Vitamin A belongs to the fat-soluble family of vitamins that includes vitamin E, vitamin D, and vitamin K. Present in many foods, including carrots, sweet potatoes, and liver1, vitamin A is essential for healthy vision, adequate growth, and cell division and differentiation.
It’s vital for immune system function and necessary for mucous membranes and healthy skin .
Vitamin A deficiency is rarely seen in advanced countries, but when it happens, it can cause loss of healthy immune system function and vision problems.
What Is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is the most crucial Vitamin needed by the body. It is usually stored in the liver and is fat-soluble in nature. The regular requirements for this Vitamin can be conveniently met by consuming several non-vegetarian and vegetarian foods.
There are two different kinds of Vitamin A- Provitamin A and Preformed Vitamin A. Preformed Vitamin A is also called retinol. It can be used up directly by your body. Meanwhile, Provitamin A is also called carotenoids, which, after being taken, are converted to retinol in our body .
Dairy products like milk and poultry like eggs, chicken, are abundant in retinol. Meanwhile, carotenoids are present in fruits and vegetables. The Required Daily or Dietary Allowance for Vitamin A varies according to the age of a person. Moreover, the RDAs for Vitamin A are prescribed explicitly for lactating mothers and pregnant women.
Vitamin A Benefits and Uses
Despite being abundantly rich in Vitamin A rich foods, 1/3rd of the world’s children under the age of 5 suffer from its deficiency, according to a 2009 global database by World Health Organisation on Vitamin A Deficiency. This deficiency has also been proven to be fatal to kids.
It has also been held responsible for causing preventable childhood blindness, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia (as per a report by the National Institutes of Health 2013). Various scientific studies have pointed at the health benefits of consuming enough vitamin A as part of your regular diet .
Health Benefits of Vitamin A
A nutrient essential for good health , and Vitamin A has been proven to be useful for treating and preventing specific conditions.
Here’s a look at the study:
1. Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Getting sufficient vitamin A can help protect against AMD (age-related macular degeneration). Research published in JAMA Ophthalmology demonstrates that higher blood levels of the carotenoids in vitamin A, including zeaxanthin and lutein, can reduce AMD risk by about forty percent.
According to scientists, carotenoids protect macular tissue by lowering oxidative stress levels.
2. Prevent Fractures
A 2017 research report shows that higher dietary consumption of vitamin A can help keep bones healthy and strong. The meta-analysis of more than 300,000 adults over the age of twenty found people with lower blood levels of vitamin A is at greater risk of bone fractures.
3. Eye Health
Vitamin A maintains eye health by converting the light entering your eyes into electrical signals that can then be interpreted by the brain. Besides, Vitamin A is a component of the pigment rhodopsin, which is present in the retina of the eye and is known to be photosensitive .
[Also Read: Natural Supplements for Eye Health]
4. Improved Immunity
Vitamin A deficiency can leave you to be exposed to many diseases, and consuming it ensures that your body’s defenses are active. This Vitamin is necessary for the functioning of the mucous lining in the gut, eyes, lungs, and genitalia. It is also critical for the development of WBC (white blood cells) that battle infectious diseases .
[Also Read: 5 Best Nutrients for Immunity]
5. Fights Acne
Acne is a skin condition that involves severe breakout of pimples that are often painful and most often even leave scars behind. Vitamin A is known to prevent the development of acne.
[Read: Vitamin A for Acne]
6. Reproductive Health
Vitamin A is vital for maintaining the reproductive health of both women and men, particularly the latter, by ensuring the proper development and growth of the embryos during pregnancy. Vitamin A deficiency in an expectant mother’s diet has been associated with congenital disabilities in their children.
Best Dietary Sources Of Vitamin A | Vitamin A-rich Foods
Here are the best dietary sources of retinol or Vitamin A1 (Preformed Vitamin A):
1. Cod Liver Oil
One of the finest sources of retinol is cod liver oil, which is regularly consumed in the form of supplements, which has 2000 percent of the DV (Daily Value), as per the data by USDA.
2. Goat Cheese
This low-calorie cheese is also a great source of Vitamin A. It contains 29 percent of the DV (as per USDA data).
The livers of mammals like a lamb are incredibly rich in retinol and can be taken as part of a non-vegetarian diet to meet the Vitamin requirements.
Best dietary sources of Provitamin A or carotenoids
Carrots are popular among health nuts for its nutrient goodness, among which Vitamin A is found in 104 percent of the DV (as per USDA data).
This incredibly healthy low-calorie veggie is rich in carotenoids or Provitamin A containing 52 percent of beta-carotene (a kind of carotenoid) by DV (as per USDA data).
3. Sweet Potato
This loved food of the health enthusiasts also contains the right amounts of carotenoids- 283 percent of the DV (per USDA data).
This fruit is essential for eye and liver health and contains adequate amounts of Provitamin. It contains 274 micrograms of beta-carotene (as per USDA data).
The king of fruit mango also tops when it comes to providing our body with Provitamin A. The tasty fruit contains 21 percent by DV of Vitamin A (as per USDA data).
Since Vitamin A is fat-soluble, it will be adequately absorbed by the body when consumed in conjunction with healthy fats.
Animal-sources of Vitamin A may be more potent in fighting Vitamin A deficiency as they are also naturally high in fats. For plant-sources of Vitamin A, make sure you add some quantities of healthy oils like canola oil, olive oil, etc. to improve Vitamin uptake.