Vitamin A, a fat-soluble retinoid, plays a role in reproduction, immune function, and cellular communication, but its most prominent contribution is to vision. This vitamin works in many areas of the eye including the retinal receptors, cornea, and conjunctival membranes.
Specific plant foods contain abundant sources of vision-supporting vitamin A and should be considered when planning your meals. To learn more about how this retinoid works to maintain eye health, keep reading!
1. Vitamin A’s Role in Eye Health
Vitamin A is not only a fat-soluble nutrient, but it also works as an antioxidant making it useful for combatting free radical damage and inflammation. This makes vitamin A very essential for good health.
There are two forms of Vitamin A. There is retinol, which is described as pre-formed and is sourced from animal-derived products. The second form is carotenoids found in plants, which is a provitamin A, meaning it is converted to retinol in the body after ingestion and then utilized. The carotenoid, beta-carotene present in carrots, is one of the most effective sources of provitamin A.
So how exactly does this nutrient work to impact your vision? Vitamin A works to effectively protect the cornea. When you become deficient in this vitamin, the cornea becomes very dry, our body’s ability to fight infections lessens, and potential damage to both the retina and the cornea can occur. This is because vitamin A in its retinol form maintains the epithelial tissues. These tissues make up the outermost layer of cells within the eye. Supplementation of vitamin A protects the corneas from dry eye which can cause blurred vision, pain and redness, and discharge.
Vitamin A protects the eye’s outermost layer, and also works to protect your eyesight. Consuming foods rich in vitamin A will not suddenly give you 20/20 vision, but it will make sure your eyesight does not degrade further. When consuming this carotenoid along with other foods rich in antioxidants, it can decrease the hinderance of your vision from macular degeneration. Macular degeneration occurs when the center of the retina begins to deteriorate. This central portion is known as the macula, and is responsible for controlling our ability to read, seeing in fine detail, and focusing. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness, affecting over 10 million Americans.
A study called The Age Related Eye Disease Study, sponsored by the National Eye Institute, found that consuming provitamin A beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C, E, and zinc, reduced the progression of advanced and intermediate macular degeneration.
This makes vitamin A essential for eye health!
2. The Most Concentrated Sources of Vitamin A
It is easy to get enough beta-carotene if you are consuming a healthy dose of fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of the best vegan sources of Vitamin A are:
- Sweet Potatoes are super versatile and a massive source of vitamin A. 100 grams has 473% of our DV! For best absorption, a dollop of fat such as coconut oil or a nut butter works wonders.
- Winter/Butternut Squash contains 223% of our daily value of vitamin A in just an 100 gram serving.
- Kale has 272% of our daily value in 100 grams.
- Carrots are notorious for their contributions to eye health, and it’s no wonder because 100 grams has 334% of our recommended intake of vitamin A.
- Spinach contains 188% of vitamin A in an 100 gram serving and is also rich in vitamin C, K, and folate.
- Dried Apricots have 40% of your daily intake in just a 1 ounce serving!
- Broccoli contains 13% of your required intake of vitamin A in one cup.
- Cantaloupe has more vitamin A than many other fruits!
- Red Bell Peppers have 16% of your daily share of vitamin A in a one cup serving.
- Turnip Greens are chock full of essential vitamins like K, C, E, and of course vitamin A. In a cup of turnip greens, there is approximately 61% of your daily value of vitamin A.
3. Recipes for Eye Health!
Carrot Cake/One Green Planet
Taking proper care of your vision can be fun and creative when cooking delicious vegan recipes. For meals packed with vitamin A, try this Buckwheat with Roasted Heirloom Carrots and Miso Mushroom Gravy, Savory Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl, Butternut Squash Crostini with Cranberries and Tahini Dressing, Nut and Seed Salad with Massaged Kale and Creamy Dressing, No-Bake Apricot Squares, or this Wild Spinach and Asparagus Salad.
4. Vegan Vitamin A Supplementation
Sometimes you need an extra boost of vitamin A, and supplementation may be the right option! Some vegan vitamin A supplements include, EZ Melts A from Carrot Concentrate, Naturelo’s Whole Food Multi-Vitamin with vitamin A, and Yuve Natural Eye Health Supplement.
For more information regarding Vitamin A, we recommend downloading this Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
Lead Image Source: Ken Teegardin/Flickr