Nutrition for you: Vitamin A

Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle includes eating healthy, nutritious foods every day.

Eating nutritious foods helps strengthen your immune system and keeps your body working at its’ peak performance. To achieve this healthy lifestyle, a variety of nutrients need to be consumed. One of these nutrients is vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. What this means is that vitamin A is stored in your body fat and does not need to be consumed every day. Eating foods that are rich in vitamin A at least every other day should supply you with all of the vitamin A you need.

What does vitamin A do for you? Think back to your childhood when your mother may have told you that eating carrots would help your eyes. Well, Mom was right. Vitamin A does help your vision, especially night vision. Vitamin A also helps keep your skin healthy, both outside your body and inside. Inside includes the mucus membrane that lines the interior of your nasal and digestive system. Vitamin A helps keep your immune system strong and lowers your risk for diseases like heart disease and may lower your risk for cancer.

What should I eat for vitamin A? Vitamin A is found in both animal products and plants. However, relying on animal products for vitamin A also increases your intake of fat. Relying on plants for vitamin A ensures that you are also getting a healthy dose of other plant chemicals as well as fiber and virtually no fat or cholesterol. The vitamin A found in plants is in the form of beta-carotene. This plant chemical is found in the brightly colored yellow, orange, red and green fruits and veggies including:

  • Peppers—green, yellow, orange and red
  • Greens—spinach, collard, kale
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Orange squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Ruby red grapefruit

The deeper and darker the color, the more beta-carotene (vitamin A) the food contains. When planning your meals, choose these brightly colored fruits and vegetables at most meals. Your body will thank you for it!

For more information about healthy lifestyles including nutrition and physical activity, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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