The benefits of Vitamin A are numerous. My intention is to highlight some of the important blessings our bodies derive from consuming this nutrient.
Vitamin A was the first nutrient recognized as fat soluble. Fat soluble vitamins do not easily dissolve in water. They are absorbed in the intestines with the help of fats. There are four fat soluble vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins tend to be stored in the body and accumulate in the liver and fatty tissues. Because of this, it is possible to over-consume Vitamin A. However, this is more common when taken in supplement form than from whole foods.
Vitamin A can be converted from carotenes found in some of our food. The carotenes are distinguishable by their intense red and yellow color. Beta carotene is considered the most active carotene because of how easily it converts in the body to Vitamin A.
In its pure form Vitamin A is a pure yellow crystal called Retinol. Its name is derived from its involvement in the function of the retina of the eye. Your ability to read this blog today is partly because of one of this benefit of Retinol. The human retina has four different kinds of Vitamin A. Derivatives of Vitamin A have also been used to treat acne, other skin conditions, and more recently some cancers.
Food Sources of Vitamin A
Preformed Vitamin A (meaning it does not need to be converted from something else) is found in liver, kidney, butter, whole milk. While the precursors to Vitamin A (carotenes) are readily found in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, and collard greens, as well as in yellow-orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, yams and squash.
Because Vitamin A is fat soluble, it is important to remember that for best absorption this nutrient should be eaten with healthy fats, protein and antioxidants. The retinol form of Vitamin A is purified and does not require bile acids, but the carotene form from vegetables does require bile acids from the gall bladder and liver to convert them. So a healthy gall bladder and digestive system in general helps the body readily absorb this essential nutrient.
Vitamin A deficiency from poor digestion or from inadequate dietary intake can have its dire effects. Because of this vitamins influence on immunity, the immune system can become impaired leading to a weak antibody defense against infection. A skin condition known as hyperkeritosis is common with Vitamin A deficiency. An eye disease known as xerophthalmia can develop with prolonged deficiency, as well as other vision problems.
I could go on and on about Vitamin A, but I will leave you with some words of wisdom. Eat lots of greens and lots of carrots. And if you're going to supplement or think your digestion may need some tuning up, please consult with an experienced practitioner. I'm off to do some juicing myself!