Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin stored in our liver. In animal products it occurs as retinol. In fruits and vegetables it occurs as the vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene. Beta-carotene needs to be converted into Vitamin A in our body. Some people have genetic variations that can limit the conversion of betacarotene to vitamin A, increasing their risk of vitamin A deficiency.
Roles in our Body:
- A powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals
- Promotes the growth of strong teeth and bones
- Keeps your skin healthy
- Essential for good vision
- Immune system booster – especially important for mucous membrane immunity and health, e.g. gastrointestinal, respiratory and genito-urinary mucous membranes!
- Fights infections and helps wounds heal
Signs of deficiency:
- Poor night vision
- Dry flaky skin – a tell-tale sign are bumps on the back of upper arms called Keratosis Pilaris
- Poor concentration
- Loss of appetite and nausea
- Mouth ulcers
Best Food Sources:
Retinal is found in liver, meat, fish, eggs, cod liver oil, butter and dairy products.
Beta carotene is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, mango and pumpkin. Green leafy vegetables are also a good source, however, their green chlorophyll pigment obscures beta-carotene’s characteristic orange/yellow colour. The takeaway from this – eat a rainbow to optimise your nutrient intake!