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Phytonutrients are substances of plant origin, present in fruits and vegetables, that give them those characteristic colors. In addition to the bright colors that adorn the plate, phytonutrients have interesting properties and benefits for the body.
Carotenoids are the main phytonutrient within the orange and yellow food group. Within this group we can find corn, pumpkin and carrot, but also fruits such as citrus fruits, lemon, orange, mandarin and grapefruit, others such as melon or peach, and tropical fruits such as pineapple, mango and papaya . Also the pepper belongs to this group, since it can be of different colors, among them orange and yellow.
The most studied benefits of carotenoids are their antioxidant activity and protective of the skin, although they are also characterized by exerting an effect immune system enhancer and by promote visual health, in addition to protecting, or reducing the risk of appearance, of some types of cancer. The protective activity of the skin of these phytonutrients can be an ally with the arrival of summer, since it increases protection against the fearsome ultraviolet rays of the sun, now that children spend more hours away from home.
As an added benefit, alpha and beta carotenes, present, for example, in carrots or squash, have the ability to transform into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for the immune system and protection against viral and bacterial infections, as it ensures that the mucosa in the tissues, which acts as a barrier against germs, is in the best possible condition. It also protects the ocular mucosa, ensuring optimal eye health, and has a significant role in the production of red and white blood cells. A deficiency in vitamin A will leave the immune system unprotected. Some studies even suggest that its deficiency during childhood can lead to respiratory and / or gastrointestinal problems associated with it into adulthood. Very severe deficiencies can, given the relationship of this vitamin with eye health, lead to eye ulcers and even blindness. With these characteristics it is evident that these colorful foods, in addition to giving color to the dish, provide enormous benefits.
In pregnant women, however, vitamin A should be taken with caution, since both excess and deficiency are detrimental to fetal development, and birth defects may occur. Its main function has to do with the correct development of the extremities, the eyes or the heart of the fetus.
The β-cryptoxanthin, which in addition to pumpkins, can be found in peppers and mandarins, would, according to recent studies, anti-inflammatory effects, so it would be especially useful during the winter, when children are more prone to diseases, as it could provide some relief in inflammatory processes, such as annoying and frequent throat irritation.
Hesperidin, a flavonoid found in citrus fruits, is related to the proper functioning of the circulatory system and the heart. It is always important to keep the heart healthy, so this, added to the many other nutritional benefits that citrus fruits have, make them an attractive and refreshing dessert in the summer season.
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