First and foremost beta carotenes are one of the many brightly compounds called carotenoids that make foods red, yellow, and orange. Also, those red or orange coloured hydrocarbons found in carrots and other vegetables change into vitamin A in the body, which helps regulate the growth of cells and control immune system reactions.

The cells that are affected most by vitamin A live in your digestive tract, in organs such as the stomach.

Not coincidentally, eating foods chock-full of vitamin A, alpha carotene, and beta carotene seem to slash stomach cancer in half.

Beta carotene may also protect against other cancers including oesophagal, liver, pancreatic, colon, rectal, prostate, ovarian, and cervical cancers due to their potency as an antioxidant.

People with low levels of antioxidants in their diets or their bloodstream are more likely to develop certain cancers. By comparison, people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables cut their risk of getting cancer in half.

The best sources of beta carotene are pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot, tomato, red bell peppers,
asparagus, bok choi, apricot, mango, orange, cantaloupe, papaya, and watermelon. The less obvious are spinach, kale, and collards and believe it or not, frozen mixed vegetables and fruit.

In addition to cutting cancer risk there is so much more. You could defeat heart disease, high cholesterol, heart attack, and stroke by loading up your plate with colourful foods.

One of beta carotene’s biggest effects for heart health is its effect on your cholesterol. As an antioxidant, it puts out free radicals like pouring water on a fire.

Understand that free radicals harm the body through oxidative damage brought on by the body’s inability to detoxify adequately. Fortunately, antioxidants like beta carotene keep cholesterol from oxidising, which is the process that causes the walls of the arteries to thicken, leading to atherosclerosis.

Because deficiencies in vitamins A, C, E, and beta carotene have been linked to heart disease, if you build more into your diet, prevention has no price.

Various studies have proven that antioxidants from supplements do not really protect your heart in the way that antioxidants from food do. And the evidence out there shows that foods rich in carotenoids, including beta carotene, could reduce your risk of a heart attack.

Other research indicates that two carotenoids – particularly beta carotene and lycopene which are found in tomatoes – could put a lid on stroke risk.

To really combat these diseases though, you’ll need to maximize the beta carotene in every meal. To do this, just add a bit of fat. If you saute your vegetables use a bit of coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. For salads, use some coconut or olive oil and some balsamic vinegar as your dressing, with a bit of fresh squeezed lemon. To take a walk on the wild side use some hummus as your dressing. Also, lightly cooking, chopping, and grating carrots and other vegetables which contain beta carotenes help to make for easier release and absorption of the beta carotenes.

You could eat the healthiest salad piled high with carrots, leafy greens, and other high-carotenoid foods, but if you pour on a fat-free dressing or none at all, you will not absorb any disease-fighting carotenoids. Yes, the low-fat dressings have an adequate amount of fat to help you absorb some carotenoids, but to get the most beta carotene out of that salad you need to eat, you really need to increase the fat.

Just add a little bit of fat to the orange, yellow, and leafy greens you usually eat every day, and you will get all the beta carotene you need without really changing your diet. But, be smart about what fat you use. Coconut oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, avocado and hummus are the best.

Further, foods rich in beta carotene also protect the brain.

As vitamin A, it normalises the way your body processes beta-amyloid protein. If this process breaks down it leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
As an antioxidant, beta carotene seems to increase brain function and brain cell survival as well as to improve the communication between the brain cells.

It is important to note that your cartenoid levels are directly linked to how many fruits and vegetables you eat.

Then there is vision. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people over the age of 55 who ate foods rich in beta carotene along with vitamins C and E cut their chances of macular degeneration by 35%.

One of the best sources of beta carotene is sweet potato, as they pack more beta carotene ounce for ounce than any other unfortified food – even more than carrots and pumpkins. It is one of the most powerful foods you can
ever find.

One medium sweet potato delivers 438 % of your daily vitamin A, in the form of beta carotene. In addition, this sweet potato will give you 4 grams of fibre which is more than a third of your vitamin C.
So, the bottom line is that it’s never too late to eat better or increase your intake of beta carotene and antioxidants. It’s always better to do it naturally than with synthetic supplements.