This week the spotlight is on vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that also acts as a powerful antioxidant inside the body. Vitamin A has an important role to play in neurological function, healthy skin, maintaining vision, and immunity. Vitamin A exists in two forms: the plant source carotenoids and the animal source retinol. The plant form is not essential to the human body but retinol is. The carotenoid form (only 10% of carotenoids function as vitamin A) can be converted into retinol if the body is functioning optimally.
Vitamin A can also help to reduce inflammation and cholesterol, support bone health, support reproduction, repair body tissue, prevent kidney stone formation and cancer. Signs of deficiency include dry eyes, night blindness, dry lips, thick or scaly skin, poor immune function and stunted growth in children. It’s clear if you want to be healthy, you don’t want to be deficient in this vital nutrient and the best way to do that is from food sources. However in certain cases supplementation might be required. If you think you might be deficient in vitamin A speak to a doctor or NT to test your levels and supplement appropriately and safely. The key mechanism that makes vitamin A an important player in the fight against COVID-19 are its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to regulate immune responses and messengers.
Food sources of carotenoids, the plant form of vitamin A are basically all red, yellow, orange and green vegetables. Animals that eat these vegetables store vitamin A in their livers so liver from cows, chickens, fish and any other animals will give you a good dose of vitamin A the already converted retinol form. Other options include milk and eggs. If you only want to rely on plant sources, be warned, genetic mutations, nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues and too much fibre can block or greatly reduce the absorption and conversion to retinol – supplementation may be required. A safe amount to supplement is 3,000ius of retinol per day. Avoid if pregnant or trying to conceive. As mentioned earlier vitamin A is fat-soluble so healthy fats are needed in the diet for absorption.
Quick vitamin A recipes:
Wholegrain/brown rice lightly stir-fried in a good quality butter or coconut oil with red and orange peppers, carrots, courgette, spinach, spring onions and garlic
Vitamin A juice: 1 red pepper, 4 carrots, 4 leaves of spinach, 1 tomato and 1 slice of fresh ginger