Our body requires a range of minerals and vitamins in order to function smoothly. Among some of the main essential vitamins that are important for the human body are Vitamins A, B, C and D. All these vitamins perform different functions inside our bodies and the deficiencies of these may result in a number of ailments, both mild and serious. From immunity to eye and skin health and even mental health, the presence (or absence) of these essential vitamins can control some of the most essential functions of the human body. These vitamins are mainly derived from food sources, both animal and plant-based and a diet is only considered healthy and balanced, when it contains adequate amounts of all these vitamins, along with minerals as well as the macro-nutrients- fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
What Is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is one of the essential vitamins required by the body. It is fat-soluble in nature and is usually stored in the liver. The daily requirements for this vitamin can be easily met by consuming a number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods. There are two different types of Vitamin A- Preformed Vitamin A and Provitamin A. Preformed Vitamin A is also known as retinol and it can be used up directly by the body. Meanwhile, Provitamin A is also known as carotenoids, which, after being consumed, are converted to retinol in the body. Dairy products and poultry like eggs, milk, chicken, are rich in retinol. Meanwhile, carotenoids are present in vegetables and fruits. The Required Dietary or Daily Allowance for Vitamin A varies according to age of the person. Additionally, the RDAs for Vitamin A are especially prescribed for pregnant women, as well as lactating mothers.
Vitamin A Uses and Benefits
Despite being abundantly available in Vitamin A rich foods, one-third of the world's children under the age of five, suffer from its deficiency, according to a 2009 World Health Organisation's global database on Vitamin A Deficiency. This deficiency has also been known to be fatal to kids, and has also been held responsible for causing preventable childhood blindness, particularly in South East Asian and Africa (as per a 2013 report by the National Institutes of Health). Numerous scientific studies have pointed at the health benefits of consuming adequate vitamin A, as part of your daily diet.
Let's look at some of the important roles and benefits of consuming Vitamin A:
1. Eye Health
Vitamin A is responsible for maintaining eye health, as it converts the light entering our eyes into electrical signals that can be then interpreted by the brain. Additionally, Vitamin A is a component of the pigment rhodopsin, which is found in the retina of the eye and is said to be photosensitive.
2. Improved Immunity
A deficiency of Vitamin A can leave you to be vulnerable to a number of diseases and consuming it ensures that your body's defences are active. This vitamin is important for maintenance of the mucous lining in the eyes, gut, genitalia and the lungs, and it is also crucial for development of white blood cells that fight infectious diseases.
3. Fights Acne
Acne is a skin problem that involves severe breakout of pimples that are often painful and most often even leave scars behind. Vitamin A is said to prevent development of acne.
4. Healthy Bones
Vitamin A also supports bone development and health and a deficiency of this vitamin has been linked with poor bone health. Some studies have shown that people with low levels of Vitamin A in blood are susceptible to bone fractures.
5. Reproductive Health
Vitamin A is important for maintaining the reproductive health of both men and women, especially the latter by ensuring the proper growth and development of the embryos during pregnancy. Deficiency of vitamin A in an expectant mother's diet has been linked with birth defects in their kids.
Vitamin A-Rich Foods | Best Dietary Sources Of Vitamin A
Here are the best dietary sources of Vitamin A1 or retinol (Preformed Vitamin A):
1. Cod Liver Oil
One of the best sources of retinol is cod liver oil, which is commonly consumed in the form of supplements, which has 2000 per cent of the Daily Value (DV), as per the data by USDA.
2. Goat Cheese
This low-calorie cheese is also a rich source of Vitamin A. It contains 29 per cent of the DV (as per USDA data).
The livers of mammals like cow, lamb, pig etc. are incredibly rich in retinol and can be consumed as part of a non-vegetarian diet to meet requirements of the vitamin.
4. Blue Cheese
Another healthy cheese- blue cheese- is also rich in Vitamin A1 and contains 15 per cent of the DV (as per USDA data).
Here are the best dietary sources of carotenoids or Provitamin A:
Carrots are popular among health nuts for its nutrient riches, among which Vitamin A is found in 104 per cent of the DV (as per USDA data).
This extremely healthy low-calorie veggie is also rich in Provitamin A or carotenoids containing 52 per cent of beta-carotene (a type of carotenoid) by DV (as per USDA data).
3. Sweet Potato
This favourite food of the health freaks also contains good amounts of carotenoids- 283 per cent of the DV (as per USDA data).
This fruit is important for liver and eye health and contains high amounts of Provitamin. It has 274 micrograms of beta-carotene (as per USDA data).
The king of fruits mango also reigns supreme when it comes to supplying your body with Provitamin A. The delicious fruit contains 21 per cent by DV of Vitamin A (as per USDA data).
Since Vitamin A is fat-soluble, it will be absorbed better by the body when consumed along with healthy fats. Animal-sources of Vitamin A may be more effective in fighting Vitamin A deficiency as they are also naturally rich in fats. For plant-sources of Vitamin A, make sure you add some amounts of healthy oils like olive oil, canola oil etc. to improve Vitamin uptake.
(This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.)