Vitamin A is best known for its role in maintaining good vision, but it also protects cells from radiation, and fights against cancer, infections, and sun damage. It also plays a role in maintaining healthy hair. The type of vitamin A known as carotenoids are plant pigments, responsible for the red, orange, and yellow color of fruits and vegetables. The body turns these carotenoids into a form of vitamin A that is used by the body. Vitamin A, particularly in the form of beta carotene, is abundant in green leafy vegetables.
Early signs of vitamin A deficiency include a goose bump appearance on the skin and dry rough skin on the forearms and thighs. Poor vision, night blindness, and increased susceptibility to viral infections can also result.
Excessive vitamin A intake does not cause lasting damage in adults or children, but it can have severe permanent effects on a fetus, including cleft palate and spina bifida, and can cause malformed bones in infants. After months of excessive vitamin A intake (over 10,000 IU per day) adults may experience loss of appetite, irritability, fatigue, dry and itchy skin, brittle fingernails, hair loss, headaches, visual changes, or bone and muscle pain. These symptoms usually subside quickly when vitamin A intake is decreased.
Vitamin A generally withstands cooking and exposure to air, so cooked foods and raw foods alike will offer the benefits of this nutrient.
|US Recommended Daily Allowance:||5000 IU|
Health Benefits of Vitamin A
|Eyes/Vision||Prevents cataracts and age-related vision loss. Maintains healthy surface linings on the eyes to keep out bacteria and viruses. Helps the eyes adjust to changes in light. A deficiency can cause night blindness. An overdose can cause blurred vision.|
|Immune System - General||Strengthens the immune system. Shortens the duration of illnesses. Fights cancer.|
|Lungs||Helps prevent emphysema in smokers, which is caused, in part, by a vitamin A deficiency.|
|Nails||A deficiency can cause nails to peel.|
|Pancreas||Beta-carotene may help relieve pancreatic insufficiency.|
|Sinuses||Helps build healthy mucus membranes in the head and throat. Large quantities help relieve existing sinus congestion.|
|Skin||Protects skin against sun damage and acne. Reverses signs of aging. A deficiency can cause a goose bump appearance on the skin. May cause skin to turn orange or yellow in some individuals.|
Food Sources of Vitamin A
|Sweet Potatoes||38433 IU||769%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Kale||15376 IU||308%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Mustard Greens||10502 IU||210%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Dandelion Greens||10160 IU||203%|
|Spinach||9376 IU||188%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Goji Berries/Wolfberries||8500 IU||170%|
|Parsley||8425 IU||169%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Collards||6668 IU||133%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Beet Leaves||6326 IU||127%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Chard||6116 IU||122%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Romaine Lettuce||5808 IU||116%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Watercress||4700 IU||94%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Bell Peppers||4666 IU||93%||Only red bell peppers contain significant amounts of vitamin A.|
|Endive||2167 IU||43%||Especially high in beta carotene.|
|Tomatoes||1134 mg||23%||Extensively studied for their high levels of lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant and cancer-fighter. Choose whole, organic tomatoes for the highest levels of lycopene.|