What is beta-carotene?
Beta-carotene is a phytonutrient of the carotene family of carotenoids. Carotenoids are also known as “pro-vitamin A” compounds as they are converted into retinol, an active form of vitamin A. Beta-carotene rich foods are orange or yellow in color but could also be pink, red or white.
- Protects your cells from free radicals
- Prevent Vitamin A Deficiency
- Enhances the functioning of your immune system
- Helps your reproductive system function properly
Signs of Deficiency
- Dry, scaly skin
- Poor vision (especially at night times)
- Predisposition to infections (particularly lungs, ailmentary canal and urinary tract).
Factors That May Contribute To A Deficiency:
- Diet that is extremely low in fat
- Pancreatic enzyme deficiency
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac sprue
- Cystic fibrosis
- Surgical removal of part or all of the stomach
- Gall bladder disease
- Liver disease
- Cholesterol-lowering medications (Cholestyramine, Colestipol, and Colestid)
- Margarines enriched with plant sterols such as Benecol and Take Control
- Olestra, a fat substitute
- Pectin Supplements
- Low consumption of fruits and vegetables
- Cigarette smoking
- Heavy alcohol consumption
Health Conditions That May Be Prevented or Improved With Beta-Carotene:
There is a large body of evidence from population-based research that links high consumption of foods containing beta-carotene and other carotenoids with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases.
- Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Angina pectoris
- Cervical cancer
- Cervical dysplasia
- Chlamydial infection
- Heart disease
- Laryngeal cancer (cancer of the larynx)
- Lung cancer
- Male and female infertility
- Prostate cancer
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin cancer
- Vaginal candidiasis
Some Food Sources of Beta-carotene:
- Sweet Potatoes
- turnip greens
- winter squash
- collard greens
- fresh thyme
- romaine lettuce
Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing:
To maximize the availability of the carotenoids in the foods listed above, they should be eaten raw or steamed lightly.
In certain cases, cooking can improve the availability of carotenoids in foods. Lightly steaming carrots and spinach improves your body’s ability to absorb carotenoids in these foods.
It is important to note, however, that in most cases, prolonged cooking of vegetables decreases the availability of carotenoids.
Supplements are not recommended as synthetic beta-carotene supplements have been found to increase the risk of both colorectal and lung cancer in smokers, especially those who also drink alcohol.
Recommended Daily Allowance:
To date, no recommended dietary intake levels have been established for carotenoids. The recommendations of various health agencies, however, encourage individuals to consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetable every day.