This open letter is addressed to vitamin A, the generic term for a group of fat-soluble compounds highly important for human health.
Dear Vitamin A,
Thank you for being essential for many processes in the human body such as ensuring the normal functioning of the immune system, maintaining healthy vision, aiding proper growth and development of babies in the womb, and loads of other functions.
We know of the forms of you found in animal and plant foods: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A.
Preformed vitamin A, also known as its active form, is that which the body can use just as it is. It’s found in animal products such as chicken, meat, fish and dairy. It includes compounds such as retinol, retinal and retinoic acid.
What of the other Form — Provitamin A?
Also called inactive forms and found in plants, provitamin A carotenoids together with alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin are converted to the active form in the body. For instance, beta-carotene is converted to retinol (an active form of vitamin A) in the small intestine.
And to your goodness all this while — Benefits of Vitamin A
Lowers the Risk of Certain Cancers
Cancer risk is higher when abnormal cells begin to grow or divide in an uncontrolled way. Vitamin A is popular for the growth and development of cells. Consuming higher amounts of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene promises decreased risk of certain types of cancers such as cervical, lung, and bladder cancers. Note that this benefit only applies to plant sources of vitamin A. Neither animal sources nor vitamin A supplements have this benefit to offer.
Vitamin A is needed for the conversion of light that hits the eye into an electrical signal that can be sent to the brain. Little wonder we suffer night blindness when there is a deficiency of vitamin A.
Oh, vitamin A! A major component of the pigment, rhodopsin. Rhodopsin is found in the retina, and it is extremely sensitive to light.
People who have night blindness see normally during the day, however, they have reduced vision in darkness, as their eyes struggle to pick up light at lower levels.
Strengthens the Immune System
What are our bodies’ natural defenses without you, vitamin A?
Vitamin A is involved in the production and function of white blood cells, ensuring the elimination of bacteria and other pathogens from the bloodstream.
Check where measles and malaria are common; a correction in vitamin A deficiency does the “magic” in fixing the ugly situation.
Supports Bone Health
Surprised to see this point here? No, calcium and vitamin D haven’t stopped doing this, however, consuming enough vitamin A is necessary for proper bone growth and development, and its deficiency may cause poor bone health.
Reduces the Risk of Acne
Acne is a chronic, inflammatory skin disorder. No one desires it. It comes with painful spots and blockhead on the face, chest, back and some other parts the body.
Why do those spots even appear?
It’s when the sebaceous glands get clogged up with dead skin and oils. These glands are in the hair follicles on the skin and produce sebum — an oily, waxy substance that keeps the skin lubricated and waterproof.
How then does Vitamin A Come in?
Funnily, the exact role that vitamin A plays in the treatment of acne is unclear. Yes, you read right.
It has only been suggested that vitamin A deficiency may cause the overproduction of keratin, a protein in your hair follicles. This increase the risk of acne by making it more difficult for dead skin cells to be removed from hair follicles, leading to blockages.
Do you want to avoid acne? Rich consumption of vitamin A is one of the ways.
Vitamin A is essential for maintaining a healthy reproductive system in both genders. It is also required for the healthy growth and development of embryos during pregnancy.
Studies have shown that vitamin A deficiency in females can negatively affect egg implantation in the womb.
Vitamin A is also required for the growth and development of many major organs and structures of the unborn child: nervous system, heart, skeleton, kidneys, pancreas, eyes, and lungs.
And hey, moderation is key here, as excess vitamin A during pregnancy can lead to birth defects.
Food Sources of Vitamin A
Who thinks of carrots and doesn’t remember Vitamin A and eye health? Just one carrot will provide 200% of recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Not only that, but, vitamins B, C, K, magnesium, and fiber also.
Sweet, juicy, tangy taste! And yes, enriched with vitamin A too. A cup of mangoes provides 36 of the daily needed amount of Vitamin A and 107 calories.
Peaches contain calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, and of course, vitamin A. One peach provides 10% of the daily needed vitamin A and 59 calories.
This delicious food is nightly nutritious. Did you know that one sweet potato will give 438% of the daily needed Vitamin A along with 103 calories?
Red Bell Pepper
Who else thinks bell peppers make a delicious vegetable? Whether consumed raw or cooked, they’re just great. They contain vitamin A, antioxidants, lycopene, and vitamin C.
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is quite rich in vitamins and minerals. Available in liquid and capsule form, it has got a great amount of Vitamin A, D, and omega 3 fatty acids. A tablespoon of cod liver oil provides 126 calories.
Grapefruit juice has got phosphorus, potassium, phytonutrients, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, B vitamins, vitamin C, and our dear vitamin A. These nutrients, together support the immune system to fight against illnesses.
Mustard greens, also known as ‘sarsoo ka saag’ or leaf mustard, are consumed in Northern India. They provide 118% of the daily needed Vitamin A. They are also rich in calcium, fiber, protein, manganese, carotenes, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
Butternut squash is rich in beta-carotene which gets converted into vitamin A in the body. A cup of butternut squash supplies 400% of the daily needed vitamin A.
The livers of a number of animals are filled with vitamins and minerals, so is turkey liver filled with vitamin A. A 100-gram serving of turkey liver provides 1507% of the vitamin A needed every day. The same serving contains 273 calories.
Beef liver is rich in vitamin A; it has been used for many centuries to cure anemia. A 100-gram serving of beef liver provides 300% of the required daily need for vitamin A. This serving contains 135 calories.
Vitamin A, as much as we love you, we shouldn’t have an excess of you.
What Happens when we Consume Excess Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the body, hence excess consumption may lead to toxic levels.
Hypervitaminosis A — the toxic effects of ingesting too much preformed vitamin A — has got symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, pain, headaches, and sadly, death. This condition is more common with overconsumption of supplements and medications that contain the preformed vitamin A, than it is with food.
Dear Vitamin A,
We wish we wouldn’t end this letter which he only been a summary of how awesome you’ve been. If we were to get detailed we’d probably have an article ten times longer. We won’t stop consuming you in moderation, for our health’s sake.
Your ever-interested consumers