What Is So Important About Carotenes ?

carrots and carrot juice as a source of carotenes.
Carrots are fantastic sources of carotenes. Photo by couleur, c/o Pixabay.
  • Carotenes are the red to orange pigments found in fruits and plants

Carotenes are pigments which you find in a lot of plants. The word itself comes from the latin for carrot as in carota. It was first isolated as beta-carotene by a German chemist H. Wachenroder who extracted it from carrots in 1831 and named it accordingly.

Sources Of Carotene

Generally, yellow and green leafy vegetables are superb sources of beta carotenes. Some of the best include spinach, carrots (of course), coloured peppers especially yellow and red ones, kale but really any cabbage and broccoli, pumpkin, squashes and salad leaves. There are some black carrots which are so called because of the their deep purple colour which also contain anthocyanins.

Typical fruits include melon, mango, apricots, plums and tomatoes.  

Antioxidant Properties

Antioxidants are great ingredients in food for mopping up free radicals, especially ones generated by oxygen. Carotene along with other antioxidants helps protect cells from free radical damage. We know generally that plenty of fruit and vegetables containing both beta-carotenes and anthocyanins are especially useful in this regard of protection. 

It is recommended that consuming a minimum of four servings of beta carotene rich fruits with vegetables will help lower the risks of heart disease and cancer.

Beta-carotene is the precursor for vitamin A.

Drug Interactions With Carotenes 

Some ingredients can interfere with the performance of some medicines. They can either make them less effective or increase their power and potency. There are a few examples where carotenes can affect the performance of key drugs.

Orlistat (Alli, Xenical) is weight management medication found in many consumer healthcare products. Using Orlistat could reduce absorption of beta-carotene by the body by up to 30 per cent which means that vitamin A production is significantly lower than it ought to be. It is recommended by numerous nutritionists that multivitamin tablets should be consumed at least two hours before taking this type of weight medication.

Statins – Some multifunctional vitamin preparations which contain beta-carotene along with vitamins C and E, and the mineral selenium may reduce the potency of drugs such as simvastin which is a statin. There is some indication that it can also negatively affect the uptake and effectiveness of niacin although this is not entirely proven.

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