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Carotenoids are the pigments that color many of the plants that we eat; they are the deep green in spinach and the rich oranges in carrots. Our bodies transform these carotenoids into Vitamin A that is important for the development and maintenance of bones, skin and the eyes. Carotenoids act as potent antioxidants to prevent damage caused by free radicals.

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What it is

Carotenoids are natural fat-soluble dark colored pigments found in plant foods and some bacteria. They cause the red, orange and yellow of many plants and even the color of some fish, birds and insects. You see this coloration in things like Carrots, oranges and tomatoes, and also in Salmon, Flamingoes and lobsters.

In our bodies these Carotenoids have several important functions.

Your body can easily transform some of the hundreds of Carotenoids into Vitamin A, important for bone growth, skin and vision. The most known of these Carotenoids being Beta Carotene, others include alpha carotene, cryptoxanthin. 

Carotenoids also act as antioxidants in your body that protect your cells and tissues from damage caused by free radicals that are believed to contribute to certain chronic diseases and play a role in the degenerative processes seen in aging.

There are over 600 known carotenoids; 
These Carotenoids are split into two classes:
* Carotenes are unoxygenated such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lycopene. 
* Xanthophylls molecules containing oxygen, such as lutein and zeaxanthin 

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What it does

Beta-carotene and other Carotenoids are antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals that are believed to contribute to certain chronic diseases and contribute to the degenerative processes seen in aging

A diet of foods rich in these carotenoids may:
• Lower prostate cancer risk
•  Lower lung cancer risk  (beta Carotene)
• Lower the risk of some other forms of cancer
• Protect against cataracts, lutein, may prevent age-related eye disease
• Protect from heart disease 
• Protect against other serious diseases
• Protect from sunburn
• Enhance immune system function

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Where you get it

Crude palm oil - natures highest source
Beta-carotene - carrots, spinach, peaches, apricots, and sweet potatoes
Alpha-carotene - carrots, pumpkin, and red and yellow peppers
Cryptoxanthin - oranges, tangerines, peaches, nectarines, and papayas
Lycopene - Tomatoes

Astaxanthin - found in salmon, shrimp, and other seafood
Lutein, zeaxanthin - Found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, egg yolk, darkly colored fruits,

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Things to watch out for

Orange coloring to your skin can occur from increased amounts of beta-carotene or other carotenes. Your skin color will return to normal once the intake of carotene is reduced.

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How much you need

There is no separate RDA for beta-carotene or other carotenoids.
Five or 6 serving a day of a broad range Carotenoids rich fruits and vegetables will give you 3 to 6 mg of beta carotene daily which will maintain plasma B-carotene blood levels in the range associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases.

Carotenoid absorption is enhanced by eating Avocado or Avocado Oil 

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Nuray Z. Unlu, Torsten Bohn, Steven K. Clinton* and Steven J. Schwartz3
Department of Food Science and Technology and * Internal Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus), retrieved 12/2008

The International Carotenoids Society, retrieved 12/2008

AstaFactor division of Mera Pharmaceuticals, Inc, Astaxanthin,, retrieved 12/2008.

Harvard Medical School,, retrieved 02/2009

USDA – National Agriculture Library,, retrieved 02/2009

US National Library of Medicine and the National Institute if Health, retrieved 02/2009

US Food and Drug Administration, US Department of health and human services, Fortify Your Knowledge About Vitamins,, retrieved 02/2009

Oregon state university, retrieved 02/2009

Office of Dietary Suppliments,, retrieved 02/2009
University of California, Berkley, The newsletter of nutrition, fitness and self care,, retrieved 02/2009

Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2001.

Prepared by the editors at Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Vitamins and Minerals: What you need to know,  Harvard School of Public Health. (2008)

Murray, Michael T.  Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements,  Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA, 1996.

Dunne, Lavon J. Nutrition Almanac, 3rd ed, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1990.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 2004.

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