Vitamin A for health: 6 Incredible benefits of eating more foods rich in vitamin A
09/25/2020 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
Vitamin A for health: 6 Incredible benefits of eating more foods rich in vitamin A

Found in a host of orange foods, including carrots, bell peppers and pumpkins, vitamin A is important for good eyesight, a strong immune system and clear skin, among others.

Vitamin A is essential for keeping our mucus membranes – the barriers lining our bodies’ cavities and canals – nice and moist so they can trap invading microbes and other harmful substances.

This incredible micronutrient also has a hand in several other biological processes and offers phenomenal health benefits, which are all backed by science.

Plus, maintaining adequate vitamin A levels in our bodies shouldn’t be too hard since it can be found in a long list of delicious and nutritious superfoods.

Health benefits

Vitamin A can appear as either retinol or provitamin A (carotenoids), a compound that is converted into vitamin A inside the body. There isn’t much of a difference in terms of the health benefits that they offer. They just differ in terms of their food sources.

Retinol can be found mainly in meat and animal products. Carotenoids, being plant pigments, can be found in plant-based foods that have brightly colored skins.

Our bodies need to convert these pigments into retinol first before absorbing them as nutrients. Other than that minor detail, retinol and carotenoids are more or less the same.

So regardless of its form, adequate intake of vitamin A or provitamin A can provide a number of health benefits. These include:

  1. Good vision – Vitamin A creates the pigments in the retina of the eye. It is also a key player in creating rhodopsin, a protein that absorbs light in the retina. Without vitamin A, the creation of this protein is inhibited, leading to eye problems like night blindness and blurred vision. For these reasons, vitamin A is the most integral micronutrient for good vision and overall eye health.
  2. Lower risk of cancer – Studies suggest that eating lots of foods containing beta-carotene, a well-known carotenoid, helps lower the risk of certain types of cancer, such as lung and prostate cancer. Research on the subject is still limited, but a recent report showed that people who consume more carotenoid-rich foods have a lower risk of skin cancer.
  3. Stronger immune system – Vitamin A plays a crucial role in maintaining our bodies’ natural defenses. The mucous membranes in our eyes, lungs, gut, nose and genitals are crucial for trapping bacteria, fungi and other pathogenic agents that could cause infection in the said organs. Vitamin A helps strengthen these mucous barriers for better protection against harmful microbes.
  4. Bright and clear skin – Besides minimizing the risk of skin cancer, the effects of adequate vitamin A intake can be observed on a daily basis. If your skin is bright, hydrated and free from acne, chances are you’re getting enough vitamin A. Vitamin A helps repair damaged skin cells, making your skin look fresh and youthful.
  5. Stronger bones – Vitamin A also has a hand in the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth. In fact, recent studies show that people with higher blood levels of vitamin A have a lower risk of fractures. But some studies also suggest that excessive amounts of vitamin A can cause bones to become thin and brittle. To avoid these consequences, consume only the recommended daily amount of vitamin A for your age.
  6. Normal growth and reproduction – Through its role in cell growth and cell division, vitamin A helps in maintaining the health of your heart, lungs and other vital organs. In pregnant women, vitamin A also ensures normal fetal growth and development, while in males, sufficient intake of vitamin A has been associated with increased testosterone levels and sperm count.

Best sources of vitamin A

Despite the importance of vitamin A to our overall health, it isn’t all that uncommon for people to still be deficient in the said micronutrient. This could lead to a host of problems, including irreversible eye damage or permanent vision loss.

That being said, just eating enough of the right foods should help deter the consequences of insufficient vitamin A intake. As per recent guidelines set by the US Food and Drug Administration, the average adult should aim to consume 900 micrograms (mcg).

Here are some rich and natural sources of vitamin A. Remember to eat them as part of a balanced diet to ensure adequate vitamin A intake.

  1. Beef liver – Animal livers are one of the most abundant sources of retinol. This is because animals store vitamin A in their livers, much like humans. A three-ounce (oz.) serving of cooked beef liver contains 6,582 mcg of vitamin A or 731 percent of the nutrient’s daily value (DV).
  2. Cod liver oil – Fish livers also hold a sizable amount of vitamin A. One tablespoon (tbsp.) of cod liver oil offers 4,080 mcg or 453 percent of the recommended DV of vitamin A.
  3. Sweet potato – One whole cooked sweet potato provides 1,403 mcg of vitamin A or 155 percent of the recommended DV. The main form of vitamin A found in sweet potatoes is beta-carotene, which is mostly concentrated in the skin.
  4. Carrots – Carrots are a no-brainer. Just half a cup of raw carrots provides 459 mcg of vitamin A or 51 percent of the recommended DV. Carrots are also low-calorie foods that make for a light and healthful snack.
  5. Black-eyed peas – These legumes are rich in a number of essential nutrients, including vitamin A, protein, fiber and iron. Each cup of cooked black-eyed peas provides 66 mcg of vitamin A or 7 percent of the recommended DV.
  6. Spinach – Spinach is one of the few dark green vegetables that contain ample amounts of vitamin A. Each half-cup serving of spinach contains 573 mcg of vitamin A or 63 percent of the recommended DV.
  7. Broccoli – Broccoli, another nutritious source of vitamin A, provides 60 mcg of the nutrient per half-cup serving. You can roast or saute broccoli florets to neutralize their bitter taste.
  8. Red bell pepper – Half a cup of bright bell peppers contains 117 mcg of vitamin A or 13 percent of the recommended DV. For a vitamin A-loaded salad, mix them with spinach leaves and broccoli florets.
  9. Mango – This sweet tropical fruit provides 112 mcg of vitamin A. It also has antioxidants and fiber to boot. Eat it raw for dessert or toss it in the blender to make a refreshing tropical fruit smoothie.
  10. Cantaloupe – Like mangoes, cantaloupes are delectable fruits best eaten during the hot summer months. Half a cup of cantaloupe chunks offers 135 mcg of vitamin A, just 15 percent of the recommended DV.
  11. Dried apricots – You can also snack on dried apricots to load up on vitamin A. Just 10 halves of these sweet fruits can provide you with 63 mcg of the said nutrient.
  12. Pumpkin – Pumpkins are another abundant source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. One slice of pumpkin pie contains 488 mcg of the nutrient or 54 percent of the recommended DV.
  13. Tomatoes – Just a three-quarter cup serving of tomato juice contains 42 mcg of vitamin A. Tomatoes are also abundant in other carotenoids besides beta-carotene, all of which support good vision.
  14. Herring – Each 3 oz-serving of pickled herring provides 219 mcg of vitamin A or about 24 percent of the recommended DV. Other fatty fishes like salmon, mackerel and tuna also contain significant amounts of the said nutrient.

Vitamin A is essential for good vision, clear skin and strong bones, among other things. To avoid nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin A deficiency, incorporate foods rich in the nutrient into a well-balanced diet and take supplements if needed.

Sources: 1 2

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