The stunning array of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that our bodies need to maintain our health can be intimidating. How should we even begin to learn about them? The best approach is to take them one topic at a time, learning how to improve your daily routine and lifestyle. It is entirely possible to achieve optimal health, it just takes some patience.
What Are the Two Types of Vitamin A?
The first thing to note is that there are actually two different kinds of vitamin A. One is called preformed vitamin A, and the other is termed provitamin A. The easiest way to remember the distinction between the two is to say that the former, preformed vitamin A, is found in animal products. Meat, fish, poultry and dairy are all ways to add preformed vitamin A to your diet. On the other hand, provitamin A can be found in plant-based foods. Fruits and vegetables are where you should look to find this second variety of vitamin A.
Why Is Vitamin A Important?
Whether we’re talking about preformed vitamin A or provitamin A, this nutrient plays a role in a shocking number of bodily processes, making it a wonderful place to start if you want to better understand how your body functions. Vitamin A impacts your vision, immunity and cell division. If that wasn’t enough, it has antioxidant properties that help fight off severe conditions such as heart disease. Vitamin A also boosts your body’s production of white blood cells and maintains skin, intestine, lung and bladder tissues.
Another significant advantage of healthy vitamin A intake is a reduced risk of cancer. While the research results are complex, a high intake of vitamin A from plant foods has been linked to a decreased risk of particular kinds of cancer. Unfortunately, the results are not as clear regarding vitamin A included in animal foods or vitamin A supplements. That being said, it makes sense that vitamin A would play a role in reducing cancer risk because vitamin A is a critical part of the growth and development of your cells.
In addition to the benefits, it should be noted that vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient. It exists naturally in many foods, though certain circumstances might lead you to take it as a supplement to boost your daily intake. The recommended daily consumption of vitamin A varies by gender. Men are recommended to consume 900 micrograms per day, while for women, the amount is 700 micrograms. Regular consumption of this vitamin is critical to good health and deserves our attention and research.
What Are the Risks Associated with Insufficient Vitamin A Intake?
Along with the benefits of a healthy diet that includes vitamin A, adverse symptoms can arise from vitamin A deficiencies, such as hair loss, skin problems and greater vulnerability to infections. Groups at high risk for vitamin A deficiency include pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, infants and children.
Another significant issue that can come with vitamin A deficiency is macular degeneration. While extreme cases of vitamin A deficiency can result in dying corneas or complete blindness, there is good news: the first signs of deficiency are not as severe, and if you know what to look out for, then it will be possible to supplement vitamin A into your diet in time to recover. These early signs include dry eyes (i.e., the eyes’ inability to produce tears). While this condition is not very common in the U.S., it is something to take seriously if you or someone you know experiences it.
Foods Rich with Vitamin A
With these serious consequences of vitamin A deficiency in mind, the natural question is: How can I avoid it? Asking how to add vitamin A to your diet is exactly the right question, and we’re going to dive into which foods will get you the most vitamin A for your buck. The best place to start is vegetables, as they are easy to find and typically less expensive than vitamin A-heavy proteins. The vegetables with the most vitamin A include kale, spinach, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. The easiest way to remember these groups is to think of them as green and orange vegetables.
As for other vitamin A-heavy foods, it’s worth noting that cantaloupe and mango are the most helpful fruits. A large wedge of cantaloupe or a single mango can give you 20% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A.
Meats and other animal products can also provide a generous dose of vitamin A! Beef liver, for example, offers 713% of the daily value for vitamin A in a single slice. A single hard-boiled egg will provide closer to 10% of the suggested daily intake, but this means that two eggs in the morning will get you 20% of the way there – it adds up over time! These dietary options are an excellent way to acquire the vitamin A that your body needs, but circumstances will occasionally prevent us from creating the right diet to get the job done. When that happens, it’s time to consider taking a vitamin A supplement.
What Are the Best Vitamin A Supplements?
When choosing a supplement – any supplement, not just vitamin A – the first thing to know is that you shouldn’t exceed your recommended daily value unless you’ve cleared it with your doctor. The daily value of vitamin A for men is 900 micrograms per day, while women should consume 700 micrograms. If a supplement will help you reach that goal, then go for it! One of the most popular vitamin A supplements is the Nature’s Way brand. These particular softgels contain 3,000 mcg per serving, so definitely discuss the potential benefits with your doctor first.
A Parting Reminder
Whether it’s from a planned-out and well-balanced diet or a high-quality supplement, vitamin A is one of the most significant markers of good health that we can manage. If you or a loved one is dealing with the consequences of vitamin A deficiency, consider sharing this with them, doing more research and speaking with your doctor about using vitamin A to improve your health.