We are starting a new series of articles: The Alphabet of Vitamins. For the next few months, a different vitamin will be featured in this column. Given that A, B, C are the basics, we are proud to introduce the Alpha of vitamins: A. Enjoy the article and make sure to start incorporating Vitamin A into your diet.
What is Vitamin A and What Does it Do?
Vitamin A is naturally present in many foods. It is often associated with healthy vision, but it also is important for the immune and reproductive systems. Vitamin A supports the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs’ function, including the lining of the digestive tract.
There are two types of Vitamin A:
– the first type is found in beef, chicken, fish and dairy; it is known as preformed vitamin A.
– the second type is found in fruits, vegetables and various plant-based consumables; it is classified as provitamin A.
How much Vitamin A do you need?
Birth to 12 months 2,000 IU*
Children 1–3 years 2,000 IU
Children 4–8 years 3,000 IU
Children 9–13 years 5,667 IU
Teens 14–18 years 9,333 IU
Adults 19 years and older 10,000 IU
* International Units, given on most products labels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has established a vitamin A daily value (DV) intake of 5,000 IU for ages 4 and above. These are not the recommended intake, but trying to reach 100% of the DV each day can be useful in determining whether you are getting enough vitamin A.
What Foods are a Good Source of Vitamin A?
Beef and chicken liver are a great source; if you’re going to consume liver, make sure to obtain it from organic grass-fed beef or free-range chickens. Salmon is also filled with Vitamin A—always wild caught and not farm raised. Orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots and squash are among the best sources, but green leafy vegetables don’t trail too far behind. As far as fruits, cantaloupe, apricot and mango rank among the highest.
Are You Getting Enough?
Vitamin A is abundant in most foods eaten in the United States therefore vitamin A deficincy is not as prevalent. In developing countries, however, the deficiency is more common. High intakes of preformed Vitamin A supplements can be harmful, resulting in dizziness, nausea, headaches and even death. The only effect resulting from too much beta-carotene, the provitamin A type, is that it may turn the skin orange, a harmless condition.
Helping You Calculate the Recommended Intakes
|Food||mcg RAE per serving||IU per serving||Percent DV*|
|Sweet potato, baked in skin, 1 whole||1,403||28,058||561|
|Beef liver, pan fried, 3 ounces||6,582||22,175||444|
|Spinach, boiled, ½ cup||573||11,458||229|
|Carrots, raw, ½ cup||459||9,189||184|
|Cantaloupe, raw, ½ cup||135||2,760||54|
|Peppers, sweet, red, raw 1/2 cup||117||2,332||47|
Foods that Go Well with Vitamin A Rich Foods
There are some types of foods that do not combine well because they will put a strain on the digestive system. To be safe, have for lunch a protein source with some greens and vegetables, and at night some starch with vegetables. To better understand the best combination of foods, please read the article on food combinations, and try the recommended recipe, which has plenty of Vitamin A.
Vitamin A is essential to maintain health. Like any supplement, it needs to be combined with other vitamins and minerals, but starting with a diet rich with Vitamin A and slowly adding the other nutritional essentials, applying the principles of Food Combinations explained in the next article, you will be on your way to feeling marvelous and healthy.