Vitamin A and the Carotenoids

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vitamin a carotenoids

Vitamin A and the Carotenoids

A class of phytochemicals, carotenoids are fat-soluble pigments found in yellow, red, green, and orange vegetables and fruits.

They’re a potent family of antioxidants and include alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Of the more than 500 carotenoids found in nature, about 50 can be converted into vitamin A in your body.

Carotenoids quench singlet oxygen, which isn’t a free radical, but is nevertheless highly reactive and can damage body molecules.

Carotenoids also act as anticancer agents, decrease the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, and prevent heart disease.

Studies have shown carotenoids found in tomato juice (lycopene), carrots (alpha- and beta-carotene), and spinach (lutein) may help protect against cancer by reducing damage to DNA.

Together, the antioxidants alpha-lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, and vitamin E help conserve carotenoids in tissues.

Another carotenoid, astaxanthin, when taken as a supplement, is well-absorbed and tends to reduce damage to fat particles floating in your blood.

This means astaxanthin may be a beneficial supplement to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A as needed.

Any leftover beta-carotene then acts as an antioxidant, breaking free radical chain reactions and preventing the oxidation of cholesterol.

It reduces the oxidation of DNA and disables molecules generated by exposure to sunlight and air pollution, preventing damage to eyes, lungs, and skin.

A recent study found taking very high doses of supplemental beta-carotene alone (50,000 IU or more daily) may interfere with the normal control of cell division.

It’s best to take a carotenoid complex containing a variety of carotenoids.

Natural sources of vitamin A include liver, whole milk, whole eggs, cheddar cheese, and beta-carotene foods.

Natural sources of the carotenoids in general include sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, corn, sweet peppers, spirulina, and kale.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant and also recharges other antioxidants, like vitamin E, to keep them potent.

Its water solubility makes it an efficient free radical scavenger in body fluids.

Studies have shown vitamin C is the first line of antioxidant defense in plasma against many different kinds of free radicals.

The cells of your brain and spinal cord, which are frequently damaged by free radicals, can be protected by significant amounts of vitamin C.

This vitamin also guards against atherosclerosis by preventing damage to artery walls.

Natural sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, papaya, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and strawberries.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant preventing the oxidation of lipids (fats).

Fat oxidation has been implicated in the process leading to atherosclerosis.

Vitamin E is fat soluble and, because cell membranes are made of lipids, it effectively prevents the cells’ protective coatings from becoming rancid due to the assault of free radicals.

Vitamin E also improves oxygen use, enhances immune response, plays a role in the prevention of cataracts caused by free radical damage, and may reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.

The natural form of vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) is superior to the synthetic version (dl-alpha-tocopherol).

New evidence suggests zinc is needed to maintain normal blood concentrations of vitamin E.

Selenium enhances vitamin E uptake.

Natural sources of vitamin E include nuts, soybeans, spinach, sunflower seeds, asparagus, and sweet potatoes.


Zinc’s main antioxidant function is to prevent fat oxidation.

In addition, it’s part of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD).

Zinc is also needed for keeping the right amount of vitamin E in your blood and helps in the absorption of vitamin A.

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Dick and Lenay

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