Beta-carotene is the best known of the plant pigments called carotenoids. It gives certain foods their red, yellow or orange colors. It is also used as a food supplement because of its health benefits. Beta-carotene is a provitamin, which means it is converted by the body to vitamin A. Beta-carotenes provide about 50% of the vitamin A needed in our diet.
Beta-carotene is a nutrient that plays an important role in human skin. It can filter the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, protecting us from sunburn. It promotes the production of melanin which can benefit skin, eyes and hair.
Our skin produces a certain amount of melanin in response to UV radiation as a defensive measure to protect the epithelial cells. Epithelial cells line the surface of your body. Beta-carotene foods can help prevent us from burning and assimilating solar radiation when exposed to sunshine.
Skin tone is determined by the type and density of skin pigments and the degree of blood oxygenation. A diet with a high level of carotenoids counteracts the actions of free radicals from infection, exposure to sunlight, and smoking and alcohol consumption. This prevents premature skin aging.
The beta-carotene foods that convert to vitamin A also help in the production of white blood cells that keep a healthy immune system. They improve bone health. They promote the health of endothelial cells (cells that line the interior surfaces in the body). They also help with the growth and division of cells.
Some other carotenoids in food are also beneficial to health but are not converted to vitamin A. Lycopene is beneficial to heart health, and lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that benefit skin and eye health.
Benefits of Beta-Carotenes
Beta-carotenes are beneficial because they:
- May decrease the incidence and severity of asthma attacks caused by physical exercise.
- Can help prevent sunburn in people with sensitive skin.
- Can help prevent problems from dry skin, eczema or psoriasis. They promote healing of wounds or cuts.
- Reduce the risk of heart disease and eliminate the bad cholesterol stored in our bodies.
- Prevent the appearance of wrinkles and skin aging.
- Protect the eyes from infections and cataracts.
- Increase your body’s defenses and the immune system.
- Keep vision, skin, mucous membranes and bones in good condition.
- Help to prevent the worsening of osteoarthritis.
- May slow mental decline that comes with aging.
This nutrient can be ingested in capsules, but most nutritionists recommend eating beta-carotene-rich fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. This is because the body just converts the amount that is needed into vitamin A. When supplements are used, you might take too much and there are risks associated with that.
How to Recognize Fruits and Vegetables that have Beta-carotene by their Color:
Orange: pumpkin, mango or carrot.
Yellow-orange: pineapple, tangerine, orange or melon.
Dark green: broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts.
Red: tomato, watermelon, bell pepper.
Blue and dark red: beet.
White: onion, apple or pear.
The List: 18 Foods that Contain Beta-Carotene
The most important foods rich in beta-carotene are:
There is an old saying that if you eat carrots, you will see in the dark. It seems that this is not just the old-wives’ tale. The beta-carotene in carrots, that the body converts into vitamin A, will promote eye health.
Carrot contains a combination of nutrients that give skin protective properties, and it stands out for having a high concentration of carotenoids. Among the carotenoids it contains, beta-carotene is the most abundant. It is an antioxidant with valuable anti-cancer properties and acts as a great protector of the skin, mucous membranes and eyesight. Carrots also contain other carotenoids such lutein, which also have antioxidant effects.
This is the second most complete item in our list of beta-carotene foods. Spinach is a potent antioxidant that help prevent degenerative ailments, heart disease and eye disease.
This food contains a large number of carotenoids and phytonutrients that, together with vitamins, protect against cancer, high cholesterol and vision loss.
Spinach can eliminate cholesterol and prevent the formation of plaques in the arteries that cause arteriosclerosis. It is rich in unsaturated acids, oleic, linoleic and alpha-linoleic. These same acids can reduce hypertension.
Half a cup of cooked spinach offers 4.4 mg, close to the daily requirement of this antioxidant. Beta-carotene may help protect against cancer and macular degeneration. Two cups of raw spinach provide 116mcg of folate, nearly one-third of the daily requirement of this B vitamin. It protects against anemia, congenital disabilities and heart attacks.
Spinach is a rich source of carotenoids, which may act together to help prevent macular degeneration and possibly cataracts and colon cancer.
A pumpkin’s pulp has yellow pigments with high vitamin concentrate. It is beneficial for the digestive mucous membranes, helping to improve the immune system and to prevent heart disease.
You can know that pumpkins are rich in beta-carotenes because of their intense orange color.
The most recent studies indicate that a diet rich in pumpkin may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and may protect against heart disease. The beta-carotene contained in pumpkins also prevents other diseases and some degenerative aspects of aging.
Pumpkins are a flexible food. They can be used in savory dishes, and also make a great filler for desserts and cakes.
A peach has antioxidant characteristics that help protect the arteries, activate circulation and maintain good vision.
The strengths of peaches are their beta-carotene content (vitamin A) and vitamins C and E. Two pieces (300g) meet 23% of the daily requirement of vitamin A, 50% of vitamin C, and 15% of vitamin E.
As for minerals, a peach provides phosphorus, potassium, iron and magnesium, which make it a good diuretic (potassium) and anti-anemic (iron).
Peaches can be bought at almost any time of the year. They help the digestive system. They also help muscle tone, thanks to their magnesium content. They can also lift your mood as they contain tryptophan.
If you care about your weight, peaches contain bioactive components that help fight obesity by helping to avoid metabolism disorders.
Originally from the mountains of Central Asia, the apricot is the fruit of the apricot tree (Prunus armeniaca). It’s a beautiful tree of the Rosaceae family that can produce up to 100 kg of fruit per year. Enjoy apricots at their best in spring or early summer. They are delicious and nutritious as a dessert or snack between meals, and also have great health benefits.
Apricots are a fruit with high amounts of vitamin A. Eating three pieces of apricots a day, the body assimilates beta-carotene with all the benefits that have been previously identified.
An apricot also has two other antioxidant vitamins (C and E). It is excellent in preventing cell degeneration caused by free radicals, which accelerate aging and are a factor in many serious diseases, such as cancer.
Although it contains fructose and glucose, these amounts are relatively moderate (50cal/100g), so it is recommended in slimming diets.
This tropical fruit has a high amount of sugars and fiber. It also contains papain, an enzyme that facilitates food digestion. It is advisable for those who suffer from gastritis, ulcers, constipation, or gas.
Papaya has various possible health benefits, from asthma prevention to anti-cancer properties. Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant present in papaya, filters out harmful blue light rays. It is believed to play a protective role in eye health and prevents macular degeneration.
Papayas are packed with beta-carotene, which helps the body in many ways, but if you overdo it with the consumption of this fruit, your skin may turn an orange color. This change in skin color is harmless and will disappear after a few days.
There is nothing healthier than a slice of fresh papaya. It can help prevent constipation, maintain your ideal weight, and expel toxins that your body does not need.
Broccoli has a high proportion of vitamin C and beta-carotene, which helps strengthen the body’s natural defenses. It is rich in fiber and magnesium. It’s also low in calories, so it is a very healthy vegetable to include in your diet if you are calorie-conscious.
Broccoli is a super-vegetable from a nutritional point of view, as it contains a high amount of vitamins (niacin, vitamin A, vitamin B1, B2, B6, E, vitamin C, and folic acid).
Its high antioxidant power is mainly due to beta-carotene, vitamin C, and isocyanates. All of them are antioxidants that protect us against free radicals, which can cause premature aging.
Its intense green color indicates its high content vitamin A (mainly in the form of beta-carotene), which strengthens our immune systems. In broccoli, beta-carotene is stored primarily in the florets.
Acerola, or Barbados cherry, is a source of vitamin C. In recent years, acerola has become more widely used as it helps to strengthen the immune system. It is a fruit native to Central America and the humid tropical areas of South America. It is a shrub with dark bark and numerous short branches. In the wild, it has thorns. However, cultivated species lack them.
The antioxidants provided by this fruit should not be overlooked. In addition to vitamin C, acerola contains flavonoids, anthocyanins, phenolic acids, beta-carotene, and lutein. All of these contribute to delaying premature aging and help prevent different pathologies such as cancer, eye, or cardiovascular diseases.
You can eat it raw or cook with it. It deteriorates quickly, so it is mainly available in freeze-dried or supplement form. If you are able to obtain fresh acerola, you can freeze it yourself and then use it as required.
Mangoes, originally from South Asia, have a high concentration of beta-carotene. A mango is a “super fruit” as it has so many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is rich in vitamin C.
Like many of the foods listed here, eating mangoes:
- Boosts your immune system.
- Helps to prevent cancer.
- Aids digestive health.
- Protects from free radical damage.
- Aids eye health.
- Promotes sleep (due to vitamin B6).
- Helps maintain a healthy heart.
- Has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Keeps your skin looking great.
Mangos are also used externally as a cleanser, moisturizer, and exfoliator. The ingredients of mangos can cleanse bacteria and are a good way to prevent acne and clear the pores in your skin.
Melon stands out for its high water content (90-95% of its weight) and low calorific properties (26 kcal/100g, in the case of a cantaloupe).
A melon contains moderate amounts of carbohydrates (6%) of rapid absorption (glucose, fructose, and sucrose). It has hardly any fat, and its protein content is insignificant.
Its fiber content is moderate, so it is beneficial for people who suffer from constipation.
Melons have high beta-carotene content, as you can tell by the orange or red color of the flesh. Melons with orange flesh, such as cantaloupes, have a higher percentage of beta-carotene which the body converts into vitamin A as needed.
Melons also contain vitamin C, which is also an antioxidant and essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. They also provide folic acid, and B vitamins.
A watermelon is a great summer fruit. It is refreshing and rehydrating, but it also has many nutrients that are beneficial for our health. It contains vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, lycopene, and beta-carotene.
The riper the watermelon, the greater the amount of lycopene and beta-carotene it provides.
A guava’s main component is water. It has a low caloric value due to its low carbohydrate and low protein and fat content. It is high in vitamin C, containing seven times more than is found in oranges. It also has B group vitamins (especially niacin or B3). If the pulp of a guava is orange, it is richer in vitamin A. It also contains potassium.
The beta-carotene in guavas is transformed into vitamin A in our bodies as it is needed. This vitamin is essential for vision; good skin, hair, mucous membranes, bones; and a healthy immune system. It also has an antioxidant function.
13. Passion Fruit
Passion fruit contains between 70 and 90% water. It is low in fat, which is contained in its seeds. It is also low in protein. Passion fruit has soluble vegetable fiber in the form of pectins, and insoluble carbohydrates in the membranes and seeds.
The greatest treasure of passion fruit is in its vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Its vitamin C content (30 mg/100 g) is close to lemons and oranges, and it contains beta-carotene, vitamin B2, and vitamin B3 (1.5 mg) which is double or triple that of most fresh fruits.
It also has the minerals potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and trace elements such as zinc, copper and selenium.
This delicious vegetable contains antioxidants, iron, fiber, vitamins C and K, and various nutrients that help you stay healthy.
Antioxidants eliminate unwanted toxins, and kale is a star here.
Kale is a good source of beta-carotene, the carotenoid that the body converts to vitamin A as needed.
As we have seen, beta-carotene and vitamin A are necessary for the growth and maintenance of all body tissues, including skin and hair, which is why kale is an excellent item to include as a regular part of your diet.
The body uses vitamin C to produce and maintain collagen, which provides structure to skin, hair and bones. Vitamin C is also present in kale.
15. Tomato Juice
Tomato is considered to be the most consumed vegetable in the world. This fruit can be used in different ways in the kitchen. One of them is tomato juice.
Tomato juice is rich in vitamins and minerals, easy to combine in many dishes, and a good companion in the kitchen. It contains few calories. A tomato of one hundred grams provides 18 calories since most of its weight is water. Its sweet and sour taste is due to a small number of simple sugars and organic acids, which give it such a distinctive flavor.
The tomato stands out for its antioxidant vitamins and minerals, specifically C, E, and A. It has lycopene, a carotenoid pigment with antioxidant effects that gives it its characteristic red color. It is thought to have an important anti-carcinogenic effect, especially in the kidneys, stomach, pancreas, and prostate.
16. Sweet Potato
Baked sweet potatoes with the skin on provide a rich source of beta-carotene. In addition, they are packed with fiber and antioxidants. Along with the vitamin A benefits, they also provide vitamin C and B6. They contain potassium, manganese, copper and niacin.
Sweet potatoes provide a healthy substitute for regular potatoes and can be used in a similar way. You can bake, boil, fry or steam them, and their vibrant color adds interest to any dish.
17. Red Bell Peppers
Because they have been ripened on the vine for longer than their green counterparts, red bell peppers contain 11 times more beta-carotene, and one-and-a-half times more vitamin C.
They also contain vitamins that help form red blood cells (B6), and a vitamin that is important for bone health (K1). Red bell peppers are also a source of vitamin E, a great antioxidant.
Other carotenoids (capsanthin, luteolin, and quercetin) are also present in red bell peppers. They provide beneficial antioxidants.
They also contain iron. This marries well with the high vitamin C content, which enables the absorption of iron into your body.
Beta-Carotene and Excess Vitamin A
Be aware that many products such as cereals, juices, and dairy products have been fortified with retinol, which is preformed vitamin A. This isn’t regulated by the body and can be stored in fatty tissue or the liver.
In contrast, beta-carotene from fruit and vegetables is not toxic even when taken to excess, because your body will only use what beta-carotenes it needs, converting it into vitamin A.
Aside from turning the skin orange, excess vitamin A from supplements can be detrimental to health. It may also affect eyesight and cause weakness in the bones.
Some Beta-Carotene Facts
- Beta-carotene from food is often the only source of vitamin A in diets in the developing world. It provides up to 50% of vitamin A in the typical American diet.
- The absorption rate of beta-carotene can range from 5-65%. This is due to the fat and fiber in the food consumed.
- Fiber and boiling reduces absorption.
- Palm fruit oil has 15 times more carotene than carrots. However, processing the product can make it very unhealthy, and because of the damage to our planet, use of this product is not recommended.