The Fresh Beet | Credible Nutrition Information

Are you getting enough Vitamin A everyday?

By August 10, 2015 Nutrition Column
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Nutripedia is a series of posts designed to help you learn more about the importance of essential nutrients & how to easily incorporate them into your daily life.

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble vitamins which means they require fats for absorption and are stored in body tissues. If you eat a low fat diet or suffer from malabsorption issues (IBD, Celiacs, Chrons), you may not be getting adequate amounts of these essential vitamins. Let’s take a closer look at Vitamin A.
VITAMIN A
Vitamin A is found in two forms:
  • Retinoids – from animal foods
  • Carotenoids (beta-carotene) – from plant foods
After ingestion, both forms are converted to retinal and retinoic acid, the active form of vitamin A, so your body can use it for an array of health promoting benefits. Although other carotenoids like lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene confer many health benefits, they are not converted to Vitamin A.
FUNCTION
Vitamin A is necessary for:
  • a properly functioning immune system
  • vision – prevents night blindness
  • proper embryo and fetus development (critical during pregnancy)
  • normal reproduction of cells
Beta-carotene serves as an antioxidant, a cancer-fighting phytochemical. Studies show that people with higher circulating levels of beta-carotene seem to have a lower risk of developing breast, colon, esophageal and cervical cancers.
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the daily amount needed to meet the nutrient requirements of most healthy people. People with chronic disease or other disorders may have increased needs of certain vitamins and minerals.
RDA’s for Vitamin A
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0–6 months* 400 mcg RAE 400 mcg RAE
7–12 months* 500 mcg RAE 500 mcg RAE
1–3 years 300 mcg RAE 300 mcg RAE
4–8 years 400 mcg RAE 400 mcg RAE
9–13 years 600 mcg RAE 600 mcg RAE
14–18 years 900 mcg RAE 700 mcg RAE 750 mcg RAE 1,200 mcg RAE
19–50 years 900 mcg RAE 700 mcg RAE 770 mcg RAE 1,300 mcg RAE
51+ years 900 mcg RAE 700 mcg RAE
source: USDA Food and Nutrition Information Center
* Adequate Intake (AI), equivalent to the mean intake of vitamin A in healthy, breastfed infants
FOOD SOURCES
Animals: beef, chicken liver, eggs, fish liver oil, and whole milk dairy products
Plants: dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, mustards, chard, etc; and deep yellow/orange vegetables like winter squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and fruits like apricots, cantaloupe, peaches and mangos.
Selected Food Sources of Vitamin A
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, frozen, boiled, ½ cup 573 11,458 229
Carrots, raw, ½ cup 459 9,189 184
Pumpkin pie, commercially prepared, 1 piece 488 3,743 249
Cantaloupe, raw, ½ cup 135 2,706 54
Peppers, sweet, red, raw, ½ cup 117 2,332 47
Mangos, raw, 1 whole 112 2,240 45
Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled, 1 cup 66 1,305 26
Apricots, dried, sulfured, 10 halves 63 1,261 25
Broccoli, boiled, ½ cup 60 1,208 24
Ice cream, French vanilla, soft serve, 1 cup 278 1,014 20
Cheese, ricotta, part skim, 1 cup 263 945 19
Tomato juice, canned, ¾ cup 42 821 16
Herring, Atlantic, pickled, 3 ounces 219 731 15
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin A, ¾–1 cup (more heavily fortified cereals might provide more of the DV) 127–149 500 10
Milk, fat-free or skim, with added vitamin A and vitamin D, 1 cup 149 500 10
Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian, 1 cup 13 274 5
Egg, hard boiled, 1 large 75 260 5
Summer squash, all varieties, boiled, ½ cup 10 191 4
Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 3 ounces 59 176 4
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 1 cup 32 116 2
Pistachio nuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 4 73 1
Tuna, light, canned in oil, drained solids, 3 ounces 20 65 1
Chicken, breast meat and skin, roasted, ½ breast 5 18 0

 

*DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet. The DV for vitamin A is 5,000 IU for adults and children age 4 and older. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.
It’s always best to get your nutrients from food rather than from supplements. There are a variety of phytochemicals intrinsic to plants – not found in supplements – which work synergistically to promote health. In fact, some supplements could actually harm you health.
A couple of large clinical trials (here and here) show that vitamin A and beta-carotene supplements actually increased the risk of lung cancer in current and former smokers. If you are or were a smoker, stick your carrots, not your vitamins.
In regards to age-related macular degeneration however, some supplements may prevent the disease in those at higher risk.
GET THAT DAILY VITAMIN A
  • Have a roasted sweet potato with dinner. Have it as a side, cube it and toss it in a salad, or serve it mashed style.
  • Add unsweetened canned pumpkin into oatmeal, yogurt, muffins, breakfast bowls and smoothies.
  • Throw 1/2 cup cooked spinach into your scrambled eggs, chili, spaghetti sauce and pasta dishes.
Below are some of my favorite ways to incorporate more vitamin A into my day. Enjoy!

Healthy Stuffed Sweet Potatos

healthy stuffed potato skins

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato & Lentil Stew with Poached Eggs

sweet potato stew

Pumpkin Spice Parfait

healthy pumpkin parfait

Blackberry Pumpkin Muesli

healthy pumpkin breakfast

Brussel Sprout & Kale Salad with Currants and Bacon + Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette

Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

 


Additional Sources
University of Maryland Medical Center
National Institutes of Health 
USDA Nutrient Database

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