Could Orange Be the New Pink?
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and people will soon begin donning their pink ribbons, t-shirts, and hats to show their support. According to the American Cancer Society breast cancer affects about 13% of American women, making it the most common type of cancer besides skin cancer. And while pink is the color most associated with breast cancer, Susan Levin, MS, RD, CSSD says that orange is the color that can help to prevent the disease.
Research has shown that women who consume beta carotene rich foods are able to lower their risk for breast cancer. According to the Physicians Committee that risk can be lowered by 19% and it is recommended that women consume 3-6 mg of beta carotene each day.
What Is Beta Carotene?
To answer this question, we must first look at carotenoids. Carotenoids are what give fruits and vegetables their colorful pigment. Beta carotene is the carotenoid responsible for yellow, orange, and red produce. It is converted into Vitamin A in the body and contributes to 50% of the Vitamin A needs in the American diet.
Foods Rich in Beta Carotene:
Pumpkin (1 cup of mashed pumpkin contains 5.1mg)
Sweet Potatoes (1 medium sweet potato contains 14.3mg)
Cantaloupe (1 cup of diced cantaloupe contains 3.2 mg)
Butternut Squash (1 cup of butternut squash contains 9.4mg)
Red and Yellow Peppers (1 cup of chopped peppers contains 2.4 mg)
Apricots (½ cup of dried apricots contains 1.4 mg)
Carrots (1/2 cup cooked carrots contains 8.3 mg)
Papaya (1 cup of papaya contains 0.4 mg)
Grapefruit (1 medium grapefruit contains 1.7mg)
Mango (1 cup of sliced mango contains 1.1mg)
Tomatoes (1 cup of tomatoes contains 0.8mg)
Beta Carotene’s Role in Cancer Prevention
Beta carotene is a type of dietary antioxidant, meaning we consume it in our food. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals in the body. Free radicals are produced when exercising and when your body converts food into energy. They are naturally occurring in the body and are a normal part of cellular makeup. However, high levels of free radicals can cause damage to DNA and contribute to the increased risk of cancer. Contributing factors to high levels of free radicals are tobacco smoke, pollution, and radiation. Antioxidants, such as beta carotene, prevent free radicals from causing damage.
Purchasing Beta Carotene Rich Foods
October is the perfect time to load up on your beta carotene rich foods, which aligns perfectly with Breast Cancer Awareness. While you can purchase the above fruits and vegetables year-round at a grocery store or a supermarket, some can be found at your local Farmers’ Market. The following beta carotene rich fruits and vegetables are in season during the fall:
When picking out produce, fresh fruits and vegetables are best. When fresh isn’t available, frozen is a good option because they are just as nutritious as fresh. Frozen options usually have been pre-washed and cut for you, making them a convenient option to dump into a smoothie, stir fry, or soup. Canned fruits and vegetables are also a healthy choice. Choose fruits with no added sugar and be aware of the added sodium content in canned vegetables.
Now that you’ve learned how beta carotene can help lower the risk of breast cancer, you decide: could orange be the new pink when it comes to breast cancer awareness?
Written by: Jennifer McGlone, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern