BACKGROUND: Raman spectroscopy, in its confocal micro-Raman variation, has been recently proposed as a spatially resolved method to identify carotenoids in various food matrices, being faster, non-destructive, and avoiding sample extraction, but no data are present in the literature concerning its application to the evaluation of carotenoid pattern changes after thermal treatment of carrots. RESULTS: The effect of three cooking methods (i.e. boiling, steaming and microwaving) was evaluated on frozen carrot, comparing changes on carotenoid profiles measured by means of Raman spectroscopy with their high-performance liquid chromatographic determination and colour. A more pronounced detrimental effect on carotenoids was detected in steamed carrots, in accordance with colour data. Conversely, boiling and, to a lesser extent, microwaving caused an increase in carotenoid concentration. Cooking procedures affected the Raman spectral features of carotenoids, causing a shift of vibration frequencies towards a higher energy, increase in the spectral baseline and peak intensities as well as a broadening of their width, probably in relation to the thermal degradation of longer carotenoids (i.e. the all-trans form) and the isomerization process. In particular, steamed samples showed a significantly higher increase of centre frequency, in accordance with amore pronounced isomerization and changes in colour parameters. CONCLUSION: This work showed that the evolution of Raman spectral parameters could provide information on carotenoid bioaccessibility for carrots cooked using various methods. This paves the way for a future use of this technique to monitor and optimize cooking processes aimed at maximizing carotenoid bioaccessibility and bioavailability.
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