Welcome to a new monthly feature on the Shakthi blog called Get to Know Your Nutrients! We talk a lot about different healthy benefits of foods and nutrients, but we thought it might be helpful to have a solid understanding of the nutrients we need to keep our bodies and minds healthy. Every month, we’ll be focusing on a different nutrient, this month starting with Vitamin A.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is vital for growth, reproduction, and development. It is required for a healthy immune system ensuring the production and function of white blood cells that trap and clear bacteria. Additionally, this vitamin is good for surface tissues (skin, intestines, lungs, etc?), works as an antioxidant, and supports good vision.
Benefits and Risks of Vitamin A
Vitamin A comes with a whole package of benefits, starting with your eyesight. By getting your dose of Vitamin A, you avoid night blindness, double vision and dry eyes early signs you might have a deficiency.
Vitamin A also helps clear up your skin and ensures healthy hair. In fact, products that rid your face of acne, wrinkles, and rough skin often use it as an ingredient. Vitamin A can also possibly decrease your chances of cancer. Although it is not a treatment, it can decrease the odds of getting it.
Although it is rare in the U.S, Vitamin A deficiency can have grave consequences, including:
- Double vision
- Skin irritation, dry lips, chapped or cracked lips
- Hair loss
- Fertility issues
- Headache, dizziness, nausea,
- Muscle pain, pain in joints and bones
- Loss of balance
People in developing countries typically have the highest risk of deficiency, especially pregnant or lactating mothers. Vitamin A supplements are available for those who have difficulty absorbing the vitamin naturally, but it may mask deficiencies of other nutrients causing long-term health issues. This is why it’s best to consume Vitamin A through foods and not in isolation.
And on the flip side, getting too much can be just as dangerous. An excessive consumption of Vitamin A may lead to blurry vision, nausea, dizziness, problems with epithelial tissues, hair loss, itchiness, delayed growth, or even a coma. To ensure you don’t encounter these issues, it’s important to meet the basic consumption requirements without getting too much by looking at your correct dosage. It’s recommended that men get 900 mcg, women 700 mcg, and children and adolescents 300-600 mcg of vitamin A per day.
Where Can I Find Vitamin A?
There are two types of vitamin A:
- Preformed vitamin A: found in meat products
- Provitamin A (carotenoids): found in fruits and vegetables
Some rich sources of retinol (the active form of vitamin A, only comes from animal sources) are: eggs, dairy products, fatty fish like salmon and herring, organ meat such as liver.
Carotenoid (antioxidant forms of vitamin A) can be found in orange colored fruits and vegetables (for example carrots, squash, and cantaloupe), broccoli, spinach and other leafy greens, zucchini, peppers, and more.
Preformed vitamin A is more easily absorbed and utilized by your body than plant-based sources of provitamin A. This is why those who follow plant-based diets should be careful about getting enough carotenoid-rich foods.