Various fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of beta-carotene. In addition to being beneficial for the eyes, this nutrient also has a variety of other beneficial health effects, according to nutritionist Carly Sedlacek of Cleveland Clinic (USA).
“Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body. It is a great source of antioxidants and also has anti-inflammatory properties,” explains the nutritionist in a recent press release.
Converted into vitamin A
Beta-carotene forms a precursor of vitamin A and after absorption it is converted into vitamin A in the intestine. Corresponding provitamin A carotenoids such as beta-carotene are found in a variety of plant foods, explains Sedlacek.
Protects against free radicals
Beta-carotene not only offers the body all the benefits of vitamin A, but also has various other positive effects on health. Antioxidants such as beta-carotene prevent so-called free radicals from accumulating in the body and causing oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is in turn linked to the development of various chronic diseases. The nutritionist cites cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s as examples.
Therefore, a diet rich in beta-carotene can also help protect against chronic diseases.
Beta-carotene also has an anti-inflammatory effect and, like oxidative stress, chronic inflammation contributes to a variety of chronic diseases, says Sedlacek. Beta-carotene can also reduce the risk of disease in this way.
Healthy for the eyes
When most people think of the health benefits of beta-carotene, they think of carrots and improving eyesight. In fact, beta-carotene, through its association with vitamin A, helps the brain interpret the light hitting the eye, explains the expert.
In addition, vitamin A prevents dry eyes and is beneficial for the retina. Studies have also shown that vitamin A reduces the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Foods high in beta-carotene
Although foods high in beta-carotene can often be identified by their orange color, this is not the case for all foods high in beta-carotene, according to Sedlacek. The expert lists the following foods as being particularly rich in beta-carotene:
- sweet potatoes,
- butternut squash,
- Roman lettuce,
- rotten pepper,
- Pea pods
- and mango.
How much beta carotene daily?
According to the nutritionist, people aged 19 and over should consume a maximum of 3,000 micrograms of vitamin A. Because too high amounts of vitamin A could also harm the body.
Vitamin A forms a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and fatty tissue for later use. This means that the vitamin remains in the body longer than other water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B vitamins, which are quickly excreted in the urine.
Since vitamin A remains in the body for a long time, there is a risk of consuming too much of it. Therefore, you should be particularly careful when using vitamin A preparations and, if possible, take them under medical supervision, warns the expert. However, beta-carotene is only converted into vitamin A when necessary, says Sedlacek.
What is Carotenemia?
However, if too much beta-carotene is given to the body, it can cause the skin to turn a yellow-orange color, which is known as carotenemia. Even if this discoloration of the skin is not dangerous, it is a sign that the consumption of foods rich in beta-carotene should be reduced.
Dietary supplements with beta-carotene?
Although there are dietary supplements with beta-carotene, this does not mean that you should use such products, explains the expert. In general, you should always prefer food over nutritional supplements.
Who should be careful with beta carotene?
In particular, people who smoke or work with asbestos should generally avoid dietary supplements containing beta-carotene, as studies have shown that these products are associated with a higher risk of lung cancer, Sedlacek continued.
Fruits and vegetables are always better as dietary supplements
“Eating lots of fruits and vegetables should always be plan A. When it comes to dietary supplements, you don’t always know what you’re really consuming,” warns the nutritionist. In addition, the body requires additional steps to break down nutrients from dietary supplements, which is not the case with natural sources. (as)