What is Vitamin A and Why do You Need it?
Vitamin A is an umbrella term for retinoids, which are biologically active compounds that can be found naturally in both plant and animal tissues. When vitamin A comes from an animal source, it is fat-soluble and in the form of retinoic acid, retinal and retinol. Because your tissues naturally produce these compounds, eating too much vitamin A from animal sources can lead to a toxic level of this nutrient. Vitamin A from fruits and vegetables is in the form of carotenoids (or provitamin A) which must be converted by your body into usable retinoids.
The National Institutes of Health say, “vitamin A is important for normal vision, the immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs work properly.” Vitamin A is also an essential component to healthy eyesight, and it is frequently used in skin care because of the effect it has on your cells. Vitamin A “…stimulates the production and activity of white blood cells, takes part in remodeling bone, helps maintain the health of endothelial cells (those lining the body’s interior surfaces), and regulates cell growth and division,” according to The Nutrition Source of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Foods With Vitamin A
In the United States, it’s rare to be deficient in vitamin A, but you do want to make sure you are receiving enough to keep your body functioning properly. To increase your intake of vitamin A, incorporate the following foods into your diet:
- Tuna – In a three ounce serving of tuna, you receive just under 50 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin A. Tuna is also a relatively lean source of protein and it provides you with necessary healthy fats (polyunsaturated fat) with a very small amount of saturated fat.
- Sweet Potatoes – To rapidly boost your vitamin A levels, simply cook a sweet potato. One cup of cooked sweet potato contains over 750 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin A. Carotenoids are what provide sweet potatoes with their rich orange color and these root vegetables are high in other vitamins – B6, C and D to name a few.
- Dark Leafy Greens – There is a reason that people can’t stop talking about kale – it is an incredibly nutritious leafy green that contains minimal calories. A one-cup serving of kale is equal to just over 350 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin A. If you find kale bitter and rough, try cooking it or steaming it to reduce these issues. Alternatively, you could eat spinach, which contains 377 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin A in a one cup serving.
To boost your vitamin A, you don’t need to do anything more than make some changes to your grocery list. You could also add tropical fruits like mango and papaya to your list, because both are excellent (and delicious) sources of vitamin A. Ingesting vitamin A not only benefits your internal organs, it also improves the health of your skin by affecting cell turnover. Enjoy experimenting with vitamin A rich recipes for increased health.