While the more popular antioxidant beta-carotene gets all the hoopla, alpha-carotene deserves some praise for its health benefits as well. That’s because a new study has found that alpha-carotene can lower your risk of premature death.
Beta-Carotene vs. Alpha-Carotene
Both nutrients are in the carotenoids “family,” which gets its name from carrots due to the orange coloring it helps produce in the vegetable. Once you have consumed these antioxidants, both of them are converted into vitamin A by the body. However, experts believe the process happens more efficiently with beta-carotene than with alpha-carotene.
With that said, in the wake of this new study, experts believe that alpha-carotene may play a more important role in defending the DNA in your cells from attack.
A group of researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that over a 14-year period of following participants in the study, most of them had fewer life-shortening health problems as their blood concentrations of alpha-carotene rose. In fact, risk fell from 39 to 23 percent as a person’s alpha-carotene levels climbed.
The researchers pointed out that this even held true regardless of lifestyle habits, demographics or overall health risks.
“This study does continue to prove the point there’s a lot of things in food – mainly in fruits and vegetables that are orange or kind of red in color – that are good for us,” said registered dietitian Lona Sandon, American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Besides carrots, alpha-carotene can be found in winter squash, tomatoes, green beans, cilantro and Swiss chard. To maximize the availability of the carotenoids, the foods are best eaten raw or lightly steamed.