Alpha-carotene is a phytonutrient in the carotenoid family, which also includes beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein.
The term "carotene" is used for several related substances having an orange pigment that's important for photosynthesis. Carotenes contribute to photosynthesis by transmitting the light energy it absorbs to chlorophyll.
Carotenes can be stored in the liver and converted to vitamin A as needed, thus making it a provitamin.
Like its other carotenoid cousins, alpha-carotene is lipid soluble and best used by the body when it is cooked and eaten with a small amount of healthy fat.
James Allen Olson, PhD, Iowa State University (deceased) Cheryl L. Rock, PhD, University of California, San Diego A. Catharine Ross, PhD, The Pennsylvania State University Barbara A. Underwood, PhD (23 April 2006). Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin A. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements website. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved on 26 October 2007.