So many nutrients… so little time.
You could probably go through the entire English alphabet and find something for each letter. And that’s exciting, because your body is made up of thousands of different elements, chemicals and combinations.
With that, it’s important to understand which nutrients can help where.
Take beta carotene, for example.
This compound has a lot to offer, and chances are you’ve eaten foods that have this in it and not even know it.
But what is it, and how can it benefit your health?
In this article, we’ll cover what beta carotene is, foods that contain it, health benefits, and any potential risks.
The truth is, if you “carrot all” about your health, beta carotene deserves some time in the spotlight.
Let’s get into it.
What is Beta Carotene?
Beta carotene is an organic compound that gives certain plants, fungi, and fruits their vibrant colors. Hues can range from deep reds, oranges, and yellows.
These natural compounds belong to a group called carotenoids (1), and get their name from the ancient Latin word “carrot”.
Your body takes beta carotene and turns them into a usable form of Vitamin A. This vitamin also contains a lot of antioxidants, which help your body fight off free radical damage.
Foods High in Beta Carotene
Which foods have the most beta carotene in them? You don’t need to look far. Look for colorful fruits and vegetables, like:
- Bell peppers
- Sweet potatoes
- Dark leafy greens
Pro tip: Beta carotene is considered a fat-soluble vitamin, so eating it with nuts or olive oil can help you absorb it better.
Health Benefits of Beta Carotene
What are some of the ways beta carotene can benefit your life?
“Eyes are the window to the soul.” A deep saying for sure, but what’s even more profound is how much different life would be like if we didn’t have our eyesight.
When you look around, light floods into the small hole in the center of your eye. It travels through your eye and hits the back end, called the retina. Nerves that are attached to the back of your eye send signals to your brain, which then interprets these signals and forms the images you see every day (4).
The antioxidant properties found in beta carotene have been found to help reduce the stress that light puts on the eyes (5). This can even help with issues such as dry eye or night blindness.
Your skin is arguably your largest organ. The outer layers work hard to protect you from outside pollutants, chemicals, and irritants. Melanin protects you from harmful UV rays. It also helps you regulate your core body temperature, maintain water and electrolyte balances (2).
Beta carotene can help keep your skin cells young and healthy. This is because of how antioxidants work. Your skin already has some levels of beta carotene in them (3), but stressors wear down these levels daily.
Eating foods high in beta carotene or taking a quality supplement can help replenish your body’s natural levels, giving it extra protection.
Age tends to hit us in all the right places. Sore joints and memory issues are but a few of the many age-related woes we try to postpone as long as possible.
Your brain is comparable to a computer in some ways. It’s sectioned out into different compartments, responsible for things like memories, even creativity. It’s also in charge of basic functions, like moving your arms or turning your head.
How does beta carotene improve your brain health? One study showed that the group of men that took beta carotene over an 18 year period had sharper memory skills over those that took the placebo (8). Animal studies also suggest it can play a powerful role in slowing down the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s (7).
There is the idea that beta carotene can help prevent cancers. This concept stems from the fact that beta carotenes hold a lot of antioxidant properties.
While this seems good in theory, studies have found beta carotene actually increasing chances of getting lung cancer, especially if you smoke or have been exposed to asbestos (6).
Beta carotene is an important compound your body makes and needs for optimal health. This natural compound is why some fruits and vegetables have their bright orange, yellow, or red color.
Eating foods high in beta carotene can help support your eyes, your skin, and your brain. Packed with antioxidant properties, it’s a nutrient you don’t want to be without.
While beta carotene is generally considered safe, taking high doses could pose a risk. Consult with your doctor before taking any vitamin supplements.
You’ve heard all your life that fruits and vegetables were good for you. It’s amazing how helpful certain nutrients can be!
Do you know someone who could use a daily dose of beta carotene? If so, be sure to share this article with them!
References & Disclaimer
††This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author