Beta carotene is one of a group of red, orange and yellow pigment found in plants and fruits especially carrots and colourful vegetables. It is also called as carotenoids and they provide approximately 50% of the vitamin A needed in our diet. It can be found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The human body converts this beta carotene into vitamin A (retinol), beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A which is essential for healthy and mucus membranes, good eye health and vision.
Beta-carotene in itself is not an essential nutrient but vitamin A is very important. Beta-carotene, like all carotenoids is an antioxidant which is a substance that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules and protects the body from free radicals. Beta carotene is said to play a role in protecting cells, boosting the immune system and help in keeping the reproductive system healthy.
Features of Beta-carotene: It is the most common form of carotene. It is fat soluble and in a mixed diet, about 3 to 5 grams of fat is enough to ensure its absorption. It is manufactured by plants and not animals. In plants, the beta-carotene absorbs light and energy from singlet oxygen, an unstable form of oxygen and transfers both energies to chlorophyll for photosynthesis. It also acts as a pesticide. It is present in the all-trans form in raw fruits and vegetables. It prevents the oxidation of fat by breaking down the chain reaction. It helps maintain proper night vision.
Significant Food sources of beta-carotene: Foods rich in beta-carotene are asparagus, broccoli, sweet potatoes tubers and leaves, spinach, carrots, pumpkins, squash, Chinese cabbage, peppers, kale, onions, peas, mango, turnip greens, cantaloupes, grapefruit, plums, herbs and spices like chilli powder, oregano, paprika, parsley and many margarines etc. Almost all the green-yellow-orange vegetables and fruits are rich sources of beta carotene.
Beta-carotene and its health benefits: It is used to decrease asthma symptoms caused by exercise, prevent certain cancers, heart disease, cataracts and age related health problems, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, heartburn, skin disorders etc. Do include these wonderful and attractive beta-carotene rich foods and eat wise and healthy always. It is important that we eat a rich whole meal full of all nutrients in moderate levels.
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