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Beta carotene is a great nutrient. It is the precursor to vitamin A, which is important for so many things, mainly immune function, reproductive health, skin health, and night vision. However, vitamin A (a fat soluble vitamin) can build in the liver and be toxic in excessive amounts. Beta carotene, however, is not toxic, at least when taken as food.
Beta carotene is an antioxidant with cancer protective effects. Interestingly, though, beta carotene supplementation has been found to increase the risk of colorectal and lung cancer in smokers, whereas food sources of beta carotene do not (yet another reason to choose foods over pills).
Read more about beta carotene at the World’s Healthiest Foods website
So why am I writing about beta carotene? I LOVE carrots. Love them. When I found out I was a non-secretor (and therefore carrots became beneficial for me) I was thrilled! When I first started BTD, I ate only a few carrots each day. Now I usually eat over a cup of carrots per day, going through about two pounds each week. They make the perfect effort-free snack that can be taken anywhere and eaten anytime without refrigeration.
A couple of years ago a friend at work joked that my palms are orange-tinted because I eat so many carrots. I thought he was joking, but gradually came to realize that other people’s palms are not the same colour as mine! The rest of my skin is pale pink, but my palms and soles of my feet definitely have an orange cast to them… This condition is called carotenodermia and results from deposition of extra beta carotene in the skin – the body is extremely efficient and does not want to waste nutrients. Luckily, this is harmless!
However, I decided to do an experiment. Two weeks ago I ate the last of my carrots and didn’t buy anymore. I had some at a friend’s house later that week, but since then haven’t eaten any at all. I’m still eating all my other regular veggies (kale, red peppers, broccoli, celery, sweet potatoes), which also have beta carotene in them, but not carrots. Today I noticed that my hands are distinctly less orange!
I miss my carrots, so I’ll probably go back to eating them, but maybe in lower amounts. I think I like them more than I mind the orange palms…
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