Beta Carotene

The What, Why and Where

Beta carotene is a carotenoid with antioxidant properties. Carotenoids are compounds that give color to orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables, and are also found in dark green vegetables. Beta Carotene is stored in the liver, where the body converts it into Vitamin A. Because of this function, Beta Carotene is known as a 'provitamin A' compound.

In addition to providing a source of Vitamin A, Beta Carotene can also protect your cells from free radical damage, it can enhance your immune system's functioning, and may be helpful for increasing memory. Studies have revealed that Beta Carotene may provide anticarcinogenic effects as well.

The best way to get Beta Carotene is by consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, following a balanced, healthy diet. Don't overdo it though! If you eat large quantities of carrots, one side effect associated with the high consumption of Beta Carotene is that your skin might turn slightly orange. Fruits and vegetables rich in Beta Carotene are more than just colorful, delicious additions to our plates, they help keep us healthy in numerous ways.

Some foods rich in Beta Carotene include:

  • Broccoli – A member of the cabbage family, broccoli can be eaten raw or cooked, and is a great snack or side dish. It is a great source of Beta Carotene, Calcium, Iron, Riboflavin, and Vitamin C.
  • Cantaloupe – With its delicious flavor and enticing aroma, cantaloupe is a popular melon that offers numerous nutritional benefits. Not only is this melon rich in Beta Carotene, it also provides an excellent source of Vitamin C, and a good source of Vitamin B6, dietary fiber, Folate, and Niacin.
  • Carrots – Carrots' antioxidant compounds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer, and also promote good vision, especially night vision. Carrots are a good source of vitamins C and E, and are a very good source of Beta Carotene, dietary fiber, vitamin K, and Manganese.
  • Kale – With its mild, earthy, cabbagey flavor, Kale provides ample amounts Beta Carotene, Calcium, Folic Acid, Iron, and Vitamin C. When kale is in season, from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring, it offers a more sweet taste.
  • Sweet Potatoes – Don't save sweet potatoes just for Thanksgiving! High in Beta Carotene, sweet potatoes also provide Copper, dietary fiber, Iron, Potassium, and vitamins B6 and C.
  • Turnip Greens – This nutritionally supercharged vegetable can aid in the prevention of, and help heal, several health conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis. Nutrients found in turnip greens include Beta Carotene, Calcium, Copper, dietary fiber, and Folate, just to name a few.
  • Winter Squash – Abundantly rich in nutrients, winter squash is at its best in season, from October through November. Winter squash comes in many varieties—some of which are acorn squash, butternut squash and pumpkins—and provide Beta Carotene, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, Potassium, and thiamin, just to name a few nutrients.

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