Ever wondered why Nan always told you that carrots will help you see in the dark? She wasn’t fibbing, it’s due to their Vitamin A and beta-carotene content! But that’s only the beginning of what Vitamin A can do for your health.
Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is important for vision, immune function, cell production, mucous membrane health, bone formation, wound healing, and so much more.
Vitamin A comes from two sources – retinoids which come from animal products and include the active retinol, and plant-based carotenoids which include beta-carotene. Our body converts beta-carotene into retinol to be used by the body.
Helping you see.
Getting enough vitamin A is essential for good vision. Researchers have found that:
- Foods containing carotenoids have been correlated with a lower risk of developing cataracts.
- Vitamin A deficiency is a major cause of preventable blindness worldwide.
- Vitamin A is critical for rhodopsin – a protein that detects and absorbs light and is especially important for night vision.
See, carrots DO help you see in the dark!
Skin, eyes, nose, throat, lungs, stomach…
Vitamin A is involved in the development and maintenance of epithelial cells, which are found in our mucous membranes in our gastrointestinal tract, respiratory system, eyes, bladder and skin.
Lack of Vitamin A may lead to dysfunction of these cells, resulting in scaly skin, dry hair, itchy skin, broken skin and the keratinisation (hardening and subsequent loss of function) of mucous membranes.
Vitamin A was initially coined as the “anti-infective vitamin” due to its significance in normal immune function. The skin and mucous membranes are our first line of defence, which we know need to be kept in good condition.
Vitamin A is also required for the development and activity of white blood cells, which fight against infections and foreign substances.
What if you don’t like carrots?
Don’t fret, carrots aren’t the only food with Vitamin A. You can find preformed Vitamin A in animal products such as eggs, dairy products including cheese and milk, as well as animal liver.
Beta-carotene is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as:
- Carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin, apricot, rockmelon (cantaloupe), peaches, mangoes.
- Kale, spinach, broccoli, frozen peas.
Naturopath’s Tip: Chopping and cooking your vegetables will increase the availability and hence your absorption of carotenoids.
So which form is beta – carotenoids or not?
Both preformed Vitamin A and carotenoids are important to include in your foods, but it’s important to know that Vitamin A toxicity can occur from ongoing overconsumption of preformed Vitamin A, including high doses of Vitamin A supplements. Toxicity has not been associated with high intakes of carotenoids.
For this reason, the RDI (Recommended Dietary intake) for preformed Vitamin A in Australia is set to:
- 700mcg/ day for females over 19, who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding.
- 900mcg/ day for males over 19.
Depending on age, the upper limit of Vitamin A intake is between 2800-3000mcg/ day. There is no RDI or upper limit set for carotenoids.
If you’re thinking about supplementing with Vitamin A, it is always advised to speak with a health care provider first.