Your Food and You: Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored and metabolized in the fatty tissue of the body. This vitamin helps to colour the world; by adding colour to foods, plants and even birds! There are two forms of vitamin A. One form of Vitamin A, which occurs in animals, is called retinoids (retinol). The other group is called carotenoids (beta-carotene), and comes from plants and gives vegetables their bright colour!

Although beta-carotene is the precursor for vitamin A, it also has its own health boosting roles such as immune support, cancer prevention, and protects the arteries from clogging. Both beta-carotene and Vitamin A work together to support and maintain the following for optimal health:

  • Eye sight
  • Skin
  • Intestinal tract
  • Cancer prevention (especially stomach, lung, colon, and oral cavity)
  • Required for the production of progesterone, a hormone that is needed during pregnancy

Not getting enough?

Vitamin A deficiency can result from poor dietary intake, malabsorption of fat, or a liver condition. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Skin rashes, dry flaky skin
  • Night blindness
  • Reduced growth in children (with sever deficiency)
  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Weakened immune system

Who should consider a supplement?

  • People in developing and malnourished countries
  • People who breath polluted air on a regular basis
  • People who don’t eat vegetables
  • People who smoke
  • Limited research suggests people with a thyroid deficiency (if vitamin A deficient), as they may not have the ability to convert beta-carotene to vitamin A

Please Note: There is a risk of toxicity when taking vitamin A supplements for prolonged periods of time, as it is a fat-soluble vitamin. Take vitamin A under your doctor’s supervision to be on the safe side. Do not supplement during pregnancy unless your doctor has prescribed it, as excessive Vitamin A in animal form can cause birth defects. It is also important to note that many cod liver oil supplements are high in vitamin A. Beta-carotene from natural sources (food) are safe to have during pregnancy, and people often consume more than enough if they are eating a variety of vegetables and fruit.

Since there are two forms of vitamin A, it is important to note that you do not want to get excessive vitamin A from an animal derived form. However, plant form beta-carotene seems to be safe, as the only sign of overconsumption will be orange skin.

If you have a liver condition, you should avoid supplementation, as impaired liver function does not metabolize Vitamin A and other nutrients.

Fun Fact: Steaming and lightly cooking vegetables allows us to absorb more beta-carotene. Beta-carotene found in food is more beneficial than supplements, so enjoy some of the sources below. You’ll notice many of the vegetables have more than your allowance in one serving, which is safe because it is coming from foods.

Here’s our Fact Sheet below on how much you need, what that means in terms of food, and meal ideas to get vitamin A in your diet!

Vitamin-A-Fact-Sheet-Small

Download our PDF version here.

July 23, 2015
Revive Wellness