Vitamin A 101

Did you know that there are two different types of vitamin A? One is called preformed vitamin A, which is found in animal products such as dairy foods, fish, meat, and poultry. This type of vitamin A is fat-soluble, which means the vitamin A is stored in fat tissues in the body until the body needs it. At that point, a carrier within the body will transport the vitamin A wherever it’s needed. The other one is called pro-vitamin A, which is found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables. This type of vitamin is water-soluble, which means it does not stay in the body, which means we need to eat a well-balanced diet in order to get enough of these helpful vitamins.

From a functionality standpoint, vitamin A helps to form and maintain healthy mucus membranes, skeletal and soft tissue, skin, and teeth. Vitamin A also promotes good vision, especially in low light.

Water-soluble vitamin A is also known as carotenoids, dark-colored pigments that can be found in plant foods that can turn into a form of vitamin A. There are more than 500 known carotenoids, but the most common is beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which helps to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are believe to contribute to certain chronic diseases and play a role in the aging process. Food sources of beta-carotene and other carotenoids may help reduce the risk for cancer.

Food sources for foods with beta-carotene include bright yellow and orange fruits such as apricots, cantaloupe, and pink grapefruit. Vegetables include carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Additional foodstuffs with beta-carotene include broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, and spinach. The more vibrantly colored the fruit or vegetable is, the higher the beta-carotene content.