Vitamin A is an essential nutrient the body needs to function properly, and if you want to maintain youthful skin and healthy hair, it’s one you need in your diet. It’s also responsible for strong vision, immunity and healthy growth and can be found in a bunch of common food sources. Not getting enough of this fat-soluble vitamin can lead to a vitamin A deficiency, but consuming too much can also be dangerous. We’re giving you the rundown on what happens when you don’t get enough vitamin A and foods to eat to ensure you’re getting your fair share.
What Are the Health Benefits of Vitamin A?
1. Important for vision.
2. Protects your eyes from night blindness and age-related decline.
3. Encourages cell growth.
4. Supports a healthy immune system.
5. Promotes healthy growth and reproduction.
6. Supports fetal development.
7. Reduces your risk of acne.
8. May lower your risk of certain cancers, particularly through intakes of vitamin A through plant foods.
6 Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms
1. Night blindness or trouble seeing in low light
2. Dry eyes that may end up damaging the cornea or retina
3. Frequent infections
4. Skin issues including dryness, itching and scaling
5. Fertility issues
6. Stunted growth in children
11 Vitamin A Deficiency Causes
1. Not getting enough vitamin A in the body through food sources or supplements
2. An underlying issue that prevents the body from absorbing or utilizing vitamin A effectively
Some people may be more at risk of developing a vitamin A deficiency, including:
- Premature infants
- Those who are pregnant or lactating
- Infants and young children in developing countries
There are also underlying issues that interfere with the body’s ability to use vitamin A. This can happen in people with:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Chronic diarrhea
- Celiac disease
- Duodenal bypass
- Bile duct obstruction
2 Vitamin A Deficiency Treatment Options
1. Eating vitamin A rich foods such as beef and lamb liver, dark leafy vegetables and carrots
2. Taking daily vitamin A supplements
How Much Is Too Much?
A vitamin A deficiency can negatively impact your health, but getting too much can also be dangerous. Consuming too much vitamin A can cause hair loss, cracked lips, dry skin, weakened bones, headaches and a skin rash. Consuming very large amounts of vitamin A all at once can also cause drowsiness, irritability, nausea and vomiting. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin A is between 700 and 900 mcg per day. To prevent toxicity, it’s important not to exceed the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of 3,000 mcg per day for adults. Toxicity is most often linked to excessive supplement intake and treatment with certain medications, rather than food sources of vitamin A.
8 Foods High in Vitamin A
1. Leafy Green Vegetables (Kale, Spinach, Broccoli)
Dark, leafy green vegetables are a good source of vitamin A. They’re also highly nutritious and packed with fibre, antioxidants, iron, magnesium, calcium and other vitamins. They help protect against diseases like cancer and heart disease and they also promote healthy gut bacteria. You can use leafy greens in soups and smoothies or bake them into your morning frittata. Keep in mind that vitamin A can break down when heated, so raw sources of this nutrient are important.
2. Orange and Yellow Vegetables (Carrots, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin)
Orange and yellow vegetables are packed with nutrients, including vitamin A, that protect your nervous system, promote eye health and prevent heart disease. They also help maintain skin health, boost the immune system and help build strong bones. They contain antioxidants like zeaxanthin and lycopene, as well as flavonoids, potassium and vitamin C.
3. Beef and Lamb Liver and Liver Sausage
Animal livers are the most potent sources of vitamin A since animals, like humans, store vitamin A in the liver. Animal liver is also super high in protein and contains other nutrients like copper, vitamin B and B12, iron, folate and choline. You can make liver into a delicious pate, pan-fry it with onions, use it in a pasta sauce or mix it with ground beef or lamb to make burgers.
Beans are a great source of plant-based protein and they’re also high in fibre and iron. One cup of boiled black beans contains 7% of the daily recommended value for vitamin A (66 mcg). Beans have been found to lower the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. You can use them in soups, salads, savoury pies and more.
5. Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers contain a significant amount of vitamin A, nearly 120 mcg in a half cup. They’re also rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folate, and are a great source of antioxidants such as capsanthin. They also contain quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. Red bell peppers are delicious on their own, served sliced with a healthy dip, or you can use them in pastas, stir frys or salads.
Adding cantaloupe to your diet is a good way to boost your vitamin A, with half a cup providing 135 mcg of vitamin A. It’s also high in vitamin C, which boosts immune function and protects against chronic diseases like heart disease. You can eat it on its own, in a smoothie or use it to make a fruit salad.
One whole, raw mango provides more than 100 mcg of vitamin A or 12% of the daily recommended serving. Mangoes are also rich in vitamin C and other immune-boosting antioxidants. Plus, they’re high in dietary fibre, which contributes to a healthy gut and helps control blood sugar. Mango is delicious on its own, or you can also make mango salsa to use on baked salmon, shrimp tacos or in chicken lettuce wraps.
8. Oily Fish
Oily fish like salmon, herring, trout and tuna are excellent ways to get a good dose of vitamin A. Fatty fish is also a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, which support heart health and brain function, and it’s naturally high in vitamin D, which supports bone health and your immune system.
Make sure your diet is high in vitamin A rich foods to ensure the nutrient can work its magic for your health!
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