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Eat Those Colorful Foods

Beta-carotine Essential to Good Health

Most of us identify butternut squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes with late summer or fall produce.  Thanks to an abundance of produce from many markets, these foods and others, such as Swiss chard, dried apricots, goji berries, mango, cantaloupe, kale, beet greens, bok choy, red peppers, spinach, and broccoli are available year-round.  Why is that important?  Because these foods are rich in beta-carotene.  Beta-carotene is an antioxidant thought to help reduce the risk of cancer, among other good things it can do for us.  It is converted by our bodies into vitamin A, which is essential for growth, good vision, and immune-system function.  The nutrient also works well with other vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables to nurture optimum health. 

For best absorption by our bodies, these foods need to be cooked or chopped to break down the cell walls.  The beta-carotene also needs a little fat to get the most bang for our buck.  More beta-carotene is used from the foods when a small amount of olive oil, safflower oil, butter, or cheese is consumed along with the beta-carotene.  A varied diet including a mixture of these fruits and vegetables, prepared with a small amount of fat, can help make the most of beta-carotene rich foods.

Simple Shrimp & Vegetable Stir-Fry

1/4 cup safflower oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 carrots, chopped matchstick-style
1 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper
1 head bok choy, cleaned, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
1 lb. medium-sized cleaned fresh shrimp
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
sea salt & ground black pepper to taste
For a little spicy heat, dried red pepper flakes may be added, to taste

Chop and prepare everything before beginning to cook.  Heat oil in stir-fry wok or large skillet.  Add onion, garlic and carrots.  Stir often to avoid burning.  Add bell pepper and bok choy.  Stir and cook until bok choy greens wilt.  Add shrimp, five-spice powder, salt, and pepper and stir fry until shrimp turns pink, which should take about five minutes.  Serve over cooked brown rice and finish with chopped or sliced cantaloupe for dessert.

Shrimp & Broccoli over Pasta

2 cups broccoli florets, blanched in salted water
1 tsp. safflower or olive oil
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 lb. medium-sized cleaned fresh shrimp
3 cups cooked pasta of choice
grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese
sea salt & ground black pepper to taste

Wash broccoli florets and chop into bite-sized pieces.  In large saucepan, bring water to a rolling boil.  Add small amount of salt.  Add broccoli to boiling water.  Bring back to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.  Drain broccoli in colander.  In large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-low heat.  Add chopped garlic and allow to cook for several minutes, stirring often.  Add shrimp and cook until shrimp turns pink, about 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the cooked broccoli.  In large bowl, combine pasta with shrimp and broccoli.  If too dry, stir in small amount of butter.  Stir in grated cheese and adjust salt and pepper to taste before serving.  Serve with good crusty bread and good wine.

Savory Bowties with Creamy Pumpkin & Parmesan

1 box whole wheat (or regular) bowtie pasta
2-3 tablespoons butter
15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
3 tablespoons light sour cream or Greek yogurt
1/4 cup pasta water, reserved
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
freshly grated Parmesan cheese (lots of it!)

Cook pasta according to directions. When pasta is cooked, set aside 1/4 cup of pasta water before draining pasta. After draining pasta, put back into pot used for cooking.
Add butter, pumpkin, sour cream or Greek yogurt, and pasta water to pot. Gently stir until combined and creamy. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Serve with  freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


Additional Information

Beta Carotene May Shield Against Genetic Risk For Type 2 Diabetes

"With the risk of diabetes influenced by beta carotene´s and gamma tocopherol´s interaction with a common gene variant, the researchers became more interested in studying the protein SLC30A4 and its impact on the disease. The scientists believe that SLC30A4 is abundant in the islet cells of the pancreas which produce insulin where it helps the cells to import zinc. The transport of zinc causes a release of insulin by the pancreas which is then taken up by muscle, liver and fat tissue. This, in turn, offsets the buildup of glucose in the blood and ultimately prevents the development of type 2 diabetes."

Read More


Beta Carotens and Diabetes




A b o u t   t h e   A u t h o r

Mary A. Flowers is a retired Technical writer and editor from IBM and is currently the Editor of the Waxahachie Journal and Waxahachie Web Group.


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