Characteristics and properties of carotenoids
What are carotenoids?
Carotenoids are a very important group of organic pigments with antioxidant functions.
Types of carotenoids
These can be divided in two groups:
What are carotenes?
They are those carotenoids with a reddish-orange color.
Classes and properties of carotenes
Within carotenes we would have the following:
- Beta carotene: Beta carotenes are precursors of vitamin A. It is a plant pigment that, once ingested, it is converted in the liver and small intestine in vitamin A. It is an antioxidant component that favors the non-appearance of cancer, especially lung, mouth and stomach cancers. It has also been shown to prevent the occurrence of heart disease.
Beta-carotenes, in addition to their benefits as precursors of vitamin A, have skin properties. A diet rich in beta-carotenes contributes to brighter and golden skin, because along with melanin, beta-carotenes are placed in the outer layers of the skin and protect it from free radicals. Carrots, pumpkins, purslane, spinach or papaya are foods rich in this type of carotene. (More information)
Carrots are very rich in betacarotene
Alpha-carotene: With more outstanding properties as an antioxidant than beta-carotene, appears in the same foods but in a lesser proportion. Alfacarotene is believed to have protective properties against cervical cancer. It is found in carrots, corn, mandarins, oranges, melons, and raspberries.
Lycopene: Lycopene, the component which gives tomatoes their red coloration. With similar properties to beta-carotene from carrots, it has anticancer properties. Lycopene appears to reduce some types of cancer, especially prostate, lung, stomach, bladder, lung, stomach and cervix cancers. It also has properties to reduce cholesterol in blood and to prevent the inflammations of the prostate. (More information)
- Cryptoxanthin: With more outstanding properties as an antioxidant than beta-carotene, appears in the same foods, though in less proportion. Like betacarotenes, it is a precursor of vitamin A. Cauliflower is the richest vegetable in this type of carotene.
What are Xanthophylls?
They are those carotenoids that have a yellow and brown color.
Classes and properties of xanthophylls
Among the most important xanthophylls we would have the following:
Lutein: fat-soluble yellowish pigment that appears on algae, bacteria and higher plants. Its role would be to protect the plant from solar radiation. This same property is effective to protect the human retina of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation making it a very suitable component for people with vision problems, glaucoma or cataracts.
More information about these components in the following chart: