Beta-carotene: benefits, intake and side effects

Vegetables come in different shapes, sizes and colors: green, yellow, red, blue, purple, white and more. They all have something to offer us in the field of health. Collectively, the colorful diet is great for our bodies. That’s why people say: “eat the rainbow”. In fact, vegetables such as spinach, carrots, tomatoes and broccoli have all earned the label of superfoods. What these superfoods have in common is beta-carotene. Read on to learn more about the benefits of beta-carotene!

What is beta carotene?

Beta-carotene is a natural pigment and antioxidant that belongs to a group of compounds known as carotenoids, explains Ekta Singhwal, dietician, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. It is found in orange, yellow, red and sometimes green fruits and vegetables. Our body converts it into vitamin A, which is essential for our health.

Beta-carotene has many benefits. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the benefits of beta carotene?

Beta-carotene can be beneficial to our health in many ways.

1. Vision health

Beta-carotene is crucial for maintaining good vision because it is converted into vitamin A, which is essential for proper retinal function.

2. Antioxidant protection

Beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant and helps neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, which can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including those related to the heart, says the expert.

3. Immune system support

Beta-carotene contributes to a strong immune system, which is necessary to improve our body’s defense against infections and diseases.

4. Cognitive function

For a 2023 study published in the journal Brain Sciences, scientists studied the role of beta-carotene in cognitive function, alone or in combination with various dietary components. It was found that combining beta-carotene with nutrients with higher antioxidant properties such as vitamins C and E, and zinc had an impact on cognitive function, including learning, language, memory and more.

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5. Skin health

While sunscreen is a must when it comes to your skin care routine, beta carotene can also protect against UV damage, reducing the risk of sunburn. It can also give your skin a healthy, inner glow, something we all want.

Pumpkin pieces
Pumpkin is rich in beta-carotene. Image: Shutterstock

What is the recommended daily amount of beta-carotene?

The recommended daily intake of beta-carotene varies, but a typical guideline is about 3,000 to 6,000 micrograms for adults. Excessive beta-carotene intake, usually through supplements, can result in a condition called carotenemia, which causes the skin to turn yellowish-orange. However, this is not considered harmful.

What about beta-carotene supplements? Beta-carotene supplements are generally considered safe when taken at recommended doses. However, high-dose supplements should be avoided by smokers as they can increase the risk of lung cancer, expert says. Some medicines or ingredients in products you use for medicinal purposes may be affected if you take beta-carotene supplements.

1. Mineral oil

It is most commonly used to treat constipation, but it can also decrease the amount of beta-carotene.

2. Statins

Taking beta-carotene with vitamins E and C and selenium may reduce the effectiveness of simvastatin and niacin.

3. Medicines to control cholesterol

Colestipol is one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs that can largely reduce the beta-carotene content in the diet.

So, you need to be careful while taking the supplements to be on the safer side. If you don’t want to go the supplement route, opt for foods rich in beta-carotene. The list includes fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, kale, mangoes, apricots and broccoli.

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