β-Carotene (BC), β-cryptoxanthin (CX) and α-carotene (AC) are common carotenoids that form retinol. The amount of retinol (vitamin A) formed from carotenoid-rich foods should depend chiefly on the bioavailability (absorption and circulation time in the body) of carotenoids from their major food sources and the selectivity and reactivity of carotene cleavage enzymes towards them. The objective of the present study was to estimate the apparent bioavailability of the major sources of provitamin A (AC, BC and CX) from the diet by comparing the concentrations of these carotenoids in blood to their dietary intakes. Dietary intakes were estimated by FFQ (three studies in this laboratory, n 86; apparent bioavailability calculated for six other studies, n 5738) or by food record (two studies in our laboratory, n 59; apparent bioavailability calculated for two other studies, n 54). Carotenoid concentrations were measured by reversed-phase HPLC. Apparent bioavailability was calculated as the ratio of concentration in the blood to carotenoid intake. Then apparent bioavailabilities for AC and CX were compared to BC. Eating comparable amounts of AC-, CX- and BC-rich foods resulted in 53 % greater AC (99 % CI 23, 83) and 725 % greater CX (99 % CI 535, 915) concentrations in the blood. This suggests that the apparent bioavailability of CX from typical diets is greater than that of BC. Thus, CX-rich foods might be better sources of vitamin A than expected.