We often think of vitamin A as being a singular vitamin, but it is actually the name for a group of compounds. Let’s learn about the benefits of Vitamin A!
There are two main types of vitamin A: retinoids (which include retinol and retin-a) and carotenoids (which include beta carotene).
Both are important for keeping skin, eyes, cells, and tissues healthy and for boosting our immune system. The main difference is where you get them from. Retinoids are more readily found in animal products while carotenoids are usually plant based.
One of the best functions of vitamin A has to do with our vision and eye health.
Eating more vitamin A rich foods may improve your night vision and has been shown to help prevent age related vision loss. Vitamin A converts light that hits your eye and turns it into an electrical signal to be sent to your brain. If you suffer from night blindness, you may be low in vitamin A. Age related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over 50 and studies are showing that consuming more vitamin A can reduce your chances by about 25%.
Could vitamin A help fight cancer?
Because of their antioxidant properties, eating vitamin A rich foods has been linked to a decrease of certain cancers like skin, bladder, breast and ovarian cancer. You can read more details about antioxidants and their benefits here.
A recent study showed that those who consume a diet rich in vitamin A had a 17% decreased risk of obtaining skin cancer. Other studies show that when vitamin A is mixed with ovarian, bladder or breast cancer cells in a test tube, the cancer growth rate is inhibited. More studies need to be done but this is promising to help win the fight against certain cancers.
Important to note that consuming foods with vitamin A reduce your risk of cancer but consuming high levels of vitamin A in supplement form may INCREASE your risk of cancer.
This is especially true of smokers who may have an increased rate of lung cancer if they take high levels of vitamin A supplements. Namely, beta carotene. Natural sources of vitamin A via fruits and vegetables is best and has been shown to decrease your risk of cancer.
Vitamin A is vital for both sperm and egg development and improves both the male and females’ reproductive systems. Vitamin A is also critical for fetal development and placenta health.
Want to know more benefits of Vitamin A?
Does your immune system need a boost? Vitamin A grows and maintains healthy mucus membranes, which are the wet, sticky linings in our eyes, nose, throat, lungs, gut and genitals. Our mucus membranes trap bacteria and reduce infections. This supports our natural defenses against infection and keeps our immune system strong.
Suffering from acne?
There are several vitamin A based acne treatments available over the counter or with a prescription. A common ingredient in prescription acne treatments is retinol A and comes from vitamin A. Retinol A decreases the number of pimples and pimples that do develop, heal faster.
Is your skin beginning to show signs of aging?
Retinol has been proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and is available over the counter. As previously mentioned, retinol comes from vitamin A. Retin A is a prescription and basically a stronger retinol. Both help with skin renewal and reduce the signs of aging.
Vitamin A has been nicknamed the “anti-infection” vitamin because it helps the body fight off viral infections, bacterial infections, and even parasitic infections.
The other main type of vitamin A is carotenoids, and this includes beta carotene.
Beta carotene is a pigment that gives food the orange, red or yellow color. When we consume foods rich in beta carotene, like squash or carrots, our bodies convert the beta carotene to vitamin A. Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant. (You can read more on antioxidants and their benefits here.)
Being an antioxidant, it helps lower our risk of certain cancers and slows down mental decline as we age. It also lowers our risk of heart disease.
Interesting to note, beta carotene is more readily absorbed by our bodies when cooked and if eaten with a healthy fat.
Is vitamin A fat soluble?
Yes, vitamin A is fat soluble and is stored in our liver. Most of us will get enough vitamin A in our diet if we eat the right foods but be wary of supplementing as too much vitamin A can be dangerous, especially if you’re pregnant. This is because your body stores it rather than flushing out any excess and if it gets too high, it can be toxic. Stick to getting your vitamin A intake from foods and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about!
How much vitamin A do I need per day? The recommended daily allowance is 700mcg for women and 900mcg for men. The upper limit amount or maximum we can safely consume daily is 3000mcg. It may be toxic if we consume more than the upper limit.
Foods with Vitamin A
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll find vitamin A in lots of orange, red and yellow foods, including carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, pumpkin, red bell peppers, cantaloupe, grapefruit, and mangoes.
Some of the less obvious sources include kale, spinach, asparagus, tomato, broccoli, black eyed peas, tuna, liver, eggs, milk, green bell peppers and mangoes.
Need help adding more fruits and veggies to your meal plan? Be sure to join my email list. Each week I write about a new vegetable and ways it benefits you to eat more of it. I love helping others become Veggie Obsessed!
Hey there my friend! My name is Jodie Crandall and I’m a veggie loving certified health and nutrition coach on a journey to spread the word about how amazing veggies are for our health! I am a self-proclaimed “plant-based meat eater” who has recently lost almost 50 pounds by eating more veggies!