Beta-carotene is a carotenoid substance found in plants that aids in light and action. The main role of beta-carotene is to provide orange, red, yellow and green natural pigments to fruits and vegetables. Foods like cantaloupe, cauliflower, spinach, palm oil, and carrots are some of the best dietary sources of beta-carotene.
Beta-carotene is an important nutrient for humans, especially when vitamin A is deficient. In fact, when a vitamin A deficiency is suspected, a blood test for beta-carotene can tell. Because beta-carotene functions as provitamin A, it has antioxidant properties. Some studies also suggest that beta carotene may also have a positive effect on the immune system and anti-cancer effects.
Most official and health agencies recommend consuming 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Going through these dietary guidelines can help your body get enough beta-carotene. However, recent research has also pointed out that consuming the naturally occurring form of beta-carotene is more beneficial to human health than nutritional supplements. And some people can also cause harm from consuming these supplements. Clinical trials have found that beta-carotene supplements increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
Like other nutrients, beta-carotene can be obtained in adequate amounts through a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables. But doctors recommend beta-carotene supplements for some patients. Because beta-carotene is the pre-form of vitamin A, checking its levels is the most important reason to know if you are vitamin A deficient. Signs of vitamin A deficiency include vision problems, dry or inflamed eyes, unexplained hair loss or rashes, recurring infections, and more. As with other nutritional supplements, it is wise to consult your doctor before taking beta-carotene supplements.
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