There are three ways to get beta carotene into the body and, depending on diet and lifestyle, any single one could be the best for a person. The first source is from products that come from animals, such as milk and liver. The second source is from plant-based foods such as kale and carrots. The final source is from vitamin supplements. The best source of beta carotene overall is from animal products, because they are better absorbed by the body, although some people might not be able to consume those products.
There are really two types of vitamin A that can be created in the body. The first is called preformed vitamin A, and it comes from the beta carotene found in foods derived from animals. This is the most easily converted by the body. The second type, provitamin A carotenoid, comes from plants. Eaten in proper amounts, both will provide the recommended amounts of vitamin A.
The best meat sources of beta carotene are, by far, beef and chicken livers. They provide the most vitamin A of any animal product. The other sources of beta carotene include fortified milk and eggs. While some animal products are very high in beta carotene, there is not much variety in the animal products that offer it.
Plant-based sources of beta carotene are far better known. They often can be identified by their color, because beta carotene causes orange coloration in fruits and vegetables. Specifically, orange vegetables and fruits are rich in beta carotene, as are dark, leafy greens.
Among all of the plant-based sources of beta carotene, carrot juice has the highest amount. Spinach and kale also are very high in the nutrient. Some fruits that have a significant amount of beta carotene include cantaloupe, apricots, papaya and mango.
Vitamin supplements can help to assist the other sources of beta carotene by providing vitamin A to the body. Supplements can help a diet that already has some beta carotene in it, but they should not be used as the only source of the vitamin. The body might not be able to properly process all of the nutrients in the vitamin without the additional elements that can be found in foods that contain it naturally.
Choosing the best sources of beta carotene is a matter of personal preference and diet. Some people do not eat meat or cannot eat dairy, while others have allergies to some fruits and vegetables. Supplements can help a restricted diet but, over the long term, cannot completely substitute for naturally occurring beta carotene.