What Is Vitamin A & Why Do We Need It?
Vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant, is an important and somewhat misunderstood nutrient. It may be essential to many of our body's functions. However, many of us don’t get enough of it. This may be because of the combination of our dietary changes, the availability in our food sources, and our body’s fluctuating rates of conversion from the inactive to the active form. These factors have clouded the seemingly simple question – are you getting enough vitamin A?
Vitamin A breakdown - why is it important?
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant. As it moves through your body it scavenges damaging free radicals and fights inflammation.
Vitamin A benefits are wide reaching and have an influential role in brain function, skin, heart, kidneys, lungs, vision, and immune system health. It’s wide reaching influences on your overall health have earned it the reputation of being an anti-aging vitamin.
One of the defining characteristics of vitamin A is that it is fat soluble – meaning its dissolved, absorbed, and stored by fat tissue. Remember this if you’re looking to increase your vitamin A levels because you’ll significantly improve your body’s absorption if your source contains a fat. That means you should slather some grass-fed butter on your carrots.
There are two different kinds of vitamin A:
- Preformed vitamin A – The active kind your body uses more readily and is only found in animal products.
- Provitamin A – The kind your body has to convert, most commonly beta-carotene.
Vitamin A is responsible for many processes in your body, including maintaining healthy vision, ensuring the normal function of your immune system.
Vitamin A -rich foods
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient. It helps your body form healthy teeth, bones, soft tissues, and skin. It can also help you ward off bacterial and viral infections, prevent night blindness, and keep your hair and nails healthy.
Foods that are particularly high in vitamin A include:
- sweet potatoes
- winter squash
- kale, and collard greens
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Grass-fed butter
- Cod liver oil
Some spices are also high in vitamin A, including paprika, red pepper, cayenne, and chili powder.
Many people think they are eating good sources of vitamin A when they consume foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. The type of vitamin A in these vegetables is actually beta-carotene, which is the pro vitamin A form. This is different to active vitamin A which comes in three forms: retinol, retinal and retinoic acid.
The three forms of active preformed vitamin A differ in purpose within the body and in their oxidation levels.
1. Retinol – Also known as vitamin A1. This is common in supplements and also associated with vitamin A toxicity in extremely high doses.
2. Retinal – Essential to your vision, this form of vitamin A converts light into electrical input to your brain.
3. Retinoic acid – Retinoic acid is critical in cell differentiation. When your cells are very young and still not sure if they will become eye cells, heart cells or brain cells, they depend on retinoic acid to tell them what to turn into.
Vitamin A is essential for preserving your eyesight.
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Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is considered the most important supplement under the sun—and for a good reason. Vitamin D supports everything from bones, heart health to mood. But, how often has someone recommended combining your high-dose of vitamin D with vitamin K and vitamin A? Together, these three powerful vitamins join forces to support your bones, heart, and immune system.
Are you getting enough vitamin A?
Vitamin A is an antioxidant that supports the immune system functions and helps in developing the bones in our bodies. Vitamin A is also often associated with good eyesight and is used to help treat acne. Vitamin D may work with vitamin A to help the immune system fight off viruses and bacteria. It may also prevent weakening of the bones and aids in controlling cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
The foods and vitamins you eat gives your body the nutrients it needs to thrive. What you eat can affect how you feel today as well as how you feel years from now.