Beta-carotene has two important functions in the body: It functions as an antioxidant, protecting cells against damage, and it can be converted to Vitamin A (retinol), critical to maintaining skin and eye health.
Without beta-carotene, our bodies are unable to manufacture Vitamin A. And without sufficient Vitamin A, nearly all of our systems are at risk, including lungs, kidneys and immune function. Research shows that people who consume the necessary levels of beta-carotene are able to lower their risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, macular degeneration, and other age-related diseases.
You can get beta-carotene from a variety of foods:
- Chinese cabbage
- Yam/Sweet Potato
The National Institutes of Health recommends a daily intake of 3,000 IU for adult men and 2,310 IU for adult women. For children, amounts vary according to age. While beta-carotene deficiency is rare in most industrialized countries, it can be difficult getting the recommended levels simply from food. That’s where supplements come in. In consult with your healthcare practitioner, design a plan that meets your individual needs. You may want to consider a supplement with a mixture of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin.
It’s possible to take too much beta-carotene. This is usually indicated by a yellowing of the skin, palms or soles and is known as carotenemia. Once consumption of beta carotene is reduced, this yellowing fades over time. As always, your best outcomes are achieved when working closely with your healthcare practitioner.