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Start at the very beginning: all about Vitamin A (plus a delicious recipe!)

March 02, 2016 Vickie Sorensen

Did you know that Vitamin A isn't just one singular substance or vitamin? "Vitamin A" is actually a blanket term for a powerhouse of nutritional compounds called retinoids that strengthen and support the respiratory system, skin, eyes, digestive system and mucous membranes. Here is a quick rundown on some of the many amazing benefits of Vitamin A:

IMMUNE SYSTEM 
Throughout the body, but particularly in our digestive tract, vitamin A plays a key role in support of immune and inflammatory functions. Recent Research shows that Vitamin A is a significant factor in making and releasing antibodies, as well as supporting the "braking" function that prevents them overreacting. Immune system responses can not be effectively activated without participation of vitamin A. On the other hand, vitamin A may be equally important for our immune and inflammatory "braking" system, in which our cells are prevented from becoming overreactive. Since some aspects of allergies can be related to our immune system's overreaction to certain proteins, optimal intake of vitamin A may turn out to be important for lowering risk of certain types of allergies. Vitamin A is also used widely as a cancer-prevention supplement, because of it's ability to activate the body's T-cells!
SKIN
Vitamin A helps promote the growth of healthy new skin cells and strengthens skin tissue. Vitamin A is also a potent antioxidant that helps fight free radicals. The oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the skin can create an environment that makes you more prone to acne-causing bacteria. Beta Carotene is often used in anti-aging skin products to help eliminate dark spots and wrinkles. Also, Some people who sunburn easily use Vitamin A supplementation to reduce the risk of sunburn.
VISION
Vitamin A plays a fundamental role in the adaptation of the eye to low-light conditions and night vision. Vitamin A is also a common supplement recommended by doctors for age-related macular degeneration. 
My 13-year-old Grandson's favorite joke goes something like this: 
Q: How do you know Carrots are good for your eyes? 
A: Have you ever seen a rabbit with Glasses?
 

 VITAMIN A VS. BETA CAROTENE SUPPLEMENTATION

When you go to the store to purchase a vitamin A supplement, which one should you get? There are two forms of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A and carotene. Animal sources of Vitamin A contain actual, preformed vitamin A. The retinoids from animal sources are fat-soluble, and the body does store this type of vitamin A in the liver, so excessive, chronic intake of this form of vitamin A can be toxic. Carotene is a vitamin A precursor found in deep green and yellow or orange vegetables which, under ideal circumstances, your body can convert into vitamin A in the upper intestinal tract. Carotenes are water-soluble and do not accumulate in the body, so toxicity is rare, however you need to eat a large quantity of carotene-rich fruits and vegetables to meet your daily requirement and carotene is not well converted in infants, children, and individuals with certain health issues such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, pancreatic disease, or digestive issues. 

Ideally, your diet should produce both animal and plant forms of retinoids, but if you feel like you need a boost, we usually recommend either A-mulsion drops (pre-formed Vitamin A) or this Beta Carotene.

Our family's favorite soup recipe is chock-full of beta carotene, and we'd love to share it with you! 


CURRIED SWEET POTATO PEANUT SOUP

You can adjust this recipe as needed- if you're allergic to peanuts, use almond or other nut butters; if you'd like to make it vegan, use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock! 

  • 1 T Olive oil
  • 1 Large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 clove Garlic, chopped
  • 5 c Chicken stock
  • 1 15-oz Can diced tomatoes (or fresh, if you've got some!)
  • 2 Large sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1–inch chunks
  • 1/2 c Creamy peanut butter
  • 1 T Curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne powder
  • Salt

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook uncovered until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter, curry, cayenne and salt to taste. 




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