One of the first signs of a possible vitamin A deficiency is poor night vision, an inability of the eyes to adjust to darkness. Additional signs that a lack of vitamin A may be affecting the eyes are difficulty distinguishing between blue and yellow, dry or inflamed eyes, and styes. When eyes are exposed to long periods of watching television, computer screens, or glaring lights, more vitamin A may be required.
Skin, hair, and nails can also reflect inadequate vitamin A levels. Some signs of possible deficiency can include weak or brittle nails and hair, skin that is dry and/or scaly, dry or dull hair, tiny bumps on the backs of the upper arms, dry mouth, roughness on elbows, dandruff, and skin pigmentation abnormalities.
Vitamin A is also crucial for a healthy immune system, adrenal glands, and thyroid, and for building strong bones and teeth. A deficiency can lead to a loss of vitamin C, and zinc is needed to transport vitamin A from the liver to where is it needed in the body. Breathing polluted air may increase the need for vitamin A.
There has been much research on the relationship between vitamin A and cancer risk. Animal studies have shown that cancer-causing carcinogens remain more active when there is a vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A has a protective effect against cancer on the tissues of the skin, throat, and lungs. Many studies have suggested that cancers of the bladder, larynx, esophagus, stomach, colon/rectum, uterus, cervix, and prostate benefit from beta-carotene (gives plants their yellow and orange color), which is converted to vitamin A in the body.
Researchers found that vitamin A can significantly reduce the immune-depressive effects of radiation and chemotherapy treatments!
A high intake of carotenes (plant forms of vitamin A) is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
The best way to get your vitamin A is from food, and since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, you must eat enough good fat to help absorb it. In contrast, vitamin A is destroyed by harmful fats like hydrogenated and other refined oils, as well as deep-fried foods. These are in most processed foods! Animal foods like butter, milk, cheese, and eggs contain vitamin A, but when the fat is skimmed off milk, so is the vitamin A. If you throw away the egg yolks, you won’t get the vitamin A. When it comes to animal foods, they are only as healthy as the animals they came from. The animals get vitamin A from eating their natural diet (grass-fed), and if they were given antibiotics and/or hormones, it can affect our health.
Eat fruits and vegetables that are yellow-orange like carrots (that’s where carotene got its name), squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, orange and yellow peppers, cantaloupe, papaya, mango, and pineapple. The deeper the color, the greater the beta-carotene content. Green vegetables are also rich sources of beta-carotene. The chlorophyll that makes them green overpowers the yellow-orange pigments and is a good cleanser for the digestive tract and blood. Spinach, kale, and beet greens actually contain more beta-carotene than carrots.
To get more carotene from vegetables, lightly cook them to rupture the cell membranes, and eat them with healthy fats and protein. Sometimes, I eat half of a baked sweet potato for breakfast. I pre-bake the potato the night before, and then squeeze it out of its skin into a pan the next morning. While it’s warming on the stove, I add some organic butter or ghee, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, dried cranberries, and walnuts or pumpkin seeds. You could use coconut oil in place of the butter.
The recommended daily amount of beta-carotene is 1,000 to 5,000 RE (retinol equivalent) in the form of beta-carotene, which is non-toxic. Preformed vitamin A can be toxic and should only be taken under the advice of your health care provider.
Nature’s Sunshine makes an excellent supplement called Carotenoid Blend. (www.learningtobehealthy.mynsp.com).
An average carrot contains 1,000 RE.
Wash, cut off tops, and peel outer layer (optional) of several whole organic carrots. Lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive, avocado, or coconut oil. Use your hands to coat the carrots with the oil. If desired, sprinkle with some mineral-rich salt, garlic, black pepper, fresh herbs, etc. Bake at 350 degrees until fork tender. The amount of time will vary, depending on the thickness of your carrots, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Keep learning to be healthy!
Lisa Hernandez, Certified Nutritionist, CNHP
1 Corinthians 10:31–“Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for God’s glory!”
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. It does not take the place of any medical care that you may need. Consult your health care provider about making dietary and lifestyle changes that are right for you.