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All About Vitamin A: Why Your Body Needs It & Good Natural Sources of It

There are so many vitamins that are required by the body to function well that we often don’t stop to think about each individual one. That’s why we’ve been looking at specific vitamins lately to better understand why the body needs them and how to get an adequate supply of them every day with a healthy and natural lifestyle. Today, we’re focusing on vitamin A and discussing its essential functions, health benefits, and key sources.

Photo credit: Diane Main via Flickr

Why Does the Body Need Vitamin A?

Vitamin A is one of many fat-soluble vitamins that you can get from food. It plays an important role in the normal functioning of the immune system, vision, reproduction, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Preformed vitamin A is commonly found in meat and daily products, while provitamin A is in plant-based products, like fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A has the strongest connection to good eye health, but the benefits of this vitamin don’t’ stop there. It is also linked to good skin health, good respiratory health, immune support, and reduced inflammation in the body.

The Risks of Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiencies are rare in the United States because most people can get enough of this vitamin through common food sources. However, people who are most prone to vitamin A deficiencies are individuals with cystic fibrosis, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and premature infants. Xerophthalmia is an eye condition that is a common result of a vitamin A deficiency. This condition makes it more difficult to see in dark conditions and can even lead to blindness if it’s not treated.

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How Much Vitamin A Do You Need?

According to the National Institutes of Health, most people age 14 and older need between 700 and 900 micrograms of vitamin A per day. However, this recommendation is increased for women who are nursing and decreased for children younger than 14. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests getting a daily value of 5,000 IU of vitamin A per day from both plant and animal foods.

Health Risks of Vitamin A

As with most things in life, too much of a particular vitamin can lead to problems. Too much vitamin A has been linked to headaches, nausea, and dizziness. It is also possible that pregnant women who consume too much vitamin A may deliver a baby with birth defects. Vitamin A may also interact with weight-loss drugs and certain medications taken for skin conditions. However, side effects from vitamin A are very rare, as this is a very safe and essential vitamin for the human body.

Best Sources of Vitamin A

There are many foods that contain natural vitamin A, including organ meats, like beef liver, and some fish, like salmon. Dairy products are another source of vitamin A for many people. Vegetarians and vegans can get their vitamin A through plant-based foods, including broccoli, carrots, squash, mangoes, and cantaloupe. Kale, sweet potatoes, and dried apricots are also good sources of vitamin A.

If you have trouble getting enough vitamin A in your diet through food alone or to simply add variety to your diet, we recommend Seagate Carrot Powder, which is a great alternative to juicing. To see just how versatile this highly concentrated organic product is, check out our carrot powder recipe section for a delicious dose of vitamin A.

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