Carotenoids are plant pigments, responsible for many of the red, orange, and yellow hues of plant leaves, fruits, and flowers, as well as the colors of some birds, insects, fish, and crustaceans. Carotenoids are fat-soluble, which means they are better absorbed in the presence of oil or fat. There are a number of different carotenoids in tomatoes including Beta-Carotene and Lycopene.

This is the common name for several hundred plant pigments which are powerful antioxidants.

Functions of Carotenoids - Sources of Carotenoids

Act as biological antioxidants

Carotenoids absorb the dangerous sun rays that produce free radicals. These free radicals are extremely harmful, not only to plants, but also to humans where they can cause the degenerative diseases of ageing such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Thus, the inclusion in the diet of plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables containing carotenoids can help to provide protection from the damaging effects of free radicals.

Provitamin A activity

Vitamin A, can be produced within the body from certain carotenoids, notably beta-carotene. Dietary beta-carotene is obtained from a number of fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, peaches, apricots, and sweet potatoes. Other provitamin A carotenoids include alpha-carotene (found in carrots, pumpkin, and red and yellow peppers) and cryptoxanthin (from oranges, tangerines, peaches, nectarines, and papayas).

Non-provitamin A dietary carotenoids include lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. There are indications that lycopene, found mainly in tomatoes, may help to lower the risk of prostate cancer, while alpha carotene, found in carrots, may provide protection from other forms of cancer. Lutein and zeaxanthin found in green vegetables such as peppers, spinach, collards green and kale, were found to prevent age-related macular degeneration of the eye (AMD) which can lead to loss of central vision in people over 50.

Carotenoids are also available in capsules as nutritional supplements, particularly in antioxidant formulas.

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