If you're looking to revitalise the health of your skin, eyes and even immune system, there’s one nutrient you need to be thinking of – vitamin A. With a variety of benefits that help different parts of your body, it’s definitely worth adding into your dietary plan.
Read on to find out more about this vitamin and how it can help boost your skin, support your vision and promote immune function.
What’s so great about vitamin A?
Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble nutrients (along with vitamins D, E and K), meaning that it is absorbed by fat globules and transported into the bloodstream, before being stored in body tissues. Because of this it can remain in the body for longer than water-soluble vitamins.
There are actually several different types of vitamin A available to us, even though most people only know it by the singular name. The ‘active’ kind (also known as retinoids) is found in animal products while the second kind of vitamin A (carotenoids) is sourced from plant-based items.
In some cases, foods that start off as carotenoid forms may be converted naturally by the body into a retinoid. Each type of the vitamin has its own specific benefits, with the retinoid form being closely associated with positive effects on immunity and inflammation.
One of the most well-known benefits of this nutrient is related to vision. You might find a clue to its function in the name ‘retinoid’ itself, which takes its cue from a specific part of the eye: the retina.
The human eye is set up much like a camera, taking in light and relaying visual images back to your brain for processing at lightning-fast speeds. The retina is the portion of the eye that receives light focused from the outer lens, turning it into the signals that will go on towards the brain.
The retina has special photopigments that help to detect the light, and the retinoid form of vitamin A (also known as retinol) helps to create these pigments in the eye. As such, it plays a crucial role in strong and clear vision.
That’s not all vitamin A is helpful for. It’s also proven to be a handy immune function aid. To protect your body, your immune system can release special antibodies that target harmful activity or cells. However, if this were to happen every time a perceived threat entered the body the results would be just as bad. The immune system is therefore designed not to overreact to harmless substances – although it can still happen (and often does).
Researchers believe that vitamin A is important for both supporting the release of these antibodies and ensuring the immune function isn’t going into overdrive needlessly.
Last but not least, the retinol form of vitamin A is also touted as a powerful ingredient in many anti-aging, wrinkle-busting skincare formulas. The secret? Its crucial role in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin, mucous membranes, teeth and skeletal and soft tissue.
Vitamin A is essential for normal cell growth and development. When it comes to your skin, it is thought to thicken and stimulate the dermis layer, normalise blood flow and support healthier cell membranes.
The beta-carotene form of vitamin A (from plant sources) is also an antioxidant, meaning it helps to protect your cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
Where can I find it?
Animal sources of vitamin A include eggs, meat, shrimp, cheese, cream, liver, kidney, chicken and fortified milk. The carotenoid form can be found in many types of vegetables including sweet potato, carrot, spinach, kale, chard, tomatoes and more.
In most cases you will get enough vitamin A through your diet, but a supplement can add to your intake.
Are there any side-effects?
In this case less is more, as too much vitamin A can be harmful. If you’re concerned about how to plan your intake appropriately, talk to a nutritionist or healthcare professional.
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