Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sweet Potatoes & Beta Carotene

Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta caroteneScientists studying the eating habits of different population groups have found that diets providing adequate levels of various nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium may be more important to maintaining optimal health than was previously believed. This has led to a number of ongoing studies using dietary supplements to explore the possible roles beta carotene and other nutrients may play in reducing disease risks. Much is expected to be learned as the results of these studies become available in the next few years.

Essential Roles in the Body

For many years, beta carotene was known mainly for its role as a source of vitamin A and as a food colorant. In fact, beta carotene is the most common plant source of vitamin A.

It is also responsible for most of the rich yellow, orange and red pigment found in various fruits and vegetables. This dual role of beta carotene is well illustrated by its long use as both a color and vitamin A source in margarine.

In recent years, however, it is becoming increasingly accepted that beta carotene is a valuable nutrient in its own right, wholly apart from its role as a vitamin A source. For example, it plays an important part in the body’s defenses against unstable chemical agents that can cause damage to the cells--damage which scientists speculate can lead to chronic diseases. Vitamins C and E have similar valuable functions in protecting the cells.

Add Beta Carotene to Your Diet

Readily available foods that are especially rich in beta carotene include:

  • Yellow/orange vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and winter squash.
  • Yellow/orange fruits: apricots, cantaloupes, papayas and peaches.

Dark green leafy vegetables: broccoli, Swiss chard, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, endive, chicory, escarole, watercress, and the greens from collard, beet, turnip, mustard and dandelion.

The Beta Carotene Gap

Analysis of the recommended diets shows that they would provide 5 to 6 mg of beta carotene per day. But there is a big difference between ideal diets and actual diets. In fact, on average, Americans are only getting about 1.5 mg of beta carotene a day based on the widely-accepted U. S. Department of Agriculture Food Intake Survey. And that is only about 25-30% of the beta carotene found in the recommended diets--a very substantial gap.

So, if your diet is coming up short on beta carotene, or other essential vitamins and minerals, even after your best efforts at dietary improvement, consider taking a dietary supplement to be sure you are getting adequate amounts. While not substitutes for good foods, supplements can be an important addition to your dietary plan for good health. They come in a variety of forms, so choose those which meet your needs. And, of course,
follow label directions.

Beta carotene molecule

 

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