Beta carotene and lycopene are 2 health boosting nutrients that form part of the carotenes family. Orange and red coloured vegetables are the best food sources of these natural nutrients. Provisional evidence suggests that they are potent antioxidants and may also have further protective properties in the human body. In this article I will be providing a full breakdown of these 2 carotenes, listing the best food sources and highlighting their key health benefits.
1) BETA CAROTENE:
Beta carotene is mainly found in orange coloured fruits and vegetables. Canned carrot juice (9.3 milligrams (mg) per 100 grams (g)), canned pumpkin (6.9mg per 100g) and sweet potato (11.5mg per 100g) are some of the best food sources of beta carotene.
In terms of health benefits, beta carotene is a provitamin A which means it is used by your body to create vitamin A. Since it is used to create vitamin A its health benefits are very similar. This carotene supports healthy vision and night vision, keeps your reproductive system healthy, keeps your immune system healthy, supports healthy growth and much more.
There are no official recommendations in place when it comes to beta carotene consumption. However, a number of sources suggest consuming between 15mg and 50mg each day to unlock the health benefits of this carotene.
Red fruits and vegetables are the richest food source of lycopene. Some of the richest food sources include guavas (5.2mg per 100g), sun dried tomatoes (42.9mg per 100g) and water melons (4.5mg per 100g).
Lycopene is a potent antioxidant that keeps your body's cells safe from dangerous free radicals. Free radicals are dangerous by-products that get released into your body's cells during oxygen related reactions. They have been associated with cancer (a disease where your cells start to grow in a rapid, out of control way), diabetes (a disease where your blood glucose levels reach dangerously high levels) and rapid ageing.
In addition to fighting free radicals, provisional evidence indicates that lycopene might also act as an antibacterial (a substance that inhibits the growth of bacteria), an antifungal (a substance that inhibits the growth of fungal infections), antimutagenic (a substance that inhibits genetic mutations) and antitoxic (a substance that fights harmful toxins). This carotene may also protect against arteriosclerosis (a condition where your arteries harden and lose elasticity), cancer, heart disease and diabetes. However, more evidence is needed before these benefits can be confirmed.
LIke beta carotene, there is no official recommended daily allowance (RDA) for lycopene. However, a number of sources suggest that consuming 6.5mg per day will give you more than enough lycopene.