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Top 10 Foods Highest in Beta Carotene

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
Top 10 Foods Highest in Beta Carotene

Beta Carotene is a carotenoid compound responsible for giving fruits and vegetables their orange pigment. A powerful antioxidant, beta-carotene has been found to help protect against cancer and aging (however beta-carotene supplements can increase lung cancer risk for smokers).

Foods high in beta-carotene include sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, butternut squash, cantaloupe, lettuce, red bell peppers, apricots, broccoli, and peas. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for beta-carotene is 10800μg per day. This serves as a general target for how much beta-carotene to eat each day.

Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble vitamin, so eating the following foods with a fat like olive oil or nuts can help absorption.

Below is a list of the 10 best beta carotene foods, use the nutrient ranking of over 200 foods high in beta-carotene to sort by 100 gram serving sizes and find even more foods.
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List of Foods High in Beta-Carotene

1 Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
  • 123% RDA (13308μg) beta-carotene per cup mashed
  • 258 Calories
    Data Source
2 Carrots
Carrots
  • 120% RDA (12998μg) beta-carotene per cup cooked
  • 55 Calories
    Data Source
3 Dark Leafy Greens (Spinach)
A Bowl of Spinach
  • 105% RDA (11318μg) beta-carotene per cup cooked
  • 41 Calories
    Data Source

More Dark Leafy Greens High in Beta-Carotene

-98% RDA in 1 cup of cooked kale
-96% RDA in 1 cup of cooked mustard greens
-79% RDA in 1 cup of cooked collards
-61% RDA in 1 cup of cooked beet greens
-59% RDA in 1 cup of cooked swiss chard

See all vegetables high in beta-carotene.
4 Butternut Squash
Half a Butternut Squash
  • 87% RDA (9369μg) beta-carotene per cup cooked
  • 82 Calories
    Data Source
5 Cantaloupe
A cantaloupe with a cantaloupe wedge
  • 33% RDA (3575μg) beta-carotene per cup
  • 60 Calories
    Data Source
6 Lettuce
Lettuce
  • 23% RDA (2456μg) beta-carotene per cup
  • 8 Calories
    Data Source
7 Red Bell Peppers
Sweet Bell Peppers
  • 19% RDA (2059μg) beta-carotene per cup cooked
  • 38 Calories
    Data Source
-3% DV in 1 cup of cooked green bell peppers.
See the complete nutrition comparison.
8 Apricots
Half an apricot
  • 16% RDA (1696μg) beta-carotene per cup
  • 74 Calories
    Data Source

More Fruits High in Beta Carotene

-15% RDA in 1 cup of pink grapefruit
-10% RDA in 1 cup of mangoes
-6% RDA in 1 cup of guavas

See all fruits high in beta-carotene.
9 Broccoli
Broccoli Stalk
  • 13% RDA (1449μg) beta-carotene per cup cooked
  • 55 Calories
    Data Source
10 Podded Peas
Podded green peas
  • 11% RDA (1216μg) beta-carotene per cup cooked
  • 83 Calories
    Data Source

See All 200 Foods High in Beta Carotene

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Where does the RDA for Beta-Carotene come from?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the average daily requirement for a particular nutrient. With vitamin A the requirement is set in terms of retinol activity equivalents (RAE).

The RDA for an adult male is 900μg RAE. The RDA for an adult female is 700μg, though can go as high as 1,300μg during lactation. (2)

For beta-carotene from foods 1μg RAE = 12μg beta-carotene. So the RDA for beta-carotene is equal to the RDA for RAE times 12. We use the 900mcg RDA to set the RDA for beta-carotene, so it is 900μg x 12 = 10800μg.

Warnings

Avoid beta-carotene from supplements. While eating a lot of beta-carotene in foods is considered harmless, beta-carotene in the form of supplements can increase the risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. (2)

Beta-carotene supplements are especially risky for:
  • Pregnant and breast feeding women
  • Those who have had angioplasty
  • Those who have had asbestos exposure
  • Smokers

Again, these risks only come from the form of beta-carotene found in supplements, and in high doses. Beta-carotene from foods is considered safe and healthy. Only consume beta-carotene supplements under supervision from a medical professional. (3)

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View more food groups with the nutrient ranking tool, or see ratios with the nutrient ratio tool.

Data Sources and References

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.
  2. Office of Dietary Supplements on Vitamin A and Carotene
  3. Medline Plus on Beta-Carotene

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