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The orange color in vegetables comes from a very powerful carotenoid antioxidant compound called beta-carotene.
The orange color in vegetables comes from a very powerful carotenoid antioxidant compound called beta-carotene.

Health, Dr. Mao, Santa Monica

Orange Color Recipes For Thanksgiving

Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Courtesy Photo
Dr. Mao Shing Ni

Posted Nov. 24, 2013, 6:49 am

Dr. Mao Shing Ni / Mirror Columnist

If we could choose one color to represent Thanksgiving, it would be orange. From the crunchy leaves beneath our feet, to the healthy, sweet taste of orange vegetables like pumpkins, yams, butternut squashes, and sweet potatoes, orange is the color of the harvest.

What’s so healthy about orange-hued food?

The orange color in vegetables comes from a very powerful carotenoid antioxidant compound called beta-carotene.

It’s been celebrated for its ability to boost the immune system by fighting free radicals, thus protecting our cells from damage. It helps improve eyesight, keeps our reproductive system healthy and has been shown assist in fighting cancer.

No wonder orange vegetables are so common in the diets of Chinese centenarians! And as an extra bonus, even though orange vegetables are sweet and satisfying, they’re often very low in calories.

Butternut squash boosts beta-carotene

A close cousin to the pumpkin, butternut squash has a sweet flavor and is rich in vitamins A, B, and C.

While all winter squashes contain beta-carotene, butternut squash has an extra high content, rivaling that of mangoes and cantaloupe.

Beta-carotene has very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and is said to help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the vessels; in other words, no plaque develops that can cause restricted blood flow and lead to heart disease.

Butternut squash is perfect for cutting in half and baking, flesh-side down in the oven for a tasty side dish. Although the flesh is hard, it can be easily peeled with a vegetable peeler.

Sweet potatoes balance the glycemic index

Orange vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, help balance the glycemic index in the body, which controls how the body responds to the food you eat.

When someone has an insulin resistance condition, their body responds to everything they eat by creating more insulin than needed, increasing risk for type 2 diabetes, rapid aging, cancer, and other diseases. Eating sweet potatoes can help slow this process down.

So instead of white mashed potatoes, think mashed sweet potatoes! They’re satisfying and pack a healthy wallop. And instead of regular potatoes chips, try this crunchy, delicious recipe below.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips with Pumpkin Seeds

Serves 4

I learned about this delicious snack when I was in China, interviewing a 102-year-old former doctor in Sichuan Province. He loved to snack on these chips made from these two powerful longevity foods.


3 large sweet potatoes, washed and scrubbed, sliced into 1/8-inch thick slices

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, lightly crushed in food processor

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon chives, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

A pinch of salt


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place all ingredients into mixing bowl and toss to coat sweet potato slices.

2. Lay sweet potato slices on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning slices over halfway through. Remove promptly to avoid burning.

3. Let cool and serve by themselves or with Avocado Hummus Dip (Find the recipe in Dr. Mao’s “Secrets of Longevity Cookbook”).

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine, and board certified anti-aging expert. He has recently appeared on “The Ricki Lake Show,” “Dr. Oz,” and contributes to Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post. Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Pasadena. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni, founded the Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter, visit

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