Nutrient to Know: Vitamin A
We all know we should eat our veggies, but do you know why? Nutrients from whole foods provide plenty of amazing health benefits. To continue our series on common nutrients, this week we're shining the spotlight on vitamin A (a.k.a. retinol and beta-carotene).
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin -- its two forms are retinol (commonly referred to as just “vitamin A”) and beta-carotene. Your body can convert beta-carotene into retinol. Both kinds of vitamin A are found in food, and eating either counts toward your daily needs.
Vitamin A builds healthy skin, bones and eyes (night blindness is a symptom of A deficiency). Beta-carotene also works as a cell-protecting antioxidant.
But too much of a good thing is possible. Our bodies store excess vitamin A, so overdoing supplements can have some negative effects, including birth defects, liver damage and nervous system disorders. Studies have found that large doses of beta-carotene supplements can increase the risk of lung cancer, especially in smokers. But we're just talking about overdoing the artificial vitamins found in supplements. Don’t limit those vitamin A-rich foods!
The retinol form of vitamin A is in butter, cheese, milk, egg yolks and liver. Beta-carotene hangs out in dark leafy greens; bright red, yellow, and orange veggies and fruits such as oranges, limes, pineapple, apricots and cantaloupe.
The daily recommended amount of vitamin A is 5000 IU. Sure, that sounds like a huge number, but it’s easier than you might think to get it without using supplements. Here are some tasty, natural ways to help you get your full daily dose: