Beta Carotene and Diet
Nutrition professionals long have recommended choosing fruits and vegetables with deep rich colors for their abundance of vitamins and other beneficial substances.
More than 500 of these substances belong to a group of nutrients called carotenoids. One such nutrient is beta carotene, a yellow-orange carotenoid found in many orange vegetables and fruits, as well as dark green leafy vegetables. The deep orange or yellow color of the plant food means it is rich in beta carotene.
Beta carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, and is changed in the body to vitamin A, or retinol. Vitamin A is needed for healthy eyes and skin. In addition to its role as vitamin A, beta carotene functions as an anti-oxidant, helping eliminate free radicals that may promote tumor growth.
Foods high in beta carotene include carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, winter squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe and mangoes. Other good sources are dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greens, spinach, leaf lettuce and broccoli.
Beta carotene becomes most available to the body when vegetables are cooked, chopped or pureed.