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Carotene vs. Carotenoid — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Published on October 4, 2023
Carotene is a specific type of orange pigment, while carotenoids are a broad class of naturally occurring pigments, including carotene.
Carotene vs. Carotenoid — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Carotene and Carotenoid


Key Differences

Carotene is a distinct molecule that's commonly associated with the orange coloration in vegetables like carrots. On the other hand, carotenoids represent a vast group of pigments that can be found in many plants, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria.
When discussing sources, one would mention that carotene is notably present in carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. In contrast, carotenoids, being a broader category, are present in a variety of foods from tomatoes to spinach, each containing different types of carotenoids.
The significance of carotene in human health is primarily tied to its conversion to vitamin A in the body. Carotenoids, with their broader scope, encompass various molecules, some of which, like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, have unique health benefits.
In the realm of chemistry, carotene can be further divided into alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. Carotenoids, conversely, span over 600 known structures, encompassing both carotenes and xanthophylls.
Carotene's primary recognition in popular culture might stem from its association with carrots. Carotenoids, as a more comprehensive term, may be recognized in the broader context of plant pigments contributing to the vibrant colors of various fruits and vegetables.

Comparison Chart


A specific orange pigment
A class of naturally occurring pigments

Found in

Carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes
Various plants, algae, photosynthetic bacteria

Health Significance

Converted to vitamin A in the body
Diverse benefits; some convert to vitamin A, others are antioxidants

Chemical Variants

Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene
Over 600 types, including both carotenes and xanthophylls

Associated Color

Primarily orange
Range from yellow to red based on the type

Compare with Definitions


An orange pigment found in plants.
Carrots get their color from carotene.


A class of plant pigments responsible for various colors.
The colorful spectrum of many fruits and vegetables is due to carotenoids.


Responsible for the orange hue in certain foods.
The vibrant orange of pumpkins is due to carotene.


Naturally occurring pigments in plants and some microorganisms.
Carotenoid pigments are essential for photosynthesis in many species.


Part of the carotenoid family.
While carotene is a carotenoid, not all carotenoids are carotene.


Over 600 known types exist.
The diversity of carotenoids contributes to the array of colors in nature.


A precursor of vitamin A.
Consuming foods rich in carotene can help maintain good eyesight.


Often associated with potential health benefits.
Consuming a diet rich in carotenoids may offer antioxidant benefits.


Divided into alpha and beta forms.
Both types of carotene are beneficial for health.


Encompasses various molecules including carotenes and xanthophylls.
Carotene is a type of carotenoid, just like lutein.


The term carotene (also carotin, from the Latin carota, "carrot") is used for many related unsaturated hydrocarbon substances having the formula C40Hx, which are synthesized by plants but in general cannot be made by animals (with the exception of some aphids and spider mites which acquired the synthesizing genes from fungi). Carotenes are photosynthetic pigments important for photosynthesis.


Carotenoids (), also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic pigments that are produced by plants and algae, as well as several bacteria, and fungi. Carotenoids give the characteristic color to pumpkins, carrots, corn, tomatoes, canaries, flamingos, salmon, lobster, shrimp, and daffodils.


An orange or red plant pigment found in carrots and many other plant structures. It is a terpenoid hydrocarbon with several isomers, including beta-carotene.


Any of a class of yellow to red pigments, including the carotenes and the xanthophylls.


An orange-yellow to red crystalline pigment, C40H56, found in animal tissue and certain plants, such as carrots and squash. It exists in several isomeric forms and is converted to vitamin A in the liver.


Of or relating to such a pigment.


(organic chemistry) A class of tetraterpene plant pigments; they vary in colour from yellow, through orange to red, this colour originating in a chain of alternating single and double bonds.


(organic chemistry) Any of a class of yellow to red organic pigments including the carotenes and xanthophylls.


(organic chemistry) Specifically, a number of isomers of tetraterpene hydrocarbons, C40H56, (especially beta-carotene), present in carrots etc, which are converted into vitamin A in the liver.


(organic chemistry) Of or relating to such a class of pigments.


An orange isomer of an unsaturated hydrocarbon found in many plants; is converted into vitamin A in the liver


Any of a class of highly unsaturated yellow to red pigments occurring in plants and animals


Yellow or orange-red fat-soluble pigments in plants

Common Curiosities

What's the main health benefit of carotene?

Carotene can be converted to vitamin A in the body, essential for vision and immune function.

What is carotene?

Carotene is a specific orange pigment found in certain plants like carrots.

Is carotene a type of carotenoid?

Yes, carotene is a specific member of the broader carotenoid family.

Are carotenoids essential for human health?

While not strictly essential, carotenoids offer various health benefits, from antioxidant properties to supporting vision.

Are carotenoids only found in carrots?

No, carotenoids are found in many plants, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria.

How many types of carotenoids are there?

There are over 600 known types of carotenoids.

Can our body produce carotenoids?

No, humans must obtain carotenoids from their diet.

Are there supplements for carotenoids?

Yes, there are dietary supplements available that contain various carotenoids.

Is lutein a type of carotene?

No, lutein is a type of carotenoid, but it's not a carotene.

How are carotene and carotenoid related in terms of chemistry?

Carotene is a specific molecule, while carotenoid is a category that includes various molecules, including carotene.

Are there any risks associated with excessive carotene intake?

Excessive carotene intake can lead to a harmless condition called carotenemia, where the skin turns slightly orange, but it's generally considered safe.

Are all carotenoids orange?

No, carotenoids can range in color from yellow to red based on the specific type.

What's the most recognized source of carotene?

Carrots are the most popular and recognized source of carotene.

How do carotenoids affect plant health?

Carotenoids play roles in photosynthesis, protect plants from excessive light, and attract pollinators.

Why are carotenoids important in the diet?

Carotenoids, depending on the type, offer health benefits like antioxidant properties and can be converted to essential nutrients like vitamin A.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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