Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vitamin & Mineral ABC's: Vitamin A

Today I am going to start a new segment called Vitamin and Mineral ABC's. I will be talking about all of the different vitamins and minerals that our body needs starting with Vitamin A and ending with Zinc. I think that it is super important for us to understand not only how much of each of these nutrients we need to put in our bodies, but also to understand why we need them and what the best ways are to receive these nutrients without just supplementing.

Just so you guys know, I'm also learning this myself and am just getting the facts from databases and other reliable websites. :)

With that being said, my first lucky contestant would be none other than Vitamin A. Vitamin A is one of the four fat soluble vitamins (along with D, E, and K). Fat soluble vitamin is just fancy lingo for vitamins that are stored longer in the body (just like fat) and they are not lost as easy as other vitamins when they are boiled, microwaved, etc. The vitamins that would be lost through boiling and other cooking methods are water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C. Because the fat soluble vitamins last longer in the body we don't need them as much and if we consume a lot of them it could be a wee bit toxic.

What does Vitamin A do?
Vitamin A does wonders in the body. The most commonly known one is that it helps improve eye sight-- I remember being told that I need to eat my carrots or else I would go I can thank Mom for scaring the jeebers out of me and getting me to eat my vitamin A. In all seriousness though, there are health risks such as AMD which means that as you get older, your eye sight slowly deteriorates. Vitamin A can also decrease your risks against cancer. The vitamin helps stimulate white blood cells and also helps regulate how much cells split up (cancer is started mainly by an uncontrolled amount of cells splitting).
Vitamin A has also been known to help prevent lung cancers in non-smokers AND smokers. Smokers should not take straight beta-carotene though because it has been known to increase chances...keep Vitamin A in mind instead. (:

How much do I need?

There are two types of Vitamin A. There is preformed vitamin A and also beta-carotene. You can consume as much beta-carotene as you want without any major side effects, but preformed Vitamin A can lead to some birth defects, nausea, dizziness, etc. The precursor, beta-carotene can form itself into Vitamin A if needed, so if you are worried about not getting enough of the preformed Vitamin A--you really shouldn't :). The safest way to make sure you are getting an adequate amount of both is just to consume both!

Here are the recommended values:

Life StageUpper Safe Limit
Birth to 12 months2,000 IU
Children 1–3 years2,000 IU
Children 4–8 years3,000 IU
Children 9–13 years5,667 IU
Teens 14–18 years9,333 IU
Adults 19 years and older10,000 IU
Now this chart seems kind of hard to understand, but I think that the easiest way to know that you are getting enough is by looking at the nutrition label where the vitamins are usually will show a percentage of how much of your daily values of Vitamin A are in the food. Again, don't freak out if you are over the percentages because your body will process what it needs and discard the rest. However, because it is a fat-soluble vitamin it will be stored for longer than water-soluble vitamins. So be more careful with over-doses of A, D, E, and K.
How do I know if I am at risk?
For most people in the USA, Vitamin A deficiency is not common. In developing countries, it is common though because most people do not have a great supply of foods full of beta carotene or Vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency takes a toll on people is when they are just babies. It is usually diagnosed when children are not able to see in dim light or at night.

Where can I find Vitamin A and Beta Carotene?

Beta Carotene is found in yellow, orange, and leafy green fruits and vegetables such as carrots, peppers, and kale. According to the University of Maryland, the brighter the fruit or veggie is, the more beta carotene it has.

Vitamin A can be found in lots of different foods, but its most common spots are in sweet potatoes, liver, spinach, fish oils, milk, eggs, fortified cereals, and broccoli.

Thanks for Reading!

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