste better too.
A note on how to avoid the Halloween sugar rush
If there are some unavoidable sweeties going round, here are some tips on how to avoid the energy highs and lows, which can lead to mood swings:
- Ensure sweets are not eaten on an empty stomach, eat a portion of protein, which slows down the release of sugars into the bloodstream and helps to avoid the negative effects. A handful of nuts, a natural yoghurt, meat, eggs, fish are all great protein sources.
- Increasing your body's ability to deal with an occasional excess of sugar is another great way to protect your body against the damaging effects of a sugar rush. Exercise increases sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which is needed to remove sugar from the bloodstream.
- Additionally, eating essential fatty acids such as oily fish, avocados and nuts can improve our cells' ability to deal with sugar.
- A 2012 study on Olive Leaf extract found that it improves insulin sensitivity. So try OVIO Daily Antioxidant Plus for a protective health boost.
With the sugar balancing tips and eating all your pumpkins, you'll soon have glowing skin and the ability to see in the dark, so have a spooktacular Halloween!
Reference: Dr Bock &Professor Cutfield, 2012. Olive Leaf extract improves insulin sensitivity, Higgins Institute, University of Auckland.