Beta carotene is a pigment that naturally occurs in microorganisms and plants. It is also known as a carotenoid, it is responsible for a particular pigment that gives many vegetables and fruits their rich color.
Beta carotene is found in many fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, and spinach. Beta carotene is also sold in the form of supplements that could be made artificially or extracted from certain oils or microorganisms like fungi or algae.
What are the health benefits of Beta Carotene?
There are numerous ways in which beta carotene contributes to maintaining the optimal health of our body.
1. Beta carotene protects the cells from oxidative stress
Beta carotene is not only a compound that provides pigment to fruits and vegetables. Beta carotene is also an antioxidant.
Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells in the body from the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are responsible for the damage caused to the cells through oxidation.
As time passes on the damage from free radicals can lead to dangerous chronic disease. Therefore it is important to have a diet rich in antioxidants to protect the cells from oxidative damage.
2. Beta carotene promotes eye and skin health
When you eat beta carotene in your diet, it is converted into vitamin A, which is essential for the body in maintaining the health of our eyes and skin.
This is because beta carotene is an antioxidant that is responsible to protect the skin cells from the damage caused by the rays of the sun and free radicals present in polluted air, which can cause harm to the skin.
3. Beta carotene promotes cognitive health
Oxidative stress on the cells of the brain plays an important factor in maintaining cognitive health as we age.
Studies have indicated that antioxidants slow down the degeneration of the brain cells and play a protective role against cognitive issues promoting overall brain health.
Oxidative stress is thought to play a major role when it comes to cognitive decline.
4. Beta carotene might reduce the risk of certain cancers
Studies show that foods that are rich in antioxidants might play a protective role when it comes to certain cancers like lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and premenopausal breast cancer.
This is why it is important to eat foods that are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants to promote the overall health of the organs.
5. Beta carotene promotes lung health
Beta carotene can be helpful for maintaining optimal lung health, especially for the aging population as the antioxidants protect the cells from oxidative damage which preserves the functioning of the lungs in the long run.
Studies have also indicated that beta carotene might also play a protective role against lung cancers.
Although, much more research is needed regarding this topic, however since the antioxidants provide protection to the cells, it is also helpful to keep the cells of the lung out of harm’s way from polluted air in the environment.
What foods to look for?
Beta carotene can be consumed through your diet by including foods that are yellow-orange and dark green vegetables and fruits.
Beta carotene is a form of vitamin A that is found in plant-based foods which eventually turns into vitamin A. Other than that, preformed vitamin A is also found in non-veg sources such as fish, meat, poultry, and dairy products.
Here is a list of foods that are rich in beta carotene.
- Sweet Potato
- Chili powder
What are the downsides of eating too much beta carotene?
Usually, beta carotene does not pose any specific threat even when consumed in large amounts, however, eating extremely huge amounts of beta carotene over a period of time might lead to conditions known as carotenemia, which basically turns your skin to look yellow-orange.
People who are regular smokers and are exposed to asbestos should be careful with consuming beta carotene supplements as it has shown to increase the risk of heart diseases and cancer.
Drinking too much alcohol while taking beta carotene supplements could also potentially increase the risk of liver disease.
It is also suggested that vitamin A, when taken in very high doses could be toxic to the liver since the liver is responsible to regulate blood serum levels.
Beta carotene is an important antioxidant and is also an antecedent to making vitamin A.
Beta carotene helps in maintaining healthy skin and eye health. People who eat sufficient levels of beta carotene can reduce their risk of diseases like stroke, coronary artery disease, and other age-related cognitive diseases.
By eating foods that are rich in beta carotene such as the ones mentioned above makes sure that you get an adequate amount of antioxidants in your body.
Before taking a beta carotene supplement, it is important to consult with your doctor to rule out any complications that might occur, especially if you are under certain medications.