Beta Carotene Benefits
Beta-carotene is the molecule that gives carrots their orange color. It is part of a family of chemicals called the carotenoids which are found in many fruit and vegetables, as well as some animal products such as egg yolks. Carotenoids were first isolated in the early 19th century, and have been synthesized for use as food colorings since the 1950s.
Biologically, beta-carotene is most important as the precursor of vitamin A. It also has anti-oxidant properties and may help in preventing cancer and other diseases.
When it comes to nutritional supplementation, and antioxidants in particular, beta carotene is an antiaging micronutrient of the highest order, standing firmly alongside Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and the mineral Selenium in its ability to reduce illness, improve overall health, and increase longevity.
What can beta carotene do for you? Studies conducted over several years indicate that betacarotene may play a significant role in reducing the effects of certain illnesses (such as heart disease, decreased immune function, cataracts, and forms of cancer) and, in certain cases, perhaps even prevent them.
Beta-carotene acts as a precursor of vitamin A, and is therefore called a provitamin A compound. Foods or supplements containing beta-carotene are converted to vitamin A for the maintenance of healthy skin, good vision, and a robust immune system.
Beta-carotene is also a powerful antioxidant, and has been shown to help guard against cancer and heart disease.
Beta-carotene is a member of the carotenoid family, a group of powerful antioxidants that also includes alpha-carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and lutein. However, of all the carotenoids, only alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are converted to significant amounts of vitamin A in the body, and beta-carotene is by far the most plentiful carotenoid found in fruits and vegetables.
Beta-carotene also contains flavonoids, which are antioxidant substances that give color and flavor to many orange- and red-colored fruits and vegetables. Foods such as carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, apricots, and mangoes are good sources of beta-carotene; romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, and broccoli are also rich in carotenoids (the yellow color is covered up by chlorophyll in green leafy plants).
Here's a tip regarding flavonoids: Many flavonoids in fruits and vegetables are in the skin, so it’s best not to peel them before eating. However, grilling or lightly steaming some foods, such as carrots and spinach, can actually improve the body’s ability to absorb the flavonoids in them.