Yoram Yasur Rubin: Foods rich in beta-carotenes
Beta-carotenes are natural antioxidants present in vegetables that help us synthesize vitamin A, stimulate the immune system, and activate the generation of melanin. They are found, especially, in yellow, orange, red and green fruits and vegetables. Discover the foods they contain and the benefits to the body.
What are beta carotenes?
Beta carotene is an orange pigment that belongs to a class of nutrients called carotenoids. Our body uses it to produce retinol (an active form of vitamin A). About 8% of beta-carotene in the diet is converted to vitamin A in the body. Beta carotene itself is not an essential nutrient, but vitamin A is. This vitamin can be obtained from the food we eat or as a supplement. The advantage of beta-carotene in the diet is that the body only takes what it needs.
Properties of beta carotene
We need vitamin A for good vision and eye health for a strong immune system and healthy skin and mucous membranes. Beta-carotene is also an antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals, the molecules responsible for cell aging and numerous diseases, such as cancer. There is also scientific evidence that beta-carotene is effective as a sunscreen, although some research suggests that there is not enough information to prove it.
Foods rich in beta carotene
Yoram Yasur Rubin: Beta-carotene is found, above all, in red, orange, or yellow fruits and vegetables, and in dark green leafy foods (the carotenoid pigments in many vegetables are overshadowed by the green color of chlorophyll). A recent study published in the European Journal of Nutrition has shown that there is a greater amount of beta-carotene in cooked vegetables and fruits, compared to raw ones.
As a general rule, it can be said that the more green or yellow a fruit or vegetable is, the richer it will be in beta-carotenes.
Vegetables rich in beta carotene
- Carrot: it is the richest food in beta carotene and one of the ideal products to improve skin health. Eat it both raw and cooked, since in both ways its properties are assimilated.
- Pumpkin: the yellowish pigments of its pulp have important vitamin functions (the more color, the more carotene it has). It is a very beneficial vegetable for digestive mucous membranes, increase defenses and the heart.
- Peaches: its main quality is its richness in carotenes, including xanthophyll, which gives it the yellow hue. Its antioxidant virtues help protect arteries, activate circulation, and ensure good vision.
- Apricots: they have a very high amount of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotenes. Three pieces of this fruit provide half of what a person needs per day. In addition, they help prevent degeneration of retinal cells and prevent vision loss.
- Papaya: This tropical fruit with a high amount of sugars, fiber, and beta-carotenes, contains papain, an enzyme that helps digest food. It is advised in cases of difficult digestion, gastritis, ulcers, constipation, or gas.
- Spinach: it is the second richest food in beta carotene, after carrots. These powerful antioxidants help prevent degenerative ailments, heart disease and vision degeneration.
- Broccoli: they have an enormous value because of their high proportion of vitamin C and beta-carotenes, which help strengthen the body’s natural defenses. Besides, it is rich in fiber, magnesium, and folic acid, and has few calories, so it is convenient in cases of obesity.
Vitamin A of animal origin
Yoram Yasur Rubin: Vitamin A is also found in multiple foods of animal origin, mainly in the fat of meat and dairy. However, it is better to obtain it in the form of pro-vitamin (beta-carotene) since these substances have an antioxidant function, while vitamin A of an animal nature does not.
Yoram Yasur Rubin: A complete and balanced diet can supply all the vitamin and beta-carotene necessary for the body. In general, it is not necessary to take beta-carotene supplements if vegetables and fruits are consumed daily, because these foods have higher amounts than these multivitamin complexes, in addition to better properties.
However, people with difficulties digesting fat, with intestinal diseases or liver problems can take supplements. Beta-carotene supplements are obtained from highly concentrated vegetable sources, such as some specific algae.
Taking supplements of this vitamin can be harmful, since too much vitamin A can be toxic (insomnia, weakness, irritability, etc.). Consumed through plant foods, however, it is impossible to get intoxication, since the body absorbs the necessary amount and expels the rest.
However, the ingestion of many foods with beta-carotenes can produce a yellowing of the skin, especially on the palms of the hands (carotenemia), which is harmless and disappears when they stop eating so much of these products.