Beta-carotene is the deep green, yellow, orange and red pigment that gives vegetables and fruits their rich colours. The name beta-carotene comes from the Greek beta and Latin carota (carrot). Beta-carotene, also known as a pro-vitamin A, is an essential component as the human body converts
it into vitamin A which is essential for the health of the eyes. It is also a powerful antioxidant that has been established in inhibiting the growth of many pre-cancerous tumours. It also helps to increase the number of infection-fighting cells, natural killer cells and helper T-cells which helps strengthen the immune system.
A common carcinogen found in cigarettes called benzopyrene can cause vitamin A deficiency. Consuming foods rich in carotenoids helps the body to produce vitamin A. Supplements should be avoided though as they have been known to worsen lung disorders in smokers.
NOTE: Eat foods rich in the
vitamin A precursor beta-carotene with fatty foods like avocado, nuts, oily fish, seeds and virgin cold-pressed coconut, olive, rapeseed, rice bran and other plant oils to enable absorption because carotenoids are fat-soluble, meaning they are absorbed into the body along with fats.