What are the benefits of beta-carotene and vitamin A?

Beta-carotene is the pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their vibrant red, orange or yellow colours. Beta-carotene is present in green, leafy vegetables too. Here we talk about the benefits of beta-carotene and vitamin A and how to make sure you get what you need to stay healthy.

What fruit and vegetables contain beta-carotene?

Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables such as butternut squash, carrots, curly kale, lettuce, pumpkin, orange and yellow peppers, spinach and tomatoes are rich in beta-carotene.

As a rule, the stronger the colour, the more beta-carotene the fruit or veg contains.

Why should you eat foods rich in beta-carotene?

Your body converts beta-carotene from fruits and vegetables into vitamin A. As well as producing vitamin A, beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant.

Scientists think antioxidants protect our cells from the damage caused by free radicals in our food, from UV rays and from the environment in general.

Additionally, fruit and vegetables that are high in antioxidants tend to be high in other important vitamins and minerals too.

Do we only get vitamin A from fruit and vegetables?

There are two different sources of vitamin A: provitamin A which comes from beta-carotene in fruit and veg, and preformed vitamin A which comes from meat, fish and dairy products.

Preformed vitamin A is found in butter, most types of cheese (cheddar, camembert, goat’s cheese, Roquefort), eggs, whole milk, liver, salmon, trout and tuna.

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What are the benefits of beta-carotene and vitamin A?

Getting enough beta-carotene and vitamin A is essential for your overall health. Here are just some of the benefits of beta-carotene and vitamin A:

Protection against diseases

As an antioxidant, beta-carotene may lower your risk of getting most serious diseases, including breast cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and heart disease. Scientists aren’t sure whether it is antioxidants that lower the risk of disease, other nutrients present in antioxidant rich foods, or both factors together.

Antioxidants may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, although more research is needed. One study found that taking beta-carotene may improve cognitive function.

Boosts skin health

One of the main benefits of beta-carotene and vitamin A is healthy skin. Antioxidants like beta-carotene protect your skin from free radical damage caused by UV radiation.

As well as protecting your skin from sun damage, vitamin A stimulates collagen production. Collagen helps to maintain your skin’s elasticity, giving you a younger-looking complexion. Vitamin A can also reduce the appearance of age spots and even out skin tone.

Our Sun Kiss supplement contains 800 µg (100% NRV) of vitamin A to promote all-year-round healthy, glowing skin.

Protects your eyes

Eating fruits and vegetables high in beta-carotene could protect your eyes from macular degeneration and other eye diseases. Macular degeneration is an age-related condition that leads to loss of vision.

Getting enough vitamin A helps to prevent night blindness (or nyctalopia). The chromoprotein, rhodopsin, which is present in your retinas, becomes less photosensitive if you don’t have enough vitamin A in your bloodstream.

The good news is that night blindness is usually reversed once vitamin A levels are restored.

Maintains your immune system

Vitamin A helps to keep the mucous membranes in your eyes, nose, mouth, lungs and genitals healthy. These membranes are part of your body’s natural defences to keep bacteria and viruses out of your body.

Vitamin A is also key in the production of white blood cells, and white blood cells make infection-fighting antibodies. A lack of vitamin A can increase your risk of getting ill and mean your recovery is slower. In fact, clinical trials have shown that addressing vitamin A deficiency decreases the risk of children in developing countries from dying of malaria and measles.

Our Immunity supplement contains all the vitamins and minerals you need for a strong and healthy immune system, including 75% NRV of vitamin A.

Supports fertility

Vitamin A impacts egg quality, how likely an egg is to implant and whether a healthy embryo will develop. The main cause of infertility in women over 40 is egg quality. Clinicians have found that when women undergo IVF they’re significantly more likely to conceive using donor eggs from younger women.

Consuming the right amount of vitamin A is also essential for the health of the male reproductive system.

If you’re having difficulty getting pregnant it’s worth exploring the link between diet and fertility and investigating what you can do to boost your fertility.

However – and this is very important – taking too much vitamin A could harm an unborn baby. If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive please see the section below, Can you consume too much vitamin A?



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How much vitamin A do you need?

For adults between 19 and 64, the recommended daily amount of vitamin A is 600 µg for women and 700 µg for men.

Some days you will consume more vitamin A than others depending on what you eat, but that’s okay. If you consume more than the amount you need on a particular day your body will store it for another day.

Can you consume too much vitamin A?

Research suggests that consuming more than 1,500 µg may harm your bone health as you get older, even increasing your risk of developing osteoporosis.

Pregnant women must be particularly careful as too much vitamin A can harm an unborn baby.

If you’re eating liver more than once a week or taking vitamin supplements with a high amount of vitamin A you could be consuming too much.

Is vitamin A destroyed in the cooking process?

Vitamin A isn’t water soluble so that means it isn’t damaged very much in the cooking process. Please read, What’s the healthiest way to cook vegetables? to discover how to maximize the benefits of beta-carotene and other nutrients when cooking.

You can eat some vegetables like peppers and lettuce raw in salads. However, bear in mind that some vegetables are better for you when they’re cooked.

For example, one study found that our bodies can better absorb the beta-carotene in butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato when they’re cooked. That’s because cooking softens these vegetables which aids digestion.