Beta-carotene, a type of fat-soluble carotenoid phytonutrient, is also known as "provitamin A" because the body converts it into vitamin A. Beta-carotene is the source of orange and yellow coloration in fruits and vegetables, and is also found in green and red fruits and vegetables and in some grains and oils.
Orange, Yellow and Red Foods
Orange foods, especially carrots, are most commonly associated with beta-carotene. In fact, the name "carotene" is derived from its discovery in carrot roots in the early 1800s, as the Mayo Clinic points out. Half a cup of boiled carrots provides 270 percent of the daily recommended amount of beta-carotene, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). Other orange vegetables and fruits rich in beta-carotene include sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins, orange bell peppers, apricots, cantaloupe and papaya.
Despite its close association with orange foods, beta-carotene is just as prevalent in yellow fruits and vegetables. Mangoes are a good source, with one cup providing 1/4 of the daily recommended intake, as cited by ODS. Other sources include corn, yellow squash and yellow bell peppers.
Six ounces of tomato juice contains 15 percent of the daily recommended amount of beta-carotene, according to ODS. Other red food sources of beta-carotene are tomatoes, red bell peppers, radishes and watermelon.
Many leafy green vegetables are a leading source of beta-carotene. Spinach and kale are excellent sources, as ODS points out that 1/2 cup provides 230 and 190 percent of the recommended daily amount, respectively. Other leafy green sources include lettuce, turnip greens, cabbage, mustard greens and beet greens.
Other green vegetables with beta-carotene are peas, green bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and asparagus. Additionally, avocado, kiwi and honeydew are green fruits that provides beta-carotene.
One of the richest known sources of beta-carotene, if not the most appetizing, is a group of cyanobacteria and blue-green algae called spirulina. The National Institutes of Health identifies it as containing more of the compound than carrots. "Science Daily" also reports the high beta-carotene content of the edible fungus Monascus purpureus, and that it is being researched for use as a treatment for vitamin A deficiency.
Whole grains and oils are other foods containing beta-carotene, according to the Mayo Clinic. Oats are one such source, with 1 cup of oatmeal providing 25 percent of the daily recommended intake, according to ODS. In addition, many beans--notably lima beans--contain beta-carotene.