The plant pigment responsible for the vibrant red, orange, and yellow colors in vegetables is called beta carotene. Owing to the vibrant hue of most of these vegetables, the red-orange shade is also called the beta carotene color. It is a commonly used natural dye and has been used to provide color to food and cosmetics for centuries.
The human body converts the beta carotene into vitamin A, essential for good vision, cell growth, and the health of the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Vitamin A is the primary ingredient present in retinol, which is a popular ingredient in skincare.
Beta carotene comes from the Latin word for carrot and was discovered in 1831 by a scientist called Heinrich Wilhelm Ferdinand Wackenrode who crystallized it from carrots.
This vitamin is a rich antioxidant. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals in molecules. If the number of free radicals in the body is high it causes an imbalance and can lead to cellular and tissue damage. This is also known as oxidative stress.
Adding beta carotene to your diet is a certain way to experience better health overall. It is known to protect against conditions such as heart disease and dementia.
Here are some important health benefits of beta carotene:
- Lung Health
Vitamin A, which is present in beta carotene, helps improve lung function. People who eat foods that are rich in beta carotene are less prone to cancers of the lung.
- Eye Health
Eating a carotenoid rich diet helps enhance eye health and prevent eye diseases. Research states that people with a high level of carotenoids have a reduced risk of macular degeneration by a significant 35 %.
- Cognitive Function
Like other antioxidants, beta carotene is effective in supporting cognitive function and memory. These benefits are associated with long-term intake of this vitamin. Beta carotene is also linked to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and other age-related cognitive conditions.
- Reduced Cancer Risk
Research says that a diet supplied with antioxidants such as carotene is instrumental in prevention of certain types of cancers.
If your diet contains a large portion of fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that work together to support health, the chances that you develop premenstrual, lung, or pancreatic cancer decrease.
- Skin health
Vitamin A which comes from carotenoids is vital in maintaining skin health, protecting from UV radiation from the sun, and keeping the skin barrier strong.
There’s no denying the importance of beta carotene for a healthy body and life. Including foods that are rich in this vitamin is a good way to boost immunity and improve the function of vital organs in your body.
Here are some common beta carotene foods that you can add to your regular diet:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Red/Yellow peppers
Some spices and herbs also contain beta carotene:
Beta carotene supplements are another popular way to increase your intake of this essential vitamin. Also, they can be used as food coloring agent in many of the food products and beverages.