as green leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes,
sweet red peppers, and peas.
What are Carotenoids?
Carotenoids are yellow, orange, and red pigments synthesized by plants. The most
common carotenoids in North American diets are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene,
beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene. Dark green leafy vegetables
also contain carotenes, but due to their green chlorophyll content the carotene
pigments are hidden.
Function of Carotenoids:
Carotenoids are free-radical scavengers that naturally occur in plants and some other
photosynthetic organisms like algae, some types of fungus, and some bacteria. They
are the sources of the yellow, orange, and red colors of many plants. Free radicals
are toxic by-products that are released when the body transforms food into energy
or when it fights off infection. In the human diet, most of the carotenoids are
provided by fruits and vegetables. The most common dietary carotenoids are:
Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene.
Provitamin A carotenoids can be converted by the body into retinol. Retinol is the
dietary form of vitamin A, and is important in vision and bone growth. The
provitamin A carotenoids are: alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and
beta-cryptoxanthin. Carotenoids that have no vitamin A activity and cannot be
converted into retinol are: Lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene.
Deficiency of Carotenoids:
Consumption of provitamin A carotenoids can prevent vitamin A deficiency. No
observable deficiency symptoms have been identified in individuals who consume a
diet that is low in carotenoids, as long as they get adequate vitamin A. Vitamin A
deficiency causes blindness and diminishes the ability to fight infections. Some studies
show that vitamin A deficiency may also increase children's risk of developing
respiratory and diarrheal infections, decrease growth rate, slow bone development,
and decrease likelihood of survival from serious illnesses.
Note: A variety of medical conditions can lead to the symptoms mentioned above. Therefore, it is
important to have a physician evaluate them so that appropriate medical care can be given.
Toxicity (Carotenoids Overdose):
Eating extremely large amounts of beta-carotene and lycopene rich foods can cause
discoloration of the skin by adding yellow or deep orange tones.
Caution: Eating natural foods that are high in carotenoids is the safest and healthiest
way to get an adequate supply of the nutrient. Due to risk of toxicity, individuals
should always consult with a knowledgeable health care provider before starting
doses of supplements. Before giving supplements to children, it is recommended that
you first consult with their pediatrician. Also, some supplements may interfere with
medications. If you are taking medication, it is recommended that you consult with
your physician before taking any supplements. All supplements should be kept in
childproof bottles and out of children's reach.
Carotenoids Food Chart (List of Foods High in Carotenoids):
Alpha-Carotene: pumpkin, carrots, winter squash, plantains, dark leafy greens,
tomatoes, tangerines, and peas
Beta-Carotene: pumpkin, sweet potato, dark leafy greens, carrots, winter squash, and
Beta-Cryptoxanthin: pumpkin, sweet red peppers, papayas, orange juice, tangerines,
carrots, watermelon, yellow corn, paprika, oranges, and nectarines.
Lycopene: tomatoes and tomato products, watermelon, pink grapefruit, beans, and
sweet red peppers
Lutein + Zeaxanthin: dark leafy greens, summer squash, winter squash, peas,
broccoli, pumpkin, brussels sprouts, and sweet yellow corn
American Dietetic Association: Complete Food And Nutrition Guide (2nd Edition)
Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, RD, FADA, CFCS
Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs and More
Pamela Wartian Smith, MD, MPH
University of Maryland Medical Center - umm.edu
Linus Pauling Institute - oregonstate.edu
Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia
Eating foods that are high in
carotenoids can help to prevent
illnesses such as cardiovascular
disease and some cancers.
Studies show that eating foods
that are high in lycopene can help
to reduce the risk of developing
prostate cancer, particularly the
more aggressive forms. Eating
foods that are high in lutein and
zeaxanthin may help to slow the
development of age-related
macular degeneration and
cataracts. Foods that are high in
carotenoids include fruits and
vegetables with vivid colors such
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