'Tis the season, the season of sweet potatoes, butternut and other winter squash, carrots and even greens. These healthy vegetables are comforting and delicious holiday traditions. I can't think of any foods that I'd miss more (other than the pies and really, desserts don't count!) at the holiday dinner table. The one super nutritious thing that these go-to holiday veggies have in common is high levels of beta carotene.
Beta carotene is a carotenoid, a pigment found in many plant species that is responsible for lovely orange hues. Carotenoids are red and yellow too and are super anti-oxidants. Beta carotene is a precursor to Vitamin A and our bodies convert the beta carotene into bio-available Vitamin A. Orange vegetables like the sweet potato and butternut squash are not the only plants to be blessed with large amounts of beneficial beta carotene, leafy greens such as spinach and even tomatoes and melons also contain beta carotene.
One of the oddest things that may happen when our diets are jam packed with beta carotene rich foods is the appearance of an orange hue on parts of the body. It is not uncommon for babies to take on a "sun kissed" glow due to the amounts of orange vegetables that they eat on a regular basis. Pound for pound, babies eat a far larger amount of fruits and veggies than adults do (and this is one reason to choose organic food whenever possible for your little one!) so they have a tendency to take on the orange glow.
The orange color typically appears on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the cheeks and nose. This change in skin tone is nothing to be concerned about and it really quite benign. The medical word for this is Carotenemia. To reverse this glow, simply cut back on the amount of orange and leafy greens that your baby eats. In no time, baby's skin coloring will be back to normal and without any ill efffects.