Vitamin A

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.
Lambsquarters 11601 IU 232%
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.
Papaya 4157 IU 83%
Arugula 2373 IU 47%
Endive 2167 IU 43% Especially high in beta carotene.
Mango 1584 IU 32%
Grapefruit 1415 IU 28%
Cherries 1321 IU 26%
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.
Asparagus 1013 IU 20%
Black Olives N/A N/A
Nettles N/A N/A