A carrot a day keeps the optometrist away? Not exactly, but Vitamin A does support vision, as well as healthy tissue growth. This powerful antioxidant also promotes healthy immune function and let’s be honest, we could all use a little boost now and then. Let’s dive a little deeper into this vitamin.
Vitamin A is found in several different forms, all of which can be found in different food sources:
- Preformed vitamin A (often found in fish, meat and dairy)
- Provitamin A (found in fruits and vegetables)
- Retinol (the active form found in blood)
- Beta-carotene (the precursor to Vitamin A, found in plants)
Lowering the risk of cancer – some studies have shown that the consumption of carotenoids from fruits have diminished the risk of lung, bladder, cervical and other cancers. Since Vitamin A plays such an essential role in cell growth and development, it is potentially a powerful tool in the prevention of certain cancers.
It is important to note though that these studies have been conducted with Vitamin A being assimilated by the body in its’ natural form – not from supplementation. In fact, one study suggested that supplementing Vitamin A increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers.
Type 2 Diabetes – In experiments using mice with diabetes, Vitamin A has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Skin and Hair – Vitamin A plays an important part in tissue growth and regeneration, and this helps maintain healthy and vibrant skin. You may have heard about facial serums with retinol, which are meant to help your skin regenerate and eliminate fine lines and acne. It is believed that a lack of Vitamin A may actually increase your risk for acne, as it can lead to an overproduction of keratin – which can lead to a buildup of dead skin cells and cause your pores to be blocked and nobody wants that!
Immune system – Vitamin A plays an integral role in maintaining the mucosal barriers in your body (e.g. eyes, nose, lungs, gut), which help trap pathogens as they enter your body. These mucosal barriers are one of your immune system’s first lines of defense against bacteria and decrease your susceptibility for infections.
Eyesight – Vitamin A is so integral to maintaining good eyesight, that one of the first symptoms of deficiency can actually be night blindness. When light hits your eye, it sends an electrical signal to your brain and it is actually Vitamin A that is needed for this conversion to take place.
If you believe you need more Vitamin A in your diet, consider adding foods high in the vitamin to your daily routine since supplementation has not proven to be effective.
Fruits: mango, cantaloupe, dried apricots, grapefruit, watermelon, papaya, tangerine, nectarine
Vegetables: sweet potato, red pepper, spinach, kale, collards, swiss chard, carrots, broccoli
Animal products: Liver, cod liver oil, salmon, bluefin tuna, king mackerel, goat cheese, hard boiled eggs