‘Vitamin A’ is a blanket term for a collection of fat-soluble compounds which are extremely important for maintaining human health. This vitamin is essential for many processes in the body. These include:
- Preserving healthy vision,
- Safeguarding the proper functioning of your immune system and vital organs, and
- Assisting with the proper growth as well as development of foetuses.
It’s recommended for men to get 900 mcg, women 700 mcg and children and adolescents 300–600 mcg of vitamin A daily.
Where is vitamin A found?
Vitamin A compounds are located in both animal and plant-based foods. These come in two diverse forms:
- Preformed vitamin A, as well as
- Provitamin A.
‘Preformed vitamin A’ is also referred to as the active form of the vitamin. Your body can use this just as it is. In other words, it doesn’t need to be processed further. This is found in animal products including meat, chicken, fish and dairy. Preformed vitamin A includes retinol, retinal and retinoic acid.
‘Provitamin A carotenoids’ encompasses alpha-carotene, beta-carotene as well as beta-cryptoxanthin. These are the inactive form of Vitamin A which is found in plants. The provitamin A carotenoids are converted into an active form in your body. For instance, beta-carotene becomes retinol in your small intestine (2
Benefits of vitamin A
An acceptable amount of vitamin A may have these benefits.
Reducing cancer risk
Suitable intakes of carotenoids from fruits and vegetables are associated with a lower risk of lung cancer. However, the use of beta-carotene and vitamin supplements have not shown the same results. One analysis suggests that some forms of vitamin A may assist with protecting against prostate cancer. In addition, investigations in Japan have suggested that beta-carotene may assist with preventing colon cancer.
Providing a treatment for type 2 diabetes
Retinoic acid, which originates from vitamin A, has been found to regulate blood sugar in mice with diabetes.
Healthy looking skin and hair
Vitamin A is essential in the growth of all bodily tissues, which includes skin and hair. This vitamin contributes to producing sebum which is the oil that helps maintain levels of moisture in the skin and hair.
As vitamin A has an effect on a wide variety of body functions, a deficiency of this vitamin can lead to a number of problems.
- Night blindness
- A higher risk of infections, especially in the throat, chest, and abdomen
- Follicular hyperkeratosis, leading to dry, bumpy skin.
- Fertility issues
- Delayed growth in children
What foods are rich in vitamin A?
The following foods are rich in vitamin A:
- Beef liver
- Cod liver oil
- Sweet potato
- Black-eyed peas
- Sweet red pepper
- Cantaloupe melon
- Dried apricots
- Pumpkin pie
- Tomato juice
Many foodstuffs, both plant-based and those from animals, contain good amounts of vitamin A. A deficiency in vitamin A deficiency is uncommon which means that most people do not need to worry too much about getting enough vitamin A. The best way of ensuring that you get an acceptable nutrient intake is to eat a varied and balanced diet. This must be full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
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