Carotenoids are thought to contribute to the beneficial effects of increased vegetable consumption. Various dietary factors have an effect on the bioavailability of carotenoids. The type of food matrix in which carotenoids are located is a major factor. The bioavailability of beta-carotene from vegetables in particular has been shown to be low (14% from mixed vegetables) compared with that of purified beta-carotene added to a simple matrix (e.g., salad dressing), whereas for lutein, the difference is much smaller (relative bioavailability of 67% from mixed vegetables). Processing, such as mechanical homogenization or heat treatment, has the potential to enhance the bioavailability of carotenoids from vegetables (from 18% to a sixfold increase). The amount of dietary fat required to ensure carotenoid absorption seems low (approximately 3-5 g per meal), although it depends on the physicochemical characteristics of the carotenoids ingested. Unabsorbable, fat-soluble compounds reduce carotenoid absorption, and interaction among carotenoids may also result in a reduced carotenoid bioavailability. Research into the functional benefits of carotenoids should consider the fact that the bioavailability of beta-carotene in particular is one order of magnitude higher when provided as a pure compound added to foods than when it is present naturally in foods.