Vitamin A Foods
The benefits and best sources
There are many important roles in the body that require vitamin A foods, as this vitamin is an anti oxidant and has hormone like properties. An important point to remember is that vitamin A cannot be utilised without sufficient zinc and protein.
Vitamin A is fat soluble and therefore is not easily broken down by our body. This then makes excessive intakes possibly poisonous.
What are the main benefits of vitamin A?
- Vision - needed for day time vision but vitamin A makes vision possible in dim lighting (night vision).
- Growth and development of cell membranes, especially during pregnancy.
- May protect against cancer - especially lung, skin, colon and breast cancers for its involvement in cell adhesion, which is needed to prevent cancer spreading.
- Production of steroid hormones such as the male and female sex hormones and stress hormones.
- Fertility - needed for sperm production and maintenance of the menstrual cycle.
- Bone growth - it is believed that vitamin A helps vitamin D to build fresh bone.
- Immune defences - vitamin A is thought to be important in helping to fight viruses.
- Blood clotting
The Best Vitamin A Foods?
Vitamin A is found in foods of animal origin in the form of retinol. The body also converts beta-carotene, found in plant foods, into vitamin A.
Food sources of beta-carotene:
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Most orange vegetables and fruit such as: carrots, red pepper, pumpkin, sweet potato, cress, endive, kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, watercress, dried apricots, cantaloupe, mango, papaya.
Food sources of retinol:
- Liver (the richest source of retinol)
- Oily fish such as: mackerel, herring, pilchards and sardines.
- Dairy (milk, cheese and butter)
The following may contribute to a deficiency of vitamin A:
- Alcohol, smoking, tea and coffee, stress and strenuous exercise
- Viral infections, measles, gastro intestinal infections
- Periods of fast growth
- Underactive thyroid
Possible deficiency symptoms:
- Night blindness
- Eye ulcers
- Eye pains, burning and itching
- Dry skin
- Mouth ulcers
- Poor hair condition
- Food intolerances
- Gastric ulcers
- Infections such as: thrush, cystitis, kidney and lung infections and colds
Is it possible to eat enough to result in a vitamin A overdose?
It is possible to overdose on any vitamin if enough vitamin A foods are eaten but extremely large amounts need to be eaten for levels to be toxic, which is why an overdose is rare.
Vitamin A toxicity symptoms can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Peeling, redness or itching of skin
- Hair loss
- Night blindness
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