Besides the health benefits associated with whole-grain consumption, cereals are recognized sources of health-enhancing bioactive components such as carotenoids, which are a group of yellow pigments involved in the prevention of many degenerative diseases and which have been used for a long time as indicators of the color quality of durum wheat and pasta products. This work reports a fast, sensitive, and selective procedure for the extraction and determination of carotenoids from cereals and cereal byproducts. The method involves sample saponification and extraction followed by normal-phase high-performance liquid chromatography, allowing the separation of the main carotenoids pigments of cereals, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. An application of the established method to various species of cereals and cereal byproducts is also shown. The highest carotenoid levels were found in maize (similar to11.14 mg/kg of dry weight), which contains high amounts of beta-cryptoxanthin (2.40 mg/kg of dry weight), and, among the cereals considered, has the highest content of zeaxanthin (6.43 mg/kg of dry weight) and alpha+beta-carotene (1.44 mg/kg of dry weight). With the exception of maize, lutein is the main compound found (from 0.23 to 2.65 mg/kg of dry weight in oat and durum wheat, respectively). Moreover, whereas alpha+beta-carotene and zeaxanthin are principally localized in the germ, lutein is equally distributed along the kernel.
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