The Importance of Beta Carotene in Your Diet
Well… we made it through the holidays, my friends! That alone is something to celebrate. And with all of the holiday madness, our series on good food/supplements for your skin and overall health got temporarily paused. But the good news is we are back! And this time, we want to talk about the importance of incorporating beta carotene into your diet.
What is beta carotene?
Even if you don’t know exactly what beta carotene is, you might think it sounds familiar. Maybe sounds a lot like the word “carrot?” If that is where your mind is going, you are on the right track. Beta carotene is the natural pigment that causes the red/orange coloring in carrots and other colorful vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes and apricots. While beta carotene itself is not essential for the body to function, Vitamin A, which is derived from beta carotene, is.
Why is beta carotene important?
Like I mentioned above, the body naturally turns beta carotene into Vitamin A. Beta carotene is also an anti-oxidant. If you don’t know what an anti-oxidant is, then you must not have read our last blog post on it! 🙂
Just kidding but we did just write a long blog post on anti-oxidants and it is pretty thorough. Check it out.
A recap: Anti-oxidants are awesome little things that combat free radicals. And free radicals are bad little suckers that can, when left unchecked, lead to nasty things like cancer, heart disease, strokes and…. wrinkles! And tons of other bad things too. So basically, when you are consuming foods rich in beta carotene, you are consuming foods rich in anti-oxidants and helping snuff out the free radicals. So aside from all of the other health benefits of consuming antioxidants, for this skin blog’s purpose, we will tell you when you eat foods rich in beta carotene, you are helping your skin fight off fine lines and wrinkles. Which is a BIG WIN.
Skin aside, beta carotene has been shown to slow down cognitive decline and to maintain healthy lung function as we age.
Where can you find beta carotene?
In general, you can assume that the more intense the color of the vegetable, the higher it is in beta carotene. But here are some vegetables that are rich in beta carotene.
– Sweet Potatoes
– Winter Squash
It is important to note that while beta carotene is good for you in normal doses, say through normal consumption of foods rich in beta carotene, most medical doctors (which we are not!), advise that you consult your doctor before taking additional supplements in pill form because there is such a thing as too much beta carotene.
Strangely, if you are a smoker with a high beta carotene intake, you are twice as likely to develop lung cancer than a smoker with a low beta carotene intake. Conversely, if you are a non-smoker with a high beta carotene intake, you are 50% LESS likely to develop lung cancer than a fellow non-smoker with a low beta carotene intake.
Additionally, it is believed that high beta carotene consumption can interact with some prescription drugs such as statins, some cholesterol-lowering drugs, Orlistat (a weight reducing drug) and mineral oil. Also long term levels of heavy drinking combined with high beta carotene consumption can lead to an increased probability of liver damage.
Although we are NOT medical doctors, everything we have read and learned lead us to believe that eating a diet rich in beta carotene is a very very good idea. If you feel like over-doing it and adding some supplements, talk to a doctor so they can advise you.
And as always, reach out to us with any comments or questions about this or really anything at all!