Are you looking to increase your intake of beta-carotene? It’s an important part of a healthy diet, and if you want to eat more of it, you may be wondering which foods are the best options – so let’s find out!
Beta-carotene is usually found in fruits and vegetables that are bright orange or yellow. This includes things like carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squashes, and cantaloupes. It also includes some green vegetables, such as spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and peas in the pod.
Which Foods are High in Beta-Carotene?
There are lots of foods that are high in beta-carotene, and although we tend to associate the brighter fruits and vegetables with this antioxidant, it’s important not to forget the greens that contain it too. You should be looking to eat lots of kale, bok choy, and spinach, and also fruits like apricots.
It’s best to eat the fresh versions of these foods, too, as there is some evidence to suggest that they lose some of their beta-carotene when they are frozen. The fresher they are, the better; if you can grow your own, you may find that you get even more benefit from them.
There are a lot of foods that are high in beta-carotene, so you should be able to find plenty of options.
Below are some of the top foods for beta-carotene:
- Black-eyed peas
- Bok choy
- Romaine lettuce
- Grape leaves
- Winter squash
- Sweet potatoes
- Peas in their pods
- Red peppers
- Butternut squash
- Collard greens
- Dandelion leaves
What Does Beta-Carotene Do?
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant. It gets converted into vitamin A when it enters the body, and can contribute to healthy vision, a strong immune system, and overall good health. There is some evidence that it may also improve cognitive function in the long term, and that it may reduce your risk of some kinds of cancers.
Some other areas that beta-carotene has been credited with helping include lung health, skin health, and the reduction of oxidative stress. Reducing oxidative stress may have multiple benefits, including a lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
A lot more study is needed before the full functionality of beta-carotene is understood, however. It’s important to discuss your plans with your doctor if you want to make major dietary changes or start taking a beta-carotene supplement.
Most people can get all the beta-carotene they need by simply following a healthy, varied diet and eating lots of different fruits and vegetables. If you are concerned about a deficiency in this antioxidant, consider raising it with your healthcare professional before you start altering your diet.
How Can You Include More Beta-Carotene in Your Diet?
The best way to increase your beta-carotene intake is to make a conscious effort to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible, with plenty of variety. If you make a regular effort to include different vegetables in your main meals, and to turn to fruit when you want a snack, you will find that your intake increases massively. When you increase your fruit and vegetable intake to meet the recommendations, you will also benefit from all the other benefits of these foods, as I explain in this post on why fruits and vegetables are good for you.
Many scientists agree that variety is one of the most important elements of balancing your diet, so try to vary the foods you eat and opt for multiple different kinds. Experiment with vegetables that you wouldn’t usually eat, and remember that dark leafy greens contain this antioxidant, as well as the colorful vegetables it is usually associated with.
Is There a Recommended Daily Allowance for Beta-Carotene?
There is no recommended daily allowance for this antioxidant at present, but there is one for vitamin A. This depends on the person’s gender and age, so you may find the below guide helpful:
- Between 1 and 3 years old: 1000 IU
- Between 3 and 8 years old: 1321 IU
- Between 9 and 13 years old: 2000 IU
- Boy between 14 and 18 years old: 3000 IU
- Girl between 14 and 18 years old: 2310 IU
- Adult man: 3000 IU
- Adult woman: 2310 IU
Note that pregnant women need slightly more, with 2565 IU, and lactating women need even more, at 4300 IU.
Can You Have Too Much Beta-Carotene?
It isn’t thought that people will get too much beta-carotene from diet alone, but there are some concerns about supplements having harmful side effects. This is particularly true for smokers who take even a low dose of this supplement; they have an increased risk of lung cancer.
Taking too much vitamin A can have some other negative effects, which are still being studied. So far, excess vitamin A has been linked with a reduction in bone mineral density, as well as dizziness, nausea, and even comas and death.
It is very unlikely that most people will have any issues with over-consumption of vitamin A, but you should bear these potential problems in mind and be aware of the risks if you plan to take a beta-carotene supplement, especially if you are a smoker.
In some cases, taking beta-carotene as a supplement can cause your skin to turn slightly yellow or orange, but this is a temporary side effect and it is not thought to be dangerous. It will fade when you stop taking the beta-carotene and your skin should resume its normal shade.
Where Does the Name Beta-Carotene Come From?
The name comes from the Latin word for carrot (carota) and the Greek word “beta.” It is what causes the bright, vibrant color that many fruits and vegetables have, and it was named in 1831, when it was first crystallized from carrot roots.
It has enjoyed a lot of attention in recent years because of its potential health benefits, but further study is needed to fully understand its purpose and the effect that it has on the human body.
You can get beta-carotene from foods like carrots, apricots, cantaloupes, and butternut squashes. Green vegetables like kale and spinach are also excellent sources of this antioxidant, so you can choose from a wide variety of options. Most people can get their full quota of beta-carotene from their diets, and don’t need supplements.