Every Nutrient

    Carotenoids Foods

    • Nutrients     Phytochemicals /
    • By EveryNutrient

    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 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 healthcare 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 cantaloupe

    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

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