We determined serial changes in four major plasma carotenoid fractions (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, and lycopene) in 30 men consuming defined daily doses of carotenoids from foods (broccoli, carrots, or tomato juice) or from purified beta-carotene in capsules (12 or 30 mg) for 6 wk while fed a controlled diet. Compared with baseline, beta-carotene increased in the 30- and 12-mg-capsule and carrot groups whereas alpha-carotene increased in the carrot group and lutein increased in the broccoli group. Lower lutein concentrations in recipients of beta-carotene capsules suggested an interaction between these two carotenoids. Lycopene declined in all groups except the tomato-juice group. Total carotenoid concentration changes only reflected the large increases in beta-carotene concentrations and not the smaller changes observed in other individual carotenoids. Overall, purified beta-carotene produced a greater plasma response than did similar quantities of carotenoids from foods sources. However, some foods increased plasma concentrations of certain carotenoids.