Vitamin A is an important nutrient for the health of our skin and other membranes and is vital for healthy immune system.
Colourful plant foods like peppers, dark green vegetables and other red, yellow and orange vegetables contain a pre-form of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotenoids. However, the body needs to first absorb these molecules effectively before converting them into their active form (retinol) in order to utilise the vitamin fully.
To enhance this absorption and conversion, combining carotenoid-rich foods with fat-containing nutrient dense foods can help significantly.
Combining carotenoid rich foods (like peppers, carrots, greens) with healthy fats (like avocado, a touch of olive oil, olives or seeds like pumpkin seeds) improves not only the amount of carotenoids absorbed from the foods, but also the conversion of carotenoids to retinol, active vitamin A.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that it is possible to over-supplement the vitamin, or have inappropriately high levels due to eating high quantities of organ meats, which are rich in retinol.
Eating a diet rich in colourful plant foods is a safe way to top up stores of this vitamin, as the body won’t convert beta-carotenes into retinol if the body’s stores are already stocked up. However, some people lack the enzyme required for this conversion; coupled with a vegan or vegetarian diet, this can leave them vulnerable to low levels of vitamin A.
Blood levels of this vitamin can be checked by a simple blood test. An experienced clinician will also be aware of any clinical signs, which may indicate low levels. These include among others reduced skin and membrane health, lowered immunity or inability to see in low lighting.
If you’re in doubt about the nutrient density of your daily diet, or have any other questions regarding your diet & your health, don’t hesitate to get in touch.