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Top 10 Foods Highest in Beta Carotene

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
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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.

List of Foods High in Beta-Carotene

Sweet Potatoes

#1: Sweet Potatoes

Beta-carotene per Cup MashedBeta-carotene per 100g
123% RDA (13308μg)48% RDA (5219μg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Carrots

#2: Carrots

Beta-carotene per Cup CookedBeta-carotene per 100g
120% RDA (12998μg)77% RDA (8332μg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Carrots
A Bowl of Spinach

#3: Dark Leafy Greens (Spinach)

Beta-carotene per Cup CookedBeta-carotene per 100g
105% RDA (11318μg)58% RDA (6288μg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Spinach

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.
Half a Butternut Squash

#4: Butternut Squash

Beta-carotene per Cup CookedBeta-carotene per 100g
87% RDA (9369μg)42% RDA (4570μg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Butternut Squash
A cantaloupe with a cantaloupe wedge

#5: Cantaloupe

Beta-carotene per CupBeta-carotene per 100g
33% RDA (3575μg)19% RDA (2020μg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cantaloupe Melons
Lettuce

#6: Lettuce

Beta-carotene per CupBeta-carotene per 100g
23% RDA (2456μg)48% RDA (5226μg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Romaine Lettuce
Sweet Bell Peppers

#7: Red Bell Peppers

Beta-carotene per Cup CookedBeta-carotene per 100g
19% RDA (2059μg)14% RDA (1525μg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Red Bell Peppers
-3% DV in 1 cup of cooked green bell peppers.
See the complete nutrition comparison.
Half an apricot

#8: Apricots

Beta-carotene per CupBeta-carotene per 100g
16% RDA (1696μg)10% RDA (1094μg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Apricots

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.
Broccoli Stalk

#9: Broccoli

Beta-carotene per Cup CookedBeta-carotene per 100g
13% RDA (1449μg)9% RDA (929μg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Broccoli (Cooked)
Podded green peas

#10: Podded Peas

Beta-carotene per Cup CookedBeta-carotene per 100g
11% RDA (1216μg)7% RDA (760μg)
Source: Nutrition Facts for Cooked Podded Peas

See All 200 Foods High in Beta Carotene

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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