The Ketontrack Nutritional Series – The Amazing Vitamin-A

In this series we will be analysing the use of the most important Vitamins and Minerals, in an attempt to create the perfect cyclical diet schedule. We will start with the Amazing Vitamin-A! Let’s go!

What does Vitamin-A do?

  • It promotes Healthy Vision
  • It makes  Eyes Moist, skin smooth and our Immune System Strong
  • It protects against kidney stones
  • It protects against “autoimmune” diseases
  • It protects against asthma and allergies
  • It protects against food intolerances like celiac disease, and helps make hormones like testosterone and estrogen

Do your eyes ever feel dry? Or do you have trouble seeing at night? Maybe your eyes are fine, but you get colds a lot. Or your sleep is really messed up… you don’t know when it’s time to sleep or time to wake up. Or maybe your skin gets crusty underneath your hair.

Recognizing Vitamin A deficiency and poor eye-sight

Your eyes use vitamin A to become moist, and also sense light. When the light enters your eye, it hits a molecule of vitamin A, which triggers a reaction that sends an impulse to your brain. These impulses make your sense of vision. The eyes have two different types of cells : Rods help you see shadows in the dark, cones help you see colors in the day. Vitamin A is equally important to both of them, but when you’re running low, your body starts setting priorities. So we sacrifice our night vision when we become deficient in vitamin A. This helps make sure we have enough vitamin A to see during the day!

How do we get enough vitamin A

There are two forms of vitamin A:

  1. In plant foods
    • The plant form is actually a collection of compounds. One of them is beta-carotene. The others are similar to it and called “carotenoids.” These are named after carrots.
  2. In animal foods
    • The animal form of vitamin A is called retinol. This is named after the retina, the part of the eye where most of the vitamin A is found.

We don’t need the plant form (carotenoids), we do need however the animal form (retinol). But we can convert the plant form into the animal form.

In other words, we can convert carotenoids to retinol. However, there are many different carotenoids but not all of them act as vitamin A. For example, lutein and zeaxanthin, found in spinach and eggs, might help protect us in various ways but they don’t act as vitamin A. Only about 10% of carotenoids act as vitamin A, and these are called “provitamin A carotenoids.” The PRO in “provitamin A” refers to the fact that they can be converted into the active form of vitamin A, retinol. Which plants have Carotenoids? The colorful ones.! They are mostly all the  red, orange, or yellow plants!

When we eat vitamin A this is stored in our livers! And just like we store vitamin A in our livers, so do fish, cows, chickens, and all the other animals. So, the best source of animal-form vitamin A is liver.

Most other animal foods are not a good source of vitamin A, with two exceptions: eggs and milk. These are the two foods meant to nourish young animals, who need lots of vitamin A to grow correctly. In fact, an egg has a rather marvelous task to fulfill: it has to fit enough nourishment to last the chick 21 days until it hatches and eats its first worm. It has to pack a lot of nutrition. And milk is meant to nourish the growing calf. Both of these have vitamin A… but nowhere near as much as liver.

Getting Vitamin A From Plant Foods Is Hard!

Most people think they can get vitamin A from plants and animals equally well. But here’s the thing: We need the animal form, retinol, not the plant form, carotenoids. So when we get vitamin A from plant foods, everything comes down on how good we are at converting the carotenoids to retinol. And there are many things that get in the way, fiber, toxic metals like mercury and lead, iron deficiency, zinc deficiency. But more importantly about half the population has their ability to get vitamin A from plant foods cut at least in half. So our colorful vegetable friends might not be a good source of vitamin A for you! If you are a poor converter of beta-carotene, you could be getting just 0.5mg from a cup of pure carrot juice.

Boost the intake of Vitamin A

  • Vitamin A mixes with fats and oils better than it mixes in water. That means eating it with fat helps us absorb it.
  • The best fats to use are animal fats and traditional oils like palm oil and olive oil.
  • Cooking or pureeing vegetables helps us get more vitamin A from them.
  • Vitamin E helps us get more vitamin A from plant foods.

Best way to get vitamin A

  • Eat 120 grams of liver once a week
  • Eat up to three whole eggs a day.
  • Drink up to three cups of full-fat dairy per day.
  • Eat 3 or 4 cups of red, orange, yellow, and green vegetables a day.
  • Use grass-fed butter, olive and red palm oil for your added fats.

Red palm oil is a great plant source of vitamin A. It is rich in carotenoids and  vitamin E and all the right fats. Because it is an oil, the carotenoids are already perfectly dissolved and you don’t need to do much digesting to extract them.

Supplements

Cod liver oil provides 3000 IU per day from a non-synthetic source.

Things to be aware of

  • Too much vitamin A without enough vitamin D can be a risk factor for osteoporosis.
  • In the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, too much might cause birth defects.
  • Taking way too much for way too long a time can cause,  Fatigue, Hair loss, Upset stomach, itchy skin, Cracked lips, Headache

Key TakeAways

  • Vegetables are not the best source of Vitamin-A since carotenoids need to be converted to retinol and most people are not very good convertors.
  • Liver is the best source of Vitamin-A since this is where it is stored in all animals.
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Further reading

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