Vitamin A is required for healthy eyes, specifically the retina. It is also required for for strong teeth, healthy skeletal and soft tissue, mucous membranes and skin. Additionally, it plays an important role in reproduction, immune function, cell division and hormone synthesis.
How Much Vitamin A is Required for Good Health?
The recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin A depends on a person’s age and gender, and increased amounts are required during pregnancy and lactation. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that 3 cups of dark, leafy green vegetables and 2 cups orange vegetables will easily meet your required daily dose of Vitamin A. To determine your personal daily requirement check MSN’s Nutrient Library chart here.
Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms
One third of children under five have Vitamin A deficiency, which equates to approximately 670,000 children around the globe! The largest incidence of Vitamin A deficiency occurs in Southeast Asia and Africa, and according to Wikipedia, 500,000 children become blind each year due to this deficiency.
An early symptom of Vitamin A deficiency is night blindness and the inability to read in dim light. This condition is reversible, but if the deficiency becomes severe it can be irreversible and lead to permanent blindness. Vitamin A deficiency can also result in a compromised immune system, dry skin, infertility and stunted bone growth.
Can You Ingest Too Much Vitamin A?
Since Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, any surplus will be stored in the body. However, eating a large quantity of Vitamin A derived from plant sources for a short period has not been proven to be toxic, but might cause skin to be temporarily tinted orange. Long periods of over-consumption of Vitamin A from supplements or animal sources (called preformed Vitamin A), can cause a host of more serious problems. Too much Vitamin A of this type can cause dizziness, headaches, abnormalities of the liver, birth defects, osteoporosis, and even nervous system disorders.
Best Foods for Vitamin A
Vitamin A can be derived from foods of animal origin, whereby it is converted to retinol in the small intestine. Additionally, the Carotenoids in some plant foods can be converted into Vitamin A, the most common being Beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant. Good sources of Vitamin A are:
Animal sources – Liver from beef, pork, and chicken, cod liver oil, eggs, duck
Dairy products (and cereals) fortified with Vitamin A – Milk, butter, cheddar cheese
Green Leafy Vegetables – Broccoli, kale, spinach, collard greens, peas, peppers
Orange Vegetables and Fruits – Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, apricots, papaya and mangos
(For a comprehensive list of foods high in Vitamin A refer to Diet & Fitness Today’s “Foods High in Vitamin A” article, which lists foods in order of their Vitamin A nutritional value.)
So now you know that when your mom told you that eating carrots was good for your eyes, she knew what she was talking about! But it’s possible she might not have realized just how good they were for your body overall!
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Wikipedia – “Vitamin A”
MSN Nutrient Library – “What You Need to Know About Vitamin A”
Diet&Fitnesstoday.com – “Foods High in Vitamin A”