For you to maintain good health there are certain vitamins, mineral and phytonutrients that are required in a certain amount or dosage to enable your body cells maintain optimum health.
And one of those phytonutrients is carotenoid. The health benefits of carotenoids cannot be overemphasized.
A blood with a good amount of carotenoids has the ability to reduce and prevent Cancers, eye diseases, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, mal-absorption and cognitive function.
What Are Carotenoids
Carotenoids are pigments found in plants, algae and photosynthetic bacteria. Carotenoids are plant pigments that are responsible for bright red, orange and yellow colors found with many fruits and vegetables.
When carotenoids are ingested into the system, they act as antioxidants within the body. Thereby protecting the body from cellular damage, effects of aging and even some chronic diseases.
Furthermore, this phytonutrient cannot be synthesized by human beings or animals but can only be gotten through diets or supplements.
Importance Of Carotenoids
- Many researches had shown that diets abundance in carotenoids reduces the risk of developing cancer, heart diseases, age-related degeneration of the eyes and nervous system.
- Carotenoids boost your immune system, helping the body to defend itself against illness and diseases.
- Carotenoids have anti-inflammatory benefits that are associated with cardiovascular diseases prevention.
- Carotenoids has an antioxidants that helps to deactivate free radicals from your system that can damage cells by reacting with other molecules according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
- According to recent studies carotenoids supports male reproductive health. And Lycopene, a type of carotenoids found in tomatoes has been linked to keeping prostate, breast, colon, liver and lungs healthy.
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Types Of Carotenoids
According to Linus Pauling Institute, there are over 600 types of carotenoids but they are majorly classified into two main group. Which are CAROTENE and XANTHOPHLLS.
Under Carotene we have three (3) types, which includes:
(b) Alpha-Carotene and
Also under Xanthophylls we have three (3) types, which includes:
(b) Zeaxanthin and
However, the major difference between Carotene carotenoids and Xanthopylls carotenoids is that Carotene contains hydrocarbon and do not contain oxygen while Xanthopylls contains oxygen only.
Considering the nutritional value of both carotene and xanthophylls, some of the carotenoids under them such as Beta-Carotene, Alpha-Carotene and Beta-Cryptoxanthin are called Pro-vitamin A.
This simply mean that they can be converted into vitamin A (retinol) which is very important for eye health, mucous membrane and immunity in the intestine and liver when they are ingested into the body.
while others like Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Lycopene cannot be converted into Vitamin A when taken in to the system.
All the above listed types of carotenoids can be found in America/ Western Diets.
Difference Between Carotenoids And Beta-Carotene
So many people do not know the difference between carotenoid and beta-carotene and they will always ask, what is the different between the two?
The major difference between carotenoids and beta-carotene is that; Carotenoid is a pigment or phytonutrient found in plants, algae and bacteria.
This pigment is what gives those fruit and vegetables that we eat their color, which are orange, red and yellow While beta-carotene is a type of carotenoids and the colors is orange.
That means all the fruits with orange color contains beta-carotene. So carotenoid contains beta-carotene but beta-carotene does not contain carotenoid.
Sources of Carotene
I will be listing the sources of carotenoids and health benefits of carotenoids according to their types so that when you are purchasing a supplement, you will be able to tell yourself the benefits you’re going to derive from it according to the type of carotenoids the supplement contained.
Beta-carotene is a pro-vitamin A type of carotenoid and it is the most powerful when it comes to converting into Vitamin A than alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin.
Food Sources: Food sources of beta-carotene includes: Canteloupe, mangoes, papayas, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Kale, Pumpkins, Collards, Turnip greens, Winter Squash and Dandelion greens.
Alpha-carotene produces half of the vitamin A required by the body. It does not produce large amount like beta-carotene. Aside the producing vitamin A, scientist has recently found out that alpha-carotene has a longevity compound.
Food Sources: Pumpkin, Carrots, Tomatoes, Collards, Tangerines, Winter Squash, Peas, Mixed Vegetables, Winter Squash and Plantain.
Note: This alpha-carotene is rear to be found as supplement so you need to eat of fruits and vegetables to get them.
Lycopene acts as antioxidant, in all types of carotenoids, lycopene has the potential of deactivating harmful free radical form our system may be because of its unique molecular shape.
Food Sources: Tomatoes, Watermelon, Pink Grapefruit and Baked Beans.
Sources of Xanthophlls
We also three (3) types of carotenoids under this, I am going to also list them, their food sources and their benefits.
(A) Lutein And Zeaxanthin
These two types of carotenoids are always mentioned together because they are the only carotenoids found in the human retina at macula lutea, which is responsible for our central vision and protects the retina from blue light, which may cause ionization and damage to the retina.
Food Sources: Peas, Winter Squash, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Sweet Yellow Corn, Kale, Spinach, Turnip Greens, Summer Squash, Pumpkin, Paprika, Avocados, Egg Yolk, Collards and Dandelion Greens.
Beta-cryptoxanthin is also one the pro-vitamin A type of carotenoid but produces half amount of Vitamin A required by the body.
Food Sources: Papayas, Mango, Sweet red pepper, Nectarines, Paprika, Watermelon, Yellow corn, Carrot, Tangerines, Orange juice, pumpkin.
Health Benefits of Carotenoids
Carotenoids has so many health Benefits, therefore we need to be taken everyday to optimum overall health. Below are the health benefits of carotenoids:
- It helps to protect your body against sunburn according to the analysis publish in Photochemistry and photobiology. The researchers look at several studies and found out that participants who took beta-carotene supplements for 10 weeks had lower rates of sunburn.
- Beta-carotene may help lower the risk of metabolic syndrome in middle-age men and elderly men. Metabolic Syndrome is characterized with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels and excess fat around the waist.
- Alpha-carotene may lower the risk of death from diabetes and respiratory diseases. In a study publish in Journal of Epidemiology, it was found out that those who have high blood level alpha-carotene were less likely to die from heart diseases.
- When alpha-carotene is combined with lycopene, it has the potential to reduce the risk of lung cancer.
- Lycopene reduces the risk of prostate cancer in men.
- It also promotes bone health and help to prevent Osteoporosis development. People with high level of lycopene will likely not experience hip or vertebral fracture.
- Lycopene may reduce the risk of stroke and lung cancer says NeurologyandAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin are effective in reducing the risk of age-related degeneration (AMD) of the eyes and cataract and its sensitivity. It is also know to prevent the formation of atherosclerosis (plaques).
- It also prevents cholesterol (LDL) from building up in the arteries and clogging them.
- It is effective in preventing lung cancer and inflammatory polyarthritis development.
- In all studies made, it is only Xanthophylls Carotenoids (i.e. Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Beta-cryptoxanthin) has the potential to reduce the risk of lung cancer.
How Do Carotenoids Absorbed in Our Body
Carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds, that is to say that they are absorbed best into the blood stream with fat. Therefore, chopping and cooking them in coconut oil or olive oil will increase the strength of nutrient absorption when they get into the bloodstream.
According Dr. Axe the quantity of fruit and vegetable dosage required daily to get enough daily carotenoid dosage are as follows:
- Carrot juice — 1 cup: 22 milligrams
- Pumpkin — 1 cup: 17 milligrams
- Spinach — 1 cup (cooked): 13.8 milligrams
- Carrots — 1 cup (cooked): 13 milligrams
- Sweet potato — 1 medium sweet potato: 13 milligrams
- Collard greens — 1 cup (cooked): 11.6 milligrams
- Kale — 1 cup (cooked): 11.5 milligrams
- Turnip greens — 1 cup (cooked): 10.6 milligrams
- Winter squash — 1 cup: 5.7 milligrams
- Dandelion greens — 1 cup (cooked): 4.1 milligrams
- Cantaloupe — 1 cup: 3.2 milligrams
- Apricot — 1 cup: 1.6 milligrams
For the supplement, you will get the daily dosage from the manufacturers or health Provider.
Side Effects Of Carotenoids
Though health benefits of carotenoids are more than effects. Still everything taken in excess will always have effect. Do not exceed the required amount per day as required.
- It increases the risk of lung cancer for smokers and asbestos workers. Meaning that if you are a smoker or an asbestos worker, do not take carotenoids in any form as it may trigger lung cancer.
- High consumption of carotenoids supplement and the consumption of the large amount of carotene rich food can lead to yellow discoloration of skin known as Carotenodermia.
- High intake lycopene rich food and supplement can lead to deep orange discoloration of skin known as Lycopenodermia. It may also occur when you don’t have the required amount of carotenoid in the blood.
Drug Interaction And Carotenoids
- If you are on any of medication, you may not carotenoids rich foods or supplements they may reduce the effect of the carotenoids to body.
- Cholestyramine (Questran) and Colestipol (colestid) – cholesterol lowering agent.
- Orlistat (Xenical) – a drug used in treating obesity.
- Colchicine – a drug used to treat gout, it can cause intestinal malabsorption.
- Olestra and plant sterol containing margarines can also decrease the effect of carotenoids.
- People that consume too much alcohol not take carotenoids from research there is evidence of alcohol inhibiting the conversion of pro-vitamins A carotenoids to vitamin A. And high dose of beta-carotene can lead to increase of lung cancer in people with high alcohol intakes.
Here are some of the conditions that may you to increase your vitamin A/carotenoid intake as follows:
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Continuing illness
- Long term injury
- Liver diseases
- Malabsorption problems
- Pancreas diseases
- Eye degeneration/blur vision
- Low immunity
- Low cardiovascular health
Caution: Your increase in vitamin A intake should be determined by your doctor. Always consult your healthcare provider before your supplement/diets.
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In conclusion, since it is difficult to eat enough fruits and vegetables that can give us the amount of carotenoids required per day due to today’s lifestyle, it is great and perfect decision that we supplement our daily diet with carotenoid supplements to help protect our body system from free radicals that leads to cellular damage and degeneration.
Related post: top 10 carotenoids supplements.
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