We’ve all been told to eat our carrots as children (or adults, I’m not judging!). We know carrots as the ultimate food for better sight. But why?
Carrots are extremely high in vitamin A (or beta-carotene, to be specific), fiber vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants. But it’s not only carrots that are little power houses of eyesight ammunition. Virtually and fruit or vegetable that is yellow, orange or even dark green leafy lettuces are also high in vitamin A!
So now, what is vitamin A and how exactly is it good for me?Vitamin A is a fat -soluble vitamin, meaning it won’t dissolve in water. However, as with all fat-soluble vitamins, there is a risk of overdose as it can accumulate into toxic levels in our tissues and fat cells. Although this is pretty unlikely to happen from diet alone, it’s important to know for those who take supplements. Signs of vitamin A toxicity include vomiting, joint pain, abdominal pain, dry or cracking skin, headache, gingivitis, irritability and fatigue. Once you start to notice an orange tint to your skin, you know you’ve eaten too many carrots.
There’s two main forms of vitamin A – preformed vitamin A (also called retinol) and provitamin A. Provitamin A refers to a group of carotenoids that can be converted to retinol, like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, etc. By eating carrots and other yellow or orange fruits and veggies, we’re ingesting provitamin A. We can get retinol directly from animal products like liver, fish oil, egg yolks and milk products.
Our bodies use preformed vitamin A (retinol) for better eye sight. Specifically, the retinol creates a pigment called rhodopsin in our eye that helps us detect small traces of light and allows us to see at night! Those of you (myself included) who have trouble seeing at night should really consider getting a complete bloodwork done of your vitamin and mineral levels to see if you’re vitamin A deficient.
Retinol, retina? Makes sense doesn’t it? This goes hand in hand with The Doctrine of Signatures which states that foods resemble what human body part they help with. Have you ever sliced open a carrot and noticed it looks like an eye? Carrots are excellent for eye health! Avocados have the same bulb shape of a uterus and are a good source of folic acid, which is necessary for reproductive health. Kidney beans look like kidneys (hence, the name) and they are amazing for kidney health. Walnut shells look like human brains and have actually been nicknamed as ‘brain food’ for their incredible benefits! I can go on and on, but you should definitely look into The Doctrine of Signatures. It’s one of the main philosophies in holistic health.
Okay so vitamin A is good for my eyes, what else? Vitamin A also supports immune function but helping maintain the integrity of our cell walls and mucus lining. Remember, it’s a powerful antioxidant so it promotes proper cell differentiation, which reduces cancer risk. Vitamin A also regulates our gene activity. Have you ever heard the saying, you are what you eat? The study of epigenetics literally revolves around this. What we eat has an effect on the way our genes are expressed. Many of our cells have retinoic acid receptors (RARs) on their nuclear membranes. When vitamin A binds to these receptors, it alters our genetic processes.
Epigenetics is an extremely complex field, so I’m not going to get too deep into it in this post. But the takeaway here is that vitamins and minerals can turn on or off some of our genes – usually turning on the good genes and turning off the bad ones. This could be why a vitamin A deficiency is related to an increase in cancer of the breast, cervix, lung, prostate and stomach.
So, my friends, take away with you this. Our parents and grandparents really knew what they were talking about when they told us to eat our carrots all those years ago. And as someone very dear to me once said, eat your vision sticks!
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