There is some stigma that persists for concerned non-vegans and newly anointed vegans regarding proper nutrient intake in the lifestyle. While limiting the kind of food you can consume might be a cause of worry for some, planning your meals to cover all your vitamin and nutrient needs is a part of sustaining the vegan way of life. Below is a guide for any vegan looking for all the need-to-know info about one essential vitamin: Vitamin A.
[Also read Are There Levels of Veganism?]
What is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A is considered an essential nutrient, an unavoidable need of the human body for it to function properly. There are two types of vitamin A that our bodies work with. The first is Preformed Vitamin A which is present in animal products. The second is Provitamin A which can be derived from plant-based foods.
Preformed Vitamin A also goes by the name retinoid while Provitamin A is also known as a carotenoid, which can be found in fruits and vegetables. There are many types of carotenoid and one might be more familiar to you than others: beta carotene. It is easily accessible and can be converted into retinoids.
Beta carotene is well known as an antioxidant which means that it lessens the possible damage that can be inflicted on the body’s cells. This is also what commercials proclaim to make the skin look healthy, smooth, and youthful. To add more to this, beta carotene helps the body ward off unwanted illnesses and even infections.
Vitamin A, as a whole, is responsible for making rhodopsin. This is what makes your eyes capable of sight in low-lighting. Not having enough vitamin A can result in nyctalopia or night blindness. One thing’s for sure: Vitamin A is used by your body for function in daily life.
How Much Vitamin A Do You Need?
Only a small amount of vitamin A is needed by the human body, approximately 0.7 milligrams per day for men and 0.7 milligrams for women. While this does not seem to be much it is important to prevent vitamin A deficiency.
How Does Your Body Absorb Vitamin A?
Vegetables eaten together with a little fat can increase vitamin A absorption. Many individual aspects can affect this process such as age, medications, body composition, alcohol consumption, food processing, and genetic variation. Up to 50% of people have a low response to beta-carotene and other carotenoids. They are not as consistent in converting food into vitamin A.
With more studies needed to better understand standards in consuming vitamin A, it is safe to make sure it is included in your diet. The chances of absorbing vitamin A increases with the food you take, making it important to munch on lots of food rich in provitamin A. Eating less than is needed can cause Vitamin A Deficiency.
What is Vitamin A Deficiency?
Vitamin A is essential for several reasons. It aids when one is suffering from eye problems like scarring, corneal ulcers, and blindness and it prevents infections. Babies and toddlers particularly need this nutrient to grow and form red blood cells.
If you have mouth ulcers, thrush or cystitis, dry eyes, dandruff and dry hair, consistent cases of skin infections, and in more extreme cases, night blindness then you might have Vitamin A Deficiency. Consulting your doctor about the next steps is crucial. You might also want to know what foods are rich in vitamin A to ensure you have enough in your day-to-day intake.
What Vegan Foods Have Vitamin A?
There is usually not much for vegans to fear in terms of whether there are any foods with vitamin A or not. Plenty of options awaits you with this nutrient. Vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, summer squash, romaine lettuce, collards, kale, asparagus, peas, spinach, and red peppers are all possible ingredients filled with vitamin A. Fruits such as cantaloupe, papaya, tomatoes, plums, peaches, grapefruits, and apricots are all possible additions to your everyday routine.
Vitamin A Vegan Myths Debunked
Just like any other health matter, vitamin A and diets can attract speculation. Here are 3 myths regarding vitamin A.
Myth: You Need to Eat Fat to Absorb Vitamin A. This Means You Have to Eat An Animal Product.
This is half true. You do need to eat fat to absorb vitamin A because it is a fat-soluble vitamin. What does this mean? You need to consume fat to dissolve the vitamin and use its nutrients. Luckily there are vegan options that contain fat. These include salad dressing, nuts, nut butter, and olive oil.
Myth: Infants Who Breastfeed From Vegan Mothers Are At Risk of Vitamin A Deficiency.
This one is also a 50-50! Any mother not taking all the nutrients she needs also risks having their breastfeeding child lack these nutrients. If a mother can consume the needed vitamin A amount then she will most likely be able to pass that on to the child. It is recommended to eat many yellow-orange fruits and veggies as well as dark leafy greens be taken by the mother during pregnancy.
Myth: Vegan Children Are More Likely to Have Vitamin A Deficiency.
A recently conducted study revealed that less than 5% of children ages 2-8 take less vitamin A than is recommended by the USDA. This was not limited to children who are on vegan diets, however, there is not enough data to fully support the statement. It is advised that vegans, whether as children or as adults, make a conscious choice to include vitamin A in their meals. Supplements might be an option you and your doctor can talk about if you want to make sure.
There’s no question about it: every human being needs a dose of vitamin A. As a vegan, you might keep track of the vitamins you need to take but vitamin A is not one of the nutrients you need to worry about too much. It is common in many plant-based foods. All the myths are only half true as well: no need to fuss too much but you do need to include it in your diet. All this points to is planning nutrient-rich, well-balanced meals.