Vitamin A can have an incredible effect on your health: it promotes cell growth, maintains healthy cells and works as an antioxidant to prevent free radicals from damaging your body. Whether it’s consumed as the naturally-occurring retinol or converted in the body from beta-Carotene, Vitamin A is a vital player in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Although this vitamin is fat soluble – it’s stored in your fat cells for future use, so there is some level in your body when consumed appropriately – it doesn’t mean that you can eat some carrots once a month and have an adequate amount of Vitamin A in your diet. The Mayo Clinic still recommends 2,300 IU per day for women and 3,000 IU per day for men.
What health benefits do you get from Vitamin A and what foods supply them in abundance?
What is Vitamin A and where does it come from?
Vitamin A helps a lot of processes in your body and parts of your body, including your vision, skin and bones. It also aides in the formation and division of new, healthy cells and acts as an antioxidant to protect your cells from damage. The body receives Vitamin A in two different forms: as retinoids, called retinol, and carotenoids, called beta-Carotene.
Retinol is the name for Vitamin A derived from animal products, especially calf or chicken livers, eggs and dairy products. Retinol is also key to supporting good vision by building the pigments in the retina of the eye, boosting your ability to see at night.
Beta-Carotene -- the chemical compound which gives carrots, papayas, and peppers their orange color – is converted into Vitamin A when eaten. Beta-carotene has been found to maintain healthy vision -- especially as you age -- because it protects the retina from harmful ultraviolet light.
Whichever forms of Vitamin A you are taking in, studies have found that its antioxidant properties prevent macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss in people 50 or older. It also can prevent other eye issues, such as cataracts and dry eye syndrome.
This versatile vitamin is also good for your teeth, bones and soft tissue, especially your skin. Eating your daily dose protects your skin from UV damage, slows signs of aging and aides in the production of healthy skin cells. When applied directly in lotions or face creams, it can reduce wrinkles, fade brown spots and smooth out rough patches. It’s no wonder Vitamin A is frequently added to moisturizers!
But the health benefits don’t stop there. Vitamin A also boosts your immune system by helping in the production of white blood cells to fight pesky infections before they start, and its function of supporting cell growth helps keep\ your heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs in top shape.
- Carrots: These root vegetables are chock full of beta-Carotene, providing about 184 percent of your daily value per serving. Carrots are so synonymous with this pigment and nutrient that they inspired the name for beta-Carotene – “carotene” is derived from the Latin word for carrot!
- Squash: Yellow-colored foods also contain beta-Carotene, delivering about 4 percent of your daily value per serving.
- Sweet potatoes: Talk about beta-carotenes galore: this orange food contains a whopping 561 percent of your daily value of Vitamin A!
- Cheese: Cheeses such as gouda contain retinol and account for about 22 percent of your daily value.
- Green beans: While you wouldn’t think that green beans have much Vitamin A considering their green color, they actually contain about 15 percent of your daily value. In fact, green vegetables contain beta-Carotene in significant amounts. Similarly, snow peas contain about 21 percent of your daily recommended value.
Vitamin A is found in many other foods, including milk, eggs, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, fruits, vegetable oils, and more. Vitamin A is crucial in staying in tip-top shape, but luckily you don’t have to look far to find fresh, delicious sources of Vitamin A!