Carotene is an important pigment for plant photosynthesis. It is due to the orange color of many fruits and vegetables. It exists in two main forms - alpha-carotene (α-carotene) and beta-carotene (β-carotene) . The vitamin is involved in various processes in the body. Since it does not only produce carotenoids, we have to get it through various supplements and foods.
Deficiency of carotene in the body can lead to a weakening of the immune system and the emergence of various health problems. There are nearly 600 types of carotenoids in nature, the most common being provitamin A carotenoids , which contain alpha (a) carotene, beta (β) carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, which the body converts to retinol or vitamin A. Vitamin A plays an important role in reproduction, immune system and heart function , enhances vision. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two types of xanthophylls (yellow pigments) that protect the eyes, prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
Lycopene is a red pigment found in fruits and vegetables. There is evidence that it helps lower blood pressure and prevents hardening of the arteries.
The health benefits of carotenoids are undeniable, but there are currently no recommended levels of intake. Doctors recommend that you choose more carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables. Here are some of them:
Carrots - an excellent source of carotenoids. Just half a cup of boiled carrots contains 6499 mcg of β-carotene and 2945 mcg of a-carotene. Just a glass of carrot juice contains 21955 mcg β-carotene, 10247 mcg a-carotene, 786 mcg lutein + zeaxanthin and 5 mcg lycopene.
Pumpkin - although typical of autumn and winter, it can still be found in the markets. We can use it for different dishes. One cup of pumpkin puree contains 6652 mcg of a-carotene, 5135 mcg of β-carotene and 2484 mcg of lutein + zeaxanthin.
Green leafy vegetables are rich in yellow and orange carotenoids. Spring is the season that offers a wide variety of green leafy vegetables. Spinach, cabbage, green beans are some of the things we can include in our menu to get more carotenoids. Half a cup of cooked spinach (which has been frozen) contains 14,906 mcg of lutein + zeaxanthin and 6,875 mcg of β-carotene.
Tomatoes - they are a major source of lycopene. Its contents are preserved even after heat treatment. One cup of canned tomato puree contains 54,385 mcg of lycopene and 765 mcg of β-carotene. The same amount of tomato juice that we preserve in winter has 1960 mcg of lycopene, 146 mcg of lutein + zeaxanthin and 656 mcg of β-carotene. In fresh and ripe tomatoes the content of lycopene is 7298 mcg, lutein + zeaxanthin - 226 mcg, β-carotene - 703 mcg.
Sweet potatoes - another great source of carotenoids, which we underestimate. Only one medium-sized baked potato has 13,320 mcg of β-carotene. While in boiled there is 14260 mcg of carotenoid.