Today's post is about Vitamin A, it's importance for our health, and some food sources that contain rich amount of it!
Here is a YouTube video I made on this topic if you would prefer to watch instead of read.
There are three active forms of active Vitamin A, that is to say, the kinds that actually do stuff in the body. There’s retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid.
Retinol circulates in the blood basically waiting for cells to do something with it. Retinal is important for vision. Retinoic acid affects gene expression.
So first off let’s talk about vision. In your eye, retinal combines with a protein called opsin. Together they form the visual pigment rhodopsin.
Now something really cool happens when light passes into the eye and strikes rhodopsin. The light actually changes the retinal in rhodopsin from a curved molecule to a straight one and this sends a nerve signal to our brain and our brain gets an image of whatever we’re looking at.
A beautiful painting, the face of our friend, a nice sunset, we can see these things because of Vitamin A!
This is why when we’re deficient in Vitamin A, people can have trouble seeing things, especially in dim light, which can turn into full blown blindness if we’re not careful. So Vitamin A is very important for eye health.
Moving onto retinoic acid, this is the form that’s needed for gene expression. This kind of Vitamin A enters the nucleus of cells, and changes the amount of specific proteins that are made. It basically allows cells to become a specific shape so they can perform a specific job.
When it comes to Vitamin A, it’s telling our DNA to make epithelial cells which make up our skin, and line internal cavities like our intestines, lungs, reproductive organs etc.
So when we’re deficient in Vitamin A, this gene expression will not happen in the way it should.
Cells that normally create mucus don’t properly differentiate and instead become cells that produce a protein called keratin. This is a hard dry protein, like what our nails are made up of.
And this is obviously is a big problem because epithelial cells need mucus to stay lubricated! If they’re being replaced by keratin producing cells, superficially we’re talking about extremely dry skin and crustiness in the eyes. And internally this is extremely bad for your lungs, intestines, and immune system as a whole.
So let’s not become deficient in Vitamin A! Daily requirements for men are 900 mcg per day and 700 mcg for women.
Animal food sources include: Beef Liver, Cod Liver Oil, King Mackerel, Salmon, Bluefin Tuna, Goat Cheese, Butter, and Eggs
Many people are able to produce Vitamin A from provitamin A forms in plants. These include beta-carotene and alpha-carotene.
However, about 45% of people carry a genetic mutation that reduces their ability to convert the plant forms into active Vitamin A.
Depending on your genetics, vegetables might provide enough Vitamin A but if you consume these on a regular basis and you’re experiencing very dry skin and poor immunity, this could be a warning sign that you’re an insufficient plant Vitamin A converter.
If this is this case you may want to consider including some of the animal foods I mentioned, or taking a Vitamin A supplement.
But if you can convert normally then sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, basically all green vegetables, orange squash, cantaloupe, bell peppers, and mango are some great sources.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little lesson on Vitamin A!
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