What’s natural beta-carotene?

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Beta-carotene is a plant pigment found in fruits and vegetables that contributes to vitamin A in the human diet. It promotes proper immune and reproductive system function and acts as an antioxidant. Natural sources are recommended over synthetic supplements, and it can also be found in dark, leafy greens.

Natural beta-carotene is a plant pigment that is a major contributor to vitamin A in the human diet, and gives carrots their orange color and other orange and yellow root vegetables or fruits in general. It is present in many types of food, from sweet potatoes to cantaloupe, squash, and papayas. While the compound may be derived from a biochemical process involving the reaction of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate, the most common sources of natural beta-carotene are raw fruits and vegetables. The health effects of beta-carotene focus on the proper function of the immune and reproductive systems and as an antioxidant compound to prevent cell damage from free radical oxygen molecules in the body.

One of the main effects of beta-carotene is that it is among 50 of the 600 carotenoid compounds identified in nature as of 2011 that are known to promote the use of vitamin A in the human body. Natural beta carotene converts vitamin A into a compound known as retinol that the body can use in a number of ways. Retinol itself, which is a compound of alcohol, can be converted by the body into retinal or retinaldehyde, which is an important element that promotes healthy vision. This is one of the reasons why carrots, which are rich in natural beta-carotene, have received a reputation for improving and maintaining good eyesight.

Sources of beta-carotene can be from natural foods or beta-carotene supplements. Some evidence from 2004 has suggested that synthetically created beta-carotene supplements from palm oil or algae pose an increased risk of colorectal and lung cancer in people who smoke or consume alcohol. For this reason, it is suggested that in pill form natural beta-carotene supplements are a better choice, or organic beta-carotene supplements that are derived directly from fruits and vegetables.

The effects of beta-carotene can also be acquired from foods that are not orange or yellow in color. This is because naturally occurring beta-carotene is also present in some dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach and lettuce or green peppers and broccoli. Although the compound itself is quite widespread in the food chain, it is not an essential element of human health that must be ingested in certain minimum daily requirements, such as vitamins and minerals. The benefit of natural beta-carotene lies primarily in its ability to serve as a provitamin A compound for the antioxidant and other benefits this vitamin provides.

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