When you hear about beta carotene foods, what comes to your mind? Beta carotene is an antioxidant pigment and a fat-soluble nutrient that’s found in a variety of plant and animal sources.
The term beta carotene describes two different groups of molecules: pro-vitamin A carotenoids, which convert to vitamin A within your body, and other carotenoids such as lycopene, which don’t convert to vitamin A but still provide health benefits.
Both kinds are considered antioxidants because they neutralize free radicals in your body. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that damage cells, potentially leading to cancer and heart disease. Beta carotene has been linked to reduced risk for several cancers, including lung cancer and breast cancer. It may also help reduce cholesterol levels and protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that can cause vision loss or blindness in older adults.
See, 10 Foods That Boost The Immune System and Healthy Fats For Vegans
11 Best Beta Carotene Foods
1. Black-eyed Peas
Black-eyed peas are a traditional staple in African, Asian, and Caribbean diets. They are a good source of beta-carotene and nutrient-dense food that also offers 9 percent of your daily fiber and 7 percent of your daily protein. Eat these healthy legumes as part of a complete meal or side dish, or add them to salads for extra bulk. See Black-Eyed Pea Recipes.
One cup contains 3,325 mcg of lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants) and 200 IU of vitamin A
Black-eyed peas are also a good source of thiamine, niacin, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and manganese. They’re also low in calories—one cup offering only 150 calories.
Besides, black-eyed peas are an excellent substitute for meat in many vegan dishes and make great additions to soups, stews, and casseroles.
Mix cooked black-eyed peas with some freshly chopped tomatoes, avocado slices, chili flakes, a pinch of salt, and drizzle some olive oil. You can also use them in tortillas, salsa, a burrito bowl, or salads.
Besides being a good source of beta carotene, regular consumption of black-eyed peas can offer numerous health benefits including:
- Building healthy bones
- Enhancing blood glucose regulation
- Promotes a healthy nervous system
- Its antioxidants protect against various cancers
- Enhancing facility
- Good for pregnant women
- Lowers blood pressure
- Enhances weight loss
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
2. Bok Choy
Also known as the Chinese cabbage, bok choy is a cruciferous vegetable native to China but can be found worldwide. It’s a popular ingredient in Asian recipes, including salads, fillings for spring rolls, dumplings, steamed buns, stir-fries, and soups. Bok choy is known for its crunchy and delicious taste but also for its nutritional benefits.
It’s rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s especially rich in beta carotene and vitamin A with a cup serving to provide more than 50 percent of your daily requirement.
Bok choy may also
- Prevent the risk of cancer
- Promote eye health
- Protect against diabetes
- Improve bone health
- Promote cardiovascular health
- Boost the immune system
- Enhance weight loss
- Improve anemia
- Keep your skin healthy
- Maintain cardiovascular health
You can incorporate bok choy into your diet with Chinese recipes such as stir-fries, soups, and salads, or use it grilled or as a garnish.
Bok Choy recipe: Jamaican Bok Choy Recipe.
3. Grape Leaves
Did you know that grape leaves are edible? That’s right. In many traditional Mediterranean cultures, people have been eating grape leaves for their health benefits for hundreds of years. With their high levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene, grape leaves are thought to be good cancer-fighting agents as well as antioxidants that can help to prevent heart disease and stroke.
Like many veggies rich in nutrients, they contain calcium and magnesium, which may improve bone density and lower osteoporosis risk later on in life. They’re also a great source of potassium, which is important for healthy blood pressure levels. They’re even a great source of fiber! This makes them the perfect food to eat if you’re trying to lose weight or stay fit since they fill you up without adding a lot of calories or fat.
You can buy a bag of grape leaves possibly from the farmers’ market, or pluck them from your vineyard.
Grape leaves can be eaten as a simple side dish or used to wrap other foods, including rice, meat, grains, and vegetables. Rinse off each leaf individually under cool water until all dirt is removed from its surface. Gently pat dry each leaf using a clean towel or paper towel.
To prepare fresh grape leaves, blanch them by boiling them in water until they turn a pale green color, then let them cool and remove their veins and stems. This softens their texture so they are easier to eat. Use in appetizer recipes or as a wrap for your favorite foods like rice.
You can also fry them in oil or add them to stews. This ensures that they are soft and enjoyable to eat. If you have other ways of eating grape leaves, feel free to try these ones too.
4. Romaine Lettuce
Romaine lettuce is a green leafy and crispy vegetable packed with tons of essential nutrients. Read more about Romaine Lettuce Benefits.
It’s crunchy and loved for its great savor of salads and sandwiches. Besides, the leaves have plenty of vitamins, including vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and beta carotene.
A cup of shredded romaine lettuce contains 2456 mcg of beta carotene or 23 percent of the daily requirement.
They are also high in fiber but low in calories, which promotes fullness and aids weight loss.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are sweet and starchy vegetables available globally. They come in different varieties, including purple, orange, yellow, and white.
They are highly nutritious with high levels of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta carotene and vitamin C. One large baked sweet potato contains close to 100 percent of your daily requirements for these vitamins. Sweet potatoes also contain more than 600 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A, making them a great way to keep your eyes healthy and strong. Read More Sweet Potato Health Benefits.
Include sweet potatoes as part of a varied diet to lower your risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. If you’re looking for an even healthier option, look for recipes that call for orange sweet potatoes; they’re higher in beta carotene than their white counterparts. See, Sweet Potato Recipes.
Are Carrots Good For You? One of nature’s best sources of beta carotene, carrots are often used as an example when we talk about other high-beta foods. Just one raw carrot provides more than enough beta carotene to cover a day’s worth of recommended intake.
A cup of sliced cooked carrots provides 12997.9 mcg of beta carotene or 120 percent of the daily requirement.
Opt for fresh varieties whenever possible; they taste better and contain higher levels of beta carotene. If you prefer cooked carrots, steam them without any added fat or butter, which can negate much of their nutritional value.
Also, limit your consumption of commercial carrot juice: most juices are pasteurized, removing many nutrients that would otherwise be available to your body. For a simple snack idea, try some raw carrots with hummus and other dips.
Studies show that beta carotene is better absorbed when eaten in cooked carrots compared to raw.
Adding olive oil has also been shown to increase carotenoid bioavailability since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin. Raw Vegan Carrot Cake and Maple Glazed Carrots.
Microgreens have become popular among foodies and chefs in the recent past, as they form excellent garnish on soups and salads. They are also appealing to the eye and are rich in nutrients, including beta-carotene.
Microgreens contain more beta-carotene than carrots, with 100 grams of microgreens providing12 milligrams of beta carotene compared to 8 milligrams in 100 grams of boiled carrots. They also contain other forms of carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin.
When you purchase them from your grocer or farmers market, ask for fully-leafed microgreens (ones with all their leaves). These greens will have a stronger flavor than their half-grown counterparts. Some ways to incorporate them into your diet include adding them to sandwiches and salads, sprinkling them on soups and stews, and blending them into smoothies.
Another way to incorporate microgreens into your diet is by adding them to homemade energy bars or granola. You can also make fresh pesto using these tiny greens—just combine them with basil, garlic, and pine nuts and then spread it over whole grain pasta. Broccoli Microgreens.
8. Red Bell Pepper
Red bell peppers are another good source of beta carotene, with a cup of boiled red bell pepper strips providing 2058 mcg or 19 percent of the daily requirement.
Peppers are also rich in folate, Vitamin C, and vitamin B6, which help the body fight free radicals and prevent oxidative stress that may cause cell damage.
In fact, red bell peppers contain 11 times more beta carotene, 8 times more vitamin A, A, and 1.5 times more vitamin C than green bell peppers.
Red peppers also contain Quercetin, an essential antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects that can help prevent heart disease, control blood glucose levels, and kill cancer cells.
Raw peppers can be added to almost everything from dips to salads and pasta dishes. You can also grill or toss them in stir-fries. See Vegan Stuffed Bell Peppers.
Spinach is another leafy green vegetable that is rich in nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and beta carotene.
Half a cup of boiled spinach offers 1130 mcg of beta carotene or 105 percent of the daily recommendations.
Other leafy greens rich in beta carotene include:
- Mustard greens
- Beet greens
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
Easiest ways to eat more spinach include:
- Blending in shakes and smoothies
- Add to salads see Spinach Salad
- Make stir-fries
- Stir into soups or add to stews
- How much beta carotene do you need
- In fritters – Spinach Pakoras
10. Butternut Squash
Butternut is an excellent hydrator, with one serving providing approximately 87 percent of water. It’s good for boosting immunity and improving digestion.
Like other orange-colored vegetables and fruits, butternut squash is high in beta carotene with a cup of boiled butternut containing 9369 mcg, or 87 percent of the daily recommendation.
This delicious winter squash is great for more than just soups and casseroles—it’s one of nature’s richest sources of beta carotene. It’s a delicious and versatile veggie that makes a great side dish or can be roasted as a whole meal on its own! The high vitamin A content also means it’s a great choice for supporting skin health, promoting immunity, and reducing inflammation. Try it as a pasta or pizza topping, or purée it into a soup. See Butternut Squash Recipes.
Dark-skinned cantaloupe is great for your eyes because it’s loaded with carotenoids. It also contains powerful antioxidants and potassium, which is an essential mineral that helps keep your heart healthy.
The high content of beta carotene makes cantaloupe a great way to fight off cancer and heart disease while supplying your body with vital nutrients.
To maximize nutritional benefits, make sure to buy cantaloupe that has a uniform orange or yellow color with no sign of browning on its rind. The flesh should be firm and very sweet smelling – not too bland or watery. Cut into pieces and add to salads, smoothies, or simply eat as a snack. See Cantaloupe Smoothie.
Final Thoughts on Beta Carotene Foods
Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant important for good health. It’s also converted into vitamin A, which is needed for different functions, including improving vision and eye health, keeping the skin and the mucous membrane healthy, and promoting healthy skin.
It can be found in many different foods, ranging from dark leafy greens to fruits and even carrots. However, some foods are significantly higher in beta carotene than others, so if you’re looking to get a lot of beta carotene in your diet, these are the best food choices to start with! They include bright-colored vegetables and fruits such as carrots, sweet potato, bok choy, spinach, romaine lettuce, butternut squash, red bell peppers, grape leaves, and black-eyed peas.
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