As time goes along, we have to use different measures to take care of our health. Getting the right nutrients, whether it’s from supplements or our diets, is one way we can ensure we’re staying safe and taking care of our bodies as best we can. Of all the important nutrients out there, the benefits of vitamin A are ones to take note of. It will help boost your immunity, preserve your vision, and even maintain the strength of your bones as you age!
Vitamin A actually refers to a group of fat-soluble compounds that are used in a variety of bodily processes, like maintaining vision, aiding your immune system function, and even helping the proper growth and development of babies in the womb.
There are two types of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids. Preformed vitamin A can be used by the body as it is, and is primarily found in animal products like meat, chicken, fish, and dairy. Provitamin A carotenoids, which are found in plants, are inactive and are converted to the active forms — alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin — once they enter the body.
Benefits of Vitamin A for Your Health
Vitamin A works to protect your body in so many ways, including improving immunity. In places like your eyes, lungs, gut, and genitals, there is a protective mucous barrier which helps to trap harmful bacteria and fight off infection, which Vitamin A helps to protect. It is also involved in the production and function of white blood cells, which help capture and eliminate bacteria and other harmful pathogens from your bloodstream that could otherwise make you sick. Studies have shown that because of the functions of vitamin A, a deficiency can cause illness and delay your recovery from sickness.
And as it turns out, that old wives’ tale about eating your carrots for better vision and eye health has some truth to it. Carrots contain beta carotene, one of the inactive forms of vitamin A, that has specifically been linked to eye health and vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in older adults. While we don’t know the exact cause, it’s believed that cell damage in the retina from oxidative stress could be the culprit.
Beta carotene is an antioxidant that’s believed to delay and combat the oxidative damage that causes vision loss. In fact, results from the Age-Related Eye Disease study found that giving people over the age of 50 with some vision loss an antioxidant supplement (which included high amounts of beta-carotene) reduced their risk of developing advanced macular degeneration by a whopping 25 percent! Other research also supports that beta carotene is a key player in the maintenance of eyesight over time.
Though we often hear much about the benefits of nutrients like vitamin D and calcium for the health of our bones as we age, getting enough vitamin A is important for that, too. So far, studies on how vitamin A effects the bones have been observational, so we don’t know exactly how or why the link exists. However, what the research does tell us is that low levels of vitamin A in the blood have been linked to an increased risk of bone fractures when compared to those with normal levels — so make sure you’re getting enough!
Luckily, it’s pretty simple to up your levels of this crucial nutrient. The safest way to get more vitamin A is to consume foods rich in it. Too much of the vitamin can actually be toxic to the body, so you don’t want to take it in supplement form and risk having too much in your system. Foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, tuna, butternut squash, spinach, and cantaloupe.
Here’s to a healthy body at any age!