Foods with natural carotenoids

Foods with natural carotenoids

Note that these are not listed on food labels, so while we may see vitamin A listed in a product and it may contain carotenoids, the food may not be exclusively carotenoid-based and the amount contained in the product is not known.

Foods rich in carotenoids

Red, yellow, orange and dark green are the colors that most indicate a high content of carotenoids. Starchy vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, and other root vegetables tend to top the list when considering starchy foods, as they are some of the strongest sources of beta-carotene. However, there are other carotenoid-packed foods worth considering.


Few foods provide as many carotenoids as sweet potatoes. A medium-sized baked sweet potato, with skin, provides more than 400 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A for an adult.

Sweet potatoes also provide nutritious alternatives to high-fat, low-nutrient foods such as bacon fries and cheese “stuffed” baked potatoes.


Carotenoids help color orange vegetables, including carrots. Carrots are the main sources of beta carotene.

A 1/2-cup serving of raw carrots provides 184 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A for adults. In a canned carrot juice we find 451 percent. Cooked carrots, fresh carrot juice, and carrot soup are additional valuable sources.

green leafy vegetables

Carotenoids also promote the vibrant color of green vegetables. For this reason, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, turnip greens and mustard greens are valuable sources of carotenoids.

One cup of fresh spinach provides 56 percent of the adult recommended daily amount of vitamin A. To get even more carotenoids from vegetables, we’ll incorporate frozen or cooked varieties into dishes. Since freezing and cooking condenses vegetables, vegetables prepared this way provide more nutrients per serving. A 1/2-cup serving of frozen spinach provides more than 200 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A for adults.


This fruit is an excellent fall season hydrator, with one serving providing about 87 percent water. It is good for boosting immunity and improving digestion.

Like other orange vegetables and fruits, pumpkin is high in beta-carotene with a cup of pumpkin boiled. It contains 9,369 mcg, or 87 percent of the daily recommendation.

cantaloupe melon

Some studies have shown that the carotene content in cantaloupe melon is almost 30 times higher than the content of fresh oranges.

While this nutrient-rich cantaloupe still doesn’t put it in the beta-carotene range of fresh carrots (about 8,300 micrograms), it’s still an aspect of this delicious fruit that’s too often overlooked. In addition, it should not be purchased with the white-fleshed melon, since this will have a lower percentage.

peppers with carotenoids

Red peppers

Red bell peppers are another good source of carotenoids. One cup of boiled red pepper flakes provides us with 2,058 mcg, or 19 percent of the daily requirement. Bell peppers are also rich in folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin B6, which help the body fight free radicals and prevent oxidative stress that can cause cell damage.

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In fact, red peppers contain 11 times more beta-carotene, 8 times more vitamin A, A and 1.5 times more vitamin C than green peppers. Red bell peppers also contain quercetin, an essential antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects that can help prevent heart disease, control blood glucose levels, and kill cancer cells.


Apricots have the highest levels and the widest variety of carotenoids (beta carotene, beta cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, alpha carotene). Not only do these give this fruit its distinctive orange color, but they also act as antioxidants, the levels of which increase as the fruit ripens.

Dried apricots are excellent sources of several important nutrients, including fiber, potassium, and antioxidant carotenoids. Although the drying process degrades a fruit’s content of water-soluble and heat-sensitive vitamins, such as vitamin C, other nutrients become more concentrated. Consequently, dried apricots provide higher levels of most nutrients than their fresh versions.


Carotenoids also add color to the blush of plant foods, including tomatoes. Tomato products, including juices and sauces, are the main sources of lycopene.

Tomatoes and tomato products also provide beta-carotene. One cup of canned tomato juice provides 22 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A for adults. To add carotenoids and reduce fat and calories in pasta dishes, swap creamy sauces for marinara sauce or add diced fresh or canned tomatoes.

foods rich in carotenoids


Mangoes are rich in carotene, a pigment responsible for the orange-yellow color of the fruit. Beta carotene is an antioxidant, just one of many found in mangoes. The antioxidants in mango have been shown to fight free radicals, which can damage cells and lead to cancer.

The beta-carotene content of mangoes ranges from 33% to 103% of the recommended daily value for provitamin A, making mangoes an excellent source of vitamin A. Most fruits that contain beta-carotene contain 1 to 3 micrograms per gram of the carotenoid (exceptions include cantaloupe, which contains 20 mcg/g, followed by pumpkin).


Oranges and 100% orange juice are one of the main contributors of a provitamin A carotenoid, called beta-cryptoxanthin. A large amount of provitamin A carotenoids can be found in sweet potatoes, squash, and cantaloupe, making these foods reddish-orange in color.

Orange juice is an important source of carotenoids, which, together with its nutritional importance worldwide, has stimulated the development of various analytical methodologies for the analysis of these isoprenoid compounds.


Watermelon contains lycopene, a red carotenoid pigment that has strong antioxidant properties. The lycopene content of watermelon is substantial, providing 8 to 20 mg per 180-gram serving. There is no evidence on carotenoid changes in whole watermelon during storage.

Watermelon is one of the few foods rich in lycopene, a non-provitamin A carotenoid that has up to twice the antioxidant capacity of β-carotene in vitro. Data from epidemiological studies suggest that lycopene may have protective effects against certain types of cancers and cardiovascular diseases.