Getting enough vitamin A is absolutely crucial to maintaining overall health. Not only does it play a crucial role in keeping our skin healthy and clear, but it also is a key factor in disease prevention, strengthens our immune system and our bones.
A deficiency in this vital vitamin can cause some consequences like night blindness, loss of vision, retardation, shortening, and thickening of bones, atrophy of the testes, fetal resorption, and immunodeficiency (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387950/). However, similar to everything else, we need a balanced amount of vitamin A.
So what does vitamin A do, and how can you be sure you’re getting the right amount in your diet? Here’s what you need to know about this essential micronutrient and how it can impact your health, along with the top vitamin A foods you should consume.
What is vitamin A?
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that also acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body. It plays a critical role in maintaining good health and longevity. Like all antioxidants, it’s also involved in reducing inflammation through fighting free radical damage.
Vitamin A is found in two primary forms: active vitamin A that comes from animal-derived foods and beta-carotene that comes from colorful fruits and vegetables in the form of provitamin carotenoids. Carotenoids found in plant-based products need to first be converted to retinol, the active form of vitamin A, in order to be utilized by the body. By far the most important provitamin A carotenoid is beta-carotene and can be converted into vitamin A, whereas other carotenoids such as lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, are not. (https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/)
Health benefits of Vitamin A
- Protects Our Eyes From Night Blindness and Age-Related Decline
Who doesn’t want to enjoy a lifetime of excellent vision? According to nutrition research, an important key to healthy eyes and good vision may be getting enough carotenoids in our diet.
The most sensitive part of the retina in the eye is called the macula. The macula has the highest concentration of photoreceptors in the retina and is the portion of the retina where our sharpest vision is produced. It also is responsible for our ability to perceive colors.
Two dietary carotenoids —lutein and zeaxanthin— form the pigment in the macula that protects millions of photoreceptor cells located in this small region of the central retina.
In human subjects, some epidemiological and clinical researchers have demonstrated that high levels of zeaxanthin and lutein intake are associated with significantly decreased risks of cataract and age-related macular degeneration (https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/171B395A6AC440810355D0592E9293D0/S0007114511005885a.pdf/spirulina_is_an_effective_dietary_source_of_zeaxanthin_to_humans.pdf)
2. Supports Healthy Beautiful Skin
Often prescribed by dermatologists to fight acne and wrinkles alike, vitamin A is revered for its potent skin-enhancing properties.
Carotenoids are high in antioxidants. Research published in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics stated that a diet high in carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, can prevent cell damage, premature skin aging, and other skin diseases.
One study even found that applying Vitamin A topically to the skin significantly improved fine lines and wrinkles. (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/412795)
3. Supports a Healthy Immune System
Vitamin A plays a vital role in maintaining our body’s natural defenses.
This includes the mucous barriers in our eyes, lungs, gut, and genitals which help trap bacteria and other infectious agents.
It’s also involved in the production and function of white blood cells, which help capture and clear bacteria and other pathogens from our bloodstream.
This means that a deficiency in vitamin A can increase our susceptibility to infections and delay our recovery when we get sick.
Vitamin A has both promoting and regulatory roles in both the innate immune system and adaptive immunity; therefore, it can enhance the organism’s immune function and provide enhanced defense against multiple infectious diseases. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162863/)
Vitamin A Food Sources
Nutrition experts and physicians recommend obtaining antioxidants primarily by eating a well-balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole foods for maximum benefits.
The federal government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans note that “Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods that are nutrient-dense (fruits, vegetables, and whole foods) and that contain essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. (https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/)
Here are some of the top vitamin A sources:
By simply upping our intake of fruits, veggies, and incorporating a serving or two of vitamin A sources into each meal, it can be easy (and delicious) to meet the daily needs.
The Bioactive Vitamin A in Raw Living Spirulina
Beta-carotene (Vitamin A) is the pigment responsible for the red, yellow, and orange coloration in plants and algae.
This color spectrum of β-carotene is normally masked by the chlorophyll (green) in the whole living cells of fresh Raw Living Spirulina. However, as these cells begin to break open, either through the natural process (time) or by mechanical means (i.e. spooning some in or out with utensil, harvesting process) these living phytonutrients and antioxidants will sometimes become visible in the jar.
Why Isn’t This Red Beta-Carotene Visible in Spirulina Powders?
Commercial Spirulina powder differs in the carotenoid composition from preparation to preparation where discrepancies in the composition of carotenoids of dried Spirulina preparations are mostly due to their thermolability. (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/suisan1932/52/7/52_7_1225/_pdf/-char/en)
Commercial Spirulina powders are all subjected to high heat, light, and time in storage, and often many years before they reach the consumer. The stability and bioavailability of carotenoids vary significantly across a range of processing paradigms. Vitamins, phytonutrients, enzymes, and carotenoids are burnt during the processing of the original fresh algae, leaving mostly just a mineral ash.
This is just one of the many reasons why we here at Raw Living Spirulina do so much to ensure our beta carotene Vitamin A and all other nutrients are alive and well so you can reap the full health benefits nature intended.