Here at the Zim’s blog we want to promote wellness and healthy living in any way we can. It is with this goal in mind we begin a new series of Zim’s Healthy Living posts where we each week will discuss different aspects of health and wellness, and what we can do to improve our health in these challenging times. This week we are talking vitamins and we figured we might as well start with the beginning of the alphabet: Vitamin A.

What is Vitamin A?

According to the National Institute of Health vitamin A is a “group of fat soluble retinoids (naturally occurring chemical compounds)…[that are] involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication.”

Vitamin A is particularly important for vision as it helps us absorb light in the ”retinol receptors”. It also helps support cell growth and the normal formation and maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs. In addition, if we are deficient in vitamin A we can be vulnerable to infectious diseases like “measles and pneumonia”.

Vitamin A in Our Diets

There are 2 ways we ingest vitamin A in our diets. The first is retinol that exists only from animal sources like dairy products, fish and meat. Some people take fish and liver oil supplements to help them get more vitamin A and more retinols in their diet.

This can be a challenge for those eating a vegan diet to get enough vitamin A. Luckily there is also a form of vitamin A called a provitamin A that gives carotenoids which the body converts into vitamin A. “The most important provitamin A carotenoid is beta-carotene” and this can be found in leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes, and some vegetable oils.

Most people when they think of vitamin A and beta-carotene they think of carrots especially with their bright orange color. Carrots are in fact high but according to the National Institute of Health spinach, sweet potato, beef liver and even a slice of pumpkin pie have more micrograms per serving!

A Deficiency?

Fortunately a vitamin A deficiency is quite rare in North America and other developing countries. “One of the earliest signs of deficiency is night blindness. Permanent blindness can result if the deficiency is left unchecked.” Also alcoholics may develop vitamin A deficiencies and should eat food sources rich in vitamin A in their diets.

Perfect for Fall

One of the great parts about the Fall season is the delicious harvest of food we get to enjoy. Most of those fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids that can be made into vitamin A in the body. So next time you are enjoying a nice bowl of pumpkin soup know you are helping get your needed vitamin A and eating something delicious at the same time!

What are some of your favorite recipes using vitamin A rich meats and vegetables? We would love to learn more about them in the comments section. Cheers to healthy living!