Beta-carotene is a substance belonging to the group of carotenoids, which are antioxidant substances synthesized by plants and which gives the bright color to different types of fruit and vegetables. Beta carotene is then converted into vitamin A in the body. Let's see why it is important to take beta-carotene with the diet, what are the properties of this substance and what are the main food sources.
Beta carotene, properties
Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant, able to counteract the damage of free radicals and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, obesity, tumors, heart problems (Zhao et al, Sci Rep, 2016). Beta carotene supports the immune system, especially in the elderly, and counteracts cognitive decline (Hughes et al, Proc Nutr Soc, 1999 - Grodstein et al, Neurobiology of Aging, 2004). Not only that, this substance is present in the skin by showing a protective role against the damage of UV rays and helping to fight sunburn (Grune et al, J Nutr, 2010).
Beta carotene, food sources
The recommended daily dose of beta carotene for adults is 4 mg (Grune et al, J Nutr, 2010). Beta-carotene is found in leafy greens, such as spinach, cabbage and lettuce, and in orange, red and yellow fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red and yellow peppers, apricots, melon, peaches and pumpkins. Beta carotene withstands heat, indeed, as reported by scientific research, heat increases the bioavailability of beta carotene. So, cooking some vegetables, such as peppers, does not destroy the precious properties of these substances (van het Hof et al, The Journal of Nutrition, 2000).
Beta carotene, warnings
Beta carotene, and in general all carotenoids such as lycopene, lutein or zeaxanthin, are safe and beneficial when taken through the diet. Instead, high levels, which may be reached with supplements, have been shown to increase cardiovascular risk and the risk of developing tumors in smokers or in people exposed to asbestos (Paiva et al, J Am Coll Nutr, 1999). In any case, the advice is always to privilege natural sources and guarantee nutrients through a varied diet.