Food First: Vitamin A

Overview

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be found under many different names, including retinol, retinal and retinyl esters, as well as beta-carotene, a pro-vitamin which can be converted to vitamin A by the body. Vitamin A has many important functions, including the maintenance of proper vision, cell growth and the normal formation of the heart, kidneys, lungs and other vital organs [i,ii].

Daily Recommendations

Women age 19 and older: 700mcg/day
Men age 19 and older: 900 mcg/day [i]

Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency is incredibly rare in the developed world, but in developing countries it is the leading cause of progressive blindness due to a lack of food access. Cancer does not predispose one to an increased risk of deficiency, however those with pancreatic cancer should be aware of the signs of deficiency and ensure adequate intake of foods rich in all fat-soluble vitamins, not just vitamin A, as the pancreas is essential for the absorption of these vitamins in the body. Signs of deficiency include night blindness or an inability to see in low light situations. Some studies have suggested that vitamin A may decrease the risk of developing various cancers, particularly pancreatic cancer, although the results are still inconclusive [iii].

Excessive intake of fat-soluble vitamin supplements is not recommended, as it takes your body a much longer time to excrete them than water-soluble vitamins. Because of this, getting your fat-soluble vitamins from food sources is an excellent way to avoid nutrient deficiencies while preventing an overdose or toxicity [i,ii].

** If instructed by a medical professional to take a vitamin or mineral supplement, it is important that these instructions are followed. In some cases, food sources of vitamins and minerals will not be sufficient for addressing nutritional inadequacies. **

Sources of Vitamin A

Below is a list of the most common food sources of vitamin A [i].

  • Sweet potato
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
Coenzyme Q10-rich Recipe: Strawberry Pistachio Crumble Pie
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups chopped strawberries
  2. 1/3 cup whole rolled oats
  3. 1/3 cup chopped pistachios
  4. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  5. ¼ cup brown sugar
  6. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  7. 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  8. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  9. 3 tablespoons butter
  10. 1 tablespoon water
  11. Whipped cream or ice cream for serving (optional)
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Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a pie pan.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the oats, pistachios, flour, brown sugar, sesame seeds, cinnamon, and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse again. Add the water and pulse again. This mixture should be fairly crumbly but should stick together when pressed.
  3. Place the chopped strawberries in the bottom of the pie pan and top with the crumble mixture.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Print
Adapted from Sugar and Cloth
Adapted from Sugar and Cloth
Savor Health http://savorhealth.com/

References:

[i] Vitamin A: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals 2018; https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/#h6.

[ii] Vitamin A. 2018; https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/vitamin.

[iii] Huang X, Gao Y, Zhi X, Ta N, Jiang H, Zheng J. Association between vitamin A, retinol and carotenoid intake and pancreatic cancer risk: Evidence from epidemiologic studies. Sci Rep. 2016;6:38936.

Rebecca MacLean

Rebecca MacLean is a dietetic intern and graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University. Rebecca received her undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition and Food Science with a minor in Sustainable Food Systems from the University of Maine. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys home cooking and spending as much time as possible in the outdoors. She currently resides in New York City.

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