Carotenoids – An Overview

Carotenoid is a huge family of pigments (colors) ranging from yellow to red in the plant kingdom, and they are predominantly found in fruits and vegetables. To date, there are more than 700 identified color pigments that can be classified into two classes – Carotenes and Xanthophylls [1,2]. The table below shows the properties for these two major groups of carotenoids.


Hydrocarbon Carotenes



Consists carbon and hydrogen atoms only

Consists carbon and hydrogen as well as oxygen atoms.

Consists one or more oxygen atoms

More polar than Carotenes.

Compound Color

Yellow, Orange and Red

Mostly Yellow and Green

Dietary Carotenoid Examples

Alpha-carotene, Beta-carotene, Lycopene,

Gamma-Carotene, Phytofluene, Phytoene

Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Beta-cryptoxanthin

Food Sources

Carrots, red palm oil, pumpkin, cantaloupe, tomato, watermelon, papaya, peach, oranges

Yellow maize, mango, yellow sweet potato, zucchini, egg yolk, spinach, broccoli


  1. Britton, G., Liaaen-Jensen, S. and Pfander, H. (1995) Carotenoids, Vol. 1A: Isolation and Analysis. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser.
  2. Britton, G., Liaaen-Jensen, S. and Pfander, H. (2004) Carotenoids Handbook. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser.

Related article : Carotenoids: Everything you need to know