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 when it comes to health. Collectively, the colorful diet is great for our bodies. That’s why people say, “eat the rainbow.” In fact, vegetables like spinach, carrots, tomatoes and broccoli have all earned the superfood label. 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 called carotenoids, says Ekta Singhwal, dietitian, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. It is found in orange, yellow, red and sometimes green vegetables as well as fruits. Our body converts it into vitamin A, essential for our health.

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

What are the benefits of beta-carotene?

Beta-carotene can benefit our health in several ways.

1. Visual health

Beta-carotene is crucial for maintaining good vision because it is converted into vitamin A, which is essential for the proper functioning of the retina.

2. Antioxidant protection

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

3. Immune System Support

Beta-carotene contributes to a strong immune system, necessary to strengthen our body’s defense against infections and disease.

4. Cognitive function

For 2023 research published in the journal Brain Sciences, scientists studied the role of beta-carotene in cognitive function, alone or in combination with different dietary components. A combination of beta-carotene with nutrients with higher antioxidant properties, such as vitamins C and E and zinc, has been found to impact cognitive functions including learning, language, memory, etc.

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5. Skin health

Although sunscreen is essential in your skincare routine, beta-carotene can also protect against UV damage, reducing the risk of sunburn. It can also give your skin a healthy glow, which is something we all want.

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

What is the recommended daily intake of beta-carotene?

The recommended daily intake of beta-carotene varies, but a typical recommendation is between 3,000 and 6,000 micrograms for adults. Excessive consumption of beta-carotene, usually through supplements, can lead to a condition called carotenemia, causing 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 in recommended doses. However, smokers should avoid high-dose supplements because they can increase the risk of lung cancer, the expert says. Some medications or ingredients in products you use for medical purposes may be affected if you take beta-carotene supplements.

1. Mineral oil

It is primarily used to treat constipation, but it may also reduce beta-carotene levels.

2. Statins

If you take beta-carotene with vitamins E and C and selenium, the effectiveness of simvastatin and niacin may be reduced.

3. Medications to control cholesterol

Colestipol is one of the cholesterol-lowering drugs that can reduce dietary beta-carotene levels to a large extent.

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

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