Vitamin A is one of the 43 nutrients essential to healthy bodily functions. Unfortunately, your body cannot synthesize vitamin A in the quantities you need. This means you need to eat foods containing vitamin A as a part of your regular diet. Let’s take a closer look at this essential nutrient that is probably lacking from your diet, some of the benefits it delivers, and the vitamin A-rich foods you need to be eating more of.
What is Vitamin A?
What we refer to as vitamin A is actually a group of unsaturated organic compounds. They include retinol, lutein, several xanthophylls and provitamin A carotenoids among others. Beta-carotene is one of the most important elements of vitamin A.
Beta-carotene creates that red/orange-ish color found in plants and fruits like pumpkins, carrots and sweet potatoes. Retinol is a natural alcohol and fat-soluble substance that your body converts to vitamin A, and is required for healthy vision.
How Does Vitamin A Benefit Your Body?
The carotenoids, retinol and other compounds found in vitamin A produce a host of health benefits. You probably have been told that you can eat carrots to help improve your vision. That is absolutely correct. Vitamin A, found in high concentrations in spinach, collard greens, carrots, broccoli and cod liver oil, is required in healthy levels for proper vision.
It combines with certain proteins to allow you to properly process low light and color visuals. Vitamin A also boosts your immune system, and is used as a treatment for some cancers. The antioxidants in this essential nutrient also help offset dangerous free radicals in your body that can damage your cells and tissue.
Medical Conditions Caused by a Lack of Vitamin A
If you are lacking in proper levels of vitamin A, that could be a serious problem. Below is a short list of just some of the major medical conditions and health problems that a vitamin A deficiency can lead to:
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Dry Eyes
- Impotence (Lack of sperm production)
- Heart Disease
- Lung Cancer
- Skin Cancer
- Poor vision
- Premature Delivery
- Thyroid disorders
- Varicose veins
- Viral infections
Vitamin A has also been used to help fight the following illnesses and diseases:
- Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Chlamydial infection
- Heart disease
- Laryngeal cancer (cancer of the larynx)
- Male and female infertility
- Prostate cancer
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin cancer
- Vaginal candidiasis
What Kinds of Foods Is Vitamin A Found in and What Quantities?
Helping to combat the medical conditions, diseases and health problems just listed could be as simple as getting plenty of vitamin A in your diet. How do you do this? Eat more of the following foods. Below you will find a list of some of the foods that deliver more vitamin A than others. Incorporate these foods into your diet, and your vision, immune system and several other important bodily functions may begin to benefit immediately.
- 1 medium-sized sweet potato (180 calories) delivers 214% of the daily recommended allowance (DRA) of vitamin A.
- 1 cup of uncooked carrots only amounts to about 50 calories. But that serving size still delivers 113% of your vitamin A DRA.
- 1 cup of spinach delivers even fewer calories than a cup of carrots (41 cal). You also receive 105% of the vitamin A you need each day.
- 1 cup of kale results in just 36 calories, and 98% of your vitamin A daily recommended allowance.
- Mustard greens give you 96% of the daily vitamin A you need in just 1 cup, and also contribute just 36 calories.
- Winter squash, Swiss chard, turnip greens and beet greens all deliver about 60% of the vitamin A you need each day. They contribute 30 to 70 calories per cup.
- Romain lettuce, bok choy and cantaloupe deliver 30% to 45% of your vitamin A DRA, though Romain lettuce requires 2 cups to do so. Calorie count runs 30 to 45.
- Asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers and parsley deliver 10% to 15% of your daily vitamin A needs per cup, and are also very light on your caloric load.