"Carotenoids are a widely distributed group of naturally occurring pigments, usually red, orange or yellow in color. They are used extensively as safe, natural colorants for food, feed, and cosmetics. They are known to be essential for plant growth and photosynthesis, and are a main dietary source of vitamin A in humans. They are thought to be associated with reduced risk of several chronic health disorders including some forms of cancer, heart disease and eye degeneration". Carotenoid Society.
Dietary carotenoids are thought to provide health benefits by decreasing the risk of disease, particularly certain cancers, stroke, heart disease, and eye disease. Carotenoids are also thought to enhance the immune system. The carotenoids that have been most studied in this regard are beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin and astaxanthin. In part, the beneficial effects of carotenoids are thought to be due to their role as antioxidants. Beta-Carotene may have added benefits due its ability to convert into vitamin A.
Beta-carotene and alpha-carotene are responsible for the orange color of carrots, and lycopene for the red color of tomatoes. Many diverse carotenoids besides beta-carotene play vital roles in maintaining good health, especially in protecting against free radical damage.
Carotenoids are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, although the primary sources of lycopene are tomato and tomato products, along with watermelon. Carotenoids from vegetable juices are able to enhance the immune system in those who normally have a low intake of carotenoids.
Supplements are another choice, however it is much better to get your carotenoids from the fruits and vegetables you eat. Carotenoid supplements are potentially helpful for those who do not eat adequate amounts of produce, or are trying to limit their intake of fructose from fruits.