photo: SunSelect Produce, Inc.

vitamin series: A

If you care about your vision and overall organ health and function, you might want to listen in on this. Today’s installment of the vitamin series will discuss vitamin A.

What does vitamin A do? Why should I eat it?

Vitamin A primarily helps with vision. Vitamin A is also responsible for stimulating the production and activity of white blood cells, remodeling bone, maintaining the health of endothelial cells, and regulating cell growth and division.

Where can I find it in my daily diet?

Vitamin A is most concentrated in liver and fish oils. Understanding that most people are not going to start pouring liver oil on their salads, more reasonable foods rich in vitamin A are dairy, eggs, liver, fish, fortified cereals, leafy green veggies, tomatoes, fruits, and any yellow or orange vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, squash, etc. Some vegetable oils apparently have a bit of vitamin A as well–check your labels.

yellow pepper, foods rich in vitamin A, vitamin a

photo: Raw Earth Living

Vitamin A is fat soluble, which means it is stored by the body, primarily in the liver. In high amounts vitamin A can be toxic, so it is important to avoid sudden, overwhelming intakes of the vitamin in one sitting. Symptoms of too much vitamin A in the body are dizziness, nausea, headaches, skin irritation, joint and bone pain, coma, and possibly death. It’s important to note that it’s pretty close to impossible to ingest too much vitamin A via natural food sources–most issues usually arise from an overload of vitamin supplements. More incentive to eat a healthy diet!

For men and women over the age of 19, the upper limit of vitamin A intake is around 10,000 IU, or 3,000 mcg RAE. Make sure you check your multivitamin! One serving of my multivitamin provides 2,500 IU. I’m sure your vitamin is okay, but it’s best to know the levels you’re working with to be safe.

Not-so-fun fact: do you take an oral retinoid for your skin? Retinoids can be used for psoriasis or even the skin effects of T-cell lymphoma. Retinoids happen to be derived from vitamin A, so combined with your daily A intake, the toxicity threshold is much closer to attain. Be careful!

Pregnant women should also be aware of their daily levels to avoid toxic amounts of vitamin A, as it can result in serious birth defects, such as malformations of the skull, eyes, heart, and lungs.

Now, there is a little caveat to all this toxicity. Beta carotene, a form of vitamin A, is much safer for the body. There is no toxic worry associated with high levels of beta carotene; the only side affect could be a yellow or orange tint to the skin. Remember when you were little and your mom told you about eating carrots to have great eyesight like a rabbit? This is why! Carrots are a great source of beta carotene.

So, if you are looking to toss your multivitamin and live a life that consists of vitamin-rich food sources, make sure you’re throwing in some orange and yellow fruits and veggies. I just stocked up on orange and yellow bell peppers just for this reason! Stir-fry for dinner!

photo credits: SunSelect Produce, Inc. Raw Earth Living