Vitamin A is the vitamin most often associated with good eyesight. More than one generation of children have been told to eat their carrots so that they could see in the dark.
It turns out, connecting good vision to eating carrots isn’t far off the mark. Vitamin A, plentiful in carrots and other orange vegetables, is indeed beneficial for the eyes.
Vitamin A helps the various parts of the eye, including the cornea, the retina, and the membranes, function as they should.
In addition to aiding vision, vitamin A is good for your immune system and reproductive system. It is also vital to the normal development and growth of cells in our bodies.
Vitamin A deficiency has been linked to viral infections, high child mortality rates, and blindness.
Types of Vitamin A
There are several different chemicals that function as what we call vitamin A. Vitamin A from animal sources comes under the heading retinoids. Retinoids include retinol, retinal, retinoic acid, and retinyl esters.
The second type of vitamin A comes under the heading carotenoids and includes the beta-carotene found in carrots.
Under certain conditions, some carotenoid forms of vitamin A can be converted into retinoid forms by the body as needed.
For most people, though, the best option is to consume both animal and vegetable sources of vitamin A to ensure a good supply of retinoids and carotenoids.
Vitamin A is considered a fat-soluble vitamin, and should be eaten with foods that contain fat so that it can be absorbed properly.
Food Sources of Vitamin A
In addition to carrots, vitamin A is found in sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach and other greens such as collard greens, turnip greens, kale and Swiss chard. Animal sources include shrimp, fish, milk, cheese, eggs and yogurt.
The best sources of vitamin A for good eye health are leafy greens such as spinach and kale. These are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, the carotenoids that have been found in the human retina.
All those looking to help prevent age-related macular degeneration or other eye diseases would be wise to include dark leafy greens in their meals.
Fruits containing vitamin A include cantaloupe, papaya, and pink or red grapefruit.
Since many adults and children fail to eat enough vegetables, researchers estimate that one-third of the adults in the U.S. fail to get the required amounts of vitamin A in their diets.
Want a fast, easy serving of vitamin A? Eat a handful of dried apricots. They are portable and a great way to ensure that you are getting your daily supply of vitamin A.
Prepared baby carrots, or carrot sticks that you made ahead yourself, are also great for on the go vitamin A.