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A Healing Nutrient Profile: Beta-carotene

Dec 4 2020
3 min read
Close-up of man chopping carrots on wooden cutting board.

Beta-carotene is one of about 500 carotenoids, a group of red, orange, and yellow plant pigments.

Our bodies convert this nutrient into vitamin A, which we need for a strong immune system, good vision, and healthy skin. We get about half of the vitamin A we need from carotenoids, with the rest coming from meat, fish, and dairy.

Beta-carotene is also a potent antioxidant that may have a role in preventing cancer and heart disease; the nutrient appears to reduce the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, a step that leads to harmful plaque build-up in blood vessels.

How Much Beta-carotene Do You Need?

There’s no official recommended daily allowance (RDA) for beta-carotene, and the amount suggested for optimal nutrition ranges from 4,000 IU (2.5 mg) to 25,000 IU (15 mg).

Keep in mind that most of your beta-carotene should come from food. High doses of supplements have been linked to health problems – it may put smokers at a higher risk for lung cancer, for example. At Canyon Ranch, we recommend an intake of no more than 5,000 IU of carotenoids (including beta-carotene) from supplements.

What Are Good Sources of Beta-carotene?

The red-orange pigment gives yellow and orange plants, like carrots and cantaloupes, their color. Dark orange and dark green fruits and vegetables are the best sources of beta-carotene – the brighter the better. That said, it’s important to eat a mix of fruits and vegetables to get a variety of carotenoids into your diet.

Some of our favorite foods that contain beta-carotene include:

Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount of Beta-carotene: 21,616 IU

Sweet Potato
Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount of Beta-carotene: 19,904 IU

Carrots, cooked
Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount of Beta-carotene: 15,320 IU

Frozen spinach, cooked
Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount of Beta-carotene: 5,912 IU

Baked butternut squash
Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount of Beta-carotene: 5,712 IU

Kale, cooked
Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount of Beta-carotene: 3,848 IU

Serving Size: 1/2 small-sized
Amount of Beta-carotene: 3,444 IU

Apricots, dried
Serving Size: 1/4 cup
Amount of Beta-carotene: 940 IU

Apricots, dried, cooked
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount of Beta-carotene: 2,192 IU

You can find the beta-carotene content of other foods by using the USDA FoodData Central database.