Beta Carotene is used in baked goods as colorant and for nutrition.

Beta Carotene

What is Beta Carotene?

Beta carotene is a pro-vitamin A carotenoid naturally found in colorful vegetables and fruits. It is used in cereals, chips, dry cheese blends, crackers, frostings, bakery products, beverages, candies and fillings as a:

  • Natural orange/yellow colorant
  • Nutritional fortifier
  • Antioxidant and stabilizer

Commercially, it’s available in two main forms:

  • Water-soluble
  • Oil-soluble


The name ‘carotene’ was first introduced in the early 19th century by Wachenroder, who isolated the compound from carrot roots. Other rich sources of beta carotene include spinach, mangos, pumpkins, butternut squash, cantaloupe and many others:1

Vegetable / Fruit µg beta carotene/ 100g % RDA*
Carrots 8332 77
Spinach 6288 58
Sweet potatoes 5219 48
Butternut squash 4570 42
Cantaloupe 2020 19
Apricot 1094 10

Synthetic beta-carotene crystals can be produced through chemical and microbial biosynthetic processes.2

Composition and Nutrition

Natural beta carotene is composed of cis- and trans-isomers with the trans- being more stable.

Many health benefits have been associated with the consumption of this ingredient, including its role in growth and prevention of eye and skin disorders. Its antioxidative properties may also help with reducing the risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.


  1. Nutritional fortification
  2. Color and vibrance
  3. Antioxidantion

A major limitation with this ingredient is its thermal instability. Stabilized versions in the form of emulsions or microcapsules are currently available from various suppliers.


Wheat and cereal products do not contain significant amounts of beta carotene. Fortification of bakery products can be done either by incorporating powders or chunks of papaya, carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and/or apricots. Or, by adding purified form of this ingredient.

Cakes made with 15% carrot, pumpkin and papaya powder showed significant increase in their stability towards oxidative processes. Cake volume was not affected by the addition of up to 10% papaya and pumpkin powders but dropped thereafter. Similarly, no impact on odor, texture and overall cake acceptability for up to 10% carrot, pumpkin and papaya powder. Rate of staling was lowest with carrot powder cakes (10 and 15% levels) with non-fortified control being most stale.3

Whole wheat bread and crackers fortified with all-trans beta-carotene stabilized the cakes significantly during the pre-baking steps and typical market shelf life. However, baking reduced the levels by 4-15% in bread and 18-23% in crackers. It also caused a shift from the trans-isomer to the less-effective cis isomer (18% in bread and 34% in crackers). A serving of the beta-carotene containing bread and crackers provided over 500 IU of vitamin A activity and thus can be labeled as a ‘good source’ of vitamin A.4

FDA Regulations

Beta-carotene is considered as GRAS by the FDA. Further guidelines on using beta-carotene in foods are listed in 21CFR184.1245.5


  1. USDA Nutrition Data. Top 10 foods highest in beta carotene, Nov .2019. Accessed on December 25, 2019.
  2. Bogacz-Radomska, L. and Harasym, J. β-Carotene—properties and production methods, Food Quality and Safety. 2 (2018): 69-74.
  3. Zaki, N.I., Sheir, M.A and Sakr, A.M. The efficiency of some natural beta-carotene sources in improving the quality of cakes. M. E. J. Applied Sci. (2018) 8(4): 1437-1450
  4. Ranhotra, G. S., Gelroth, J.A., Langemeier, J., and Rogers, D. E. Stability and Contribution of Beta Carotene Added to Whole Wheat Bread and Crackers. Cereal Chemistry. (1995) 72:139-141.
  5. CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21CFR184.1245. Accessdata. Fda. gov. April 01. 2019. Accessed by Dec 16. 2019.

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