It is especially popular before summer, when it prepares the skin for the sun’s rays. Carrots, the food that contains the most beta-carotene, are promoted in recipes, juices or dietary supplements. Where can you find beta-carotene in our diet?
Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash
Carotene, or provitamin A, is a substance that can be converted by the human body into a vitamin.
A plant pigment, beta-carotene, is part of the carotenoids, a large family of yellow-orange pigments. Carotenoids allow plants to carry out photosynthesis. They are also essential for maintaining good health.
The Roles of Beta-Carotene
Anti-oxidant action: beta-carotene protects cells against free radicals and in particular against oxidative damage caused by light. It is an antioxidant. It is also said to prevent skin from sunburn.
Vitamin A carrier: As a provitamin A, beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A according to the body’s needs. Therefore, in case of deficiency, the body will rely on food intake to produce vitamin A (retinol).
Note that beta-carotene is a fragile pigment, difficult to preserve, which loses some of its active qualities when subjected to light and oxygen. Therefore, keep fruits and vegetables as protected as possible so that they contain pro-vitamin A.
On the other hand, it tolerates cooking well and is better assimilated after cooking.
It can also be taken in the form of food supplements (however, be careful with overdoses that could be pro-oxidative and harmful to smokers3).
For optimal assimilation and absorption of beta-carotene from food, it is important to provide a source of fat at the same time.
For example, it is recommended to eat gingham carrots with a bit of butter or to eat some nuts or hazelnuts with the apricots as a snack.
Did you know that? Speaking of fat, butter naturally contains beta-carotene2. Its content varies according to the milk used, since it varies in terms of its origin, seasonality, varieties of cows, etc.
Therefore, sometimes beta-carotene is added to the butter to normalize the content and obtain a value of about 150 µg/100g of food.
Since beta-carotene is not synthesized by the body, it must be provided in sufficient quantities by our diet.
The need for provitamin A depends on several factors, including: climatic, ethnic, dietary and lifestyle variations. However, there is no official recommendation for consumption of Beta-carotene.
On the other hand, the RNPs (Population Nutritional References) for vitamin A in adults are 750 µg ER per day for men and 650 µg ER per day for women.
In children, recommendations range from 450 to 550 µg of ER depending on the age group. Classically, it is recommended that approximately 60% of the intake be in the form of carotenoids3.
In general, by eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day, these recommendations are easily covered.
Vegetables: carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, squash, kale, dandelion, vegetable juice, lettuce, pumpkin.
Fruits: apricot, mango, melon
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