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What is beta carotene and where can I find it?

posted Nov 4, 2016, 6:31 AM by   [ updated Nov 17, 2016, 11:39 AM ]
November is all about beta carotene, and we’re kicking things off by giving you the 4-1-1 on this orange delight. We’re also making it easier for you to get your beta carotene fix.  This November our chefs are serving up local squash, so check out our hot and cold bars for recipes such as ButternutSquash and Sage Quinoa, Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad, Turkey and Winter Squash Chili and Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai among many others.

What is beta carotene?

Beta carotene is a pigment that makes fruits and vegetables orange and yellow. When you eat your yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, that beta carotene is transformed into vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A is essential for eye health, a strong immune system and for healthy skin. Unlike vitamin A, which can be toxic if taken in big doses (such as a supplement), beta carotene only turns into vitamin A as needed by your body, so it’s considered to be a safe source of vitamin A. More than just a pigment, beta carotene is an antioxidant that protects the body and can help prevent or lower the risk for a number of chronic illnesses, including cancer, which we’ll talk more about next week.

Where do I find beta carotene?

Although beta carotene also lives in your green- and red-colored fruits and vegetables, orange-colored ones are where you will get the most bang for your buck. Sweet potatoes are at the top of the list, followed by carrots, pumpkins, spinach, collards, kale, turnip greens, beet greens, winter squash, and cabbage. Eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day will keep your beta carotene tank from running low. A serving for the vegetables above is about a half-cup cooked and 1 cup raw for the leafy greens, and about 1/3 cup for cooked root vegetables.

For more on beta carotene, click here.