Vitamin A

carrotVitamin A, also known as retinol, beta-carotene, and carotenoids, is a powerful antioxidant important for healthy growth and repair of body tissues.  It is especially important for eye health, particularly night vision.  The pure retinol form is the most active form, and is only available from animal sources.   The beta-carotene form is the plant source of vitamin A, and is the safer source, as it is converted to vitamin A by the body only as needed, which prevents the risk of toxicity.

Vitamin A is an antioxidant that helps to protect cells from damage and reduces the effects of aging.  It is vital for the function, growth and repair of skin, bones, teeth, and all skeletal and soft tissue.  The most active form of vitamin A, retinol, is involved in the production of retina pigments in the eye, assisting of the proper functioning of eyesight and vision.  Since vitamin A plays a major role in growth and development, adequate intake is essential for conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding.   

It is important to note that vitamin A is also highly toxic when taken in excess doses, particularly in supplemental form.  Intake should remain at the recommended doses provided by a healthcare professional.  Typically, the beta-carotene form found primarily in fruits and vegetables is the safer bet for avoiding toxicity.

Some foods that contain Vitamin A include:

*Liver

*Cheddar cheese

*Milk

*Carrots

*Egg yolk

Beta-Carotene:

*Pumpkin

*Mango

*Apricots

*Sweet Potatoes

*Broccoli

*Spinach

*Cantaloupe

Vitamins

Vitamins are an essential part of our being.  I found this article very informative and thought I’d share some important parts of it.  I love learning about the many different vitamins out there, and to be honest, most foods I consume are solely because of the great health benefits they have from the naturally occurring vitamins they contain.  Later, I will focus on specific vitamins and they’re benefits, but here is a breakdown of the essential vitamins that we should all be consuming daily.

Fat-Soluble Vitamin Chart Official Vitamin
Vitamin A  (Retinol) Yes
Vitamin D  (Calciferol) Yes
Vitamin E  (Tocopherol | Tocotrienols) Yes
Vitamin K Yes
Coenzyme Q10  (CoQ10 | Ubiquinone) No*
Water-Soluble Vitamin Chart Comment Official Vitamin
Vitamin B1  (Thiamine) B vitamin Yes
Vitamin B2  (Riboflavin) B vitamin Yes
Vitamin B3  (Niacin) B vitamin Yes
Vitamin B5  (Pantothenic Acid) B vitamin Yes
Vitamin B6  (Pyridoxine) B vitamin Yes
Vitamin B12  (Cobalamin) B vitamin Yes
Vitamin C  (Ascorbic Acid) Yes
Vitamin P  (Bioflavonoids) No*
Biotin  (Vitamin H) B vitamin Yes
Choline B vitamin Yes
Folic Acid  (Folate | Vitamin B9) B vitamin Yes
Inositol  (Myo-Inositol | Vitamin B8) B vitamin No*
PABA  (Para-AminoBenzoic Acid) B vitamin No*
* Essential nutrients with vitamin-like qualities considered by some as vitamins, but not widely or officially recognized as such.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins vs Water-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins are usually classified according to whether they are fat soluble or water soluble.  Vitamins A, D, E, K, and CoQ10 are fat soluble.  The rest in the vitamin list above are water soluble.
Fat-soluble vitamins need the presence of fats and certain minerals to be absorbed by the digestive system, and are stored mainly in the liver and fatty tissues.  Since they are stored in the body, they do not need to be consumed as regularly as water soluble vitamins, but pose greater risk of toxicity when taken in excess.  I usually take my vitamins after a meal, some in the morning after breakfast, and some in the evening after dinner.  When I have fat-soluble vitamins, I make sure to have had some fat with my meal to help with absorption, and if it’s not within a half hour of my last meal, I usually take them with a scoop of peanut butter.
Water-soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are not stored in the body in significant amounts.  They are normally readily excreted in urine, and so must be replenished into the body daily to avoid being depleted.  They are also more easily lost in cooking.

What Vitamins Do

All the vitamins are essential for sustaining life.  A deficiency in any vitamin causes disease symptoms that can only be cured by intake of the vitamin.  Each vitamin has a number of functions, some of which overlap with those of other vitamins.  They are needed for normal growth, and play a part in the health of almost every organ.  They enable many critical bio-chemical processes that take place in the body to sustain health and life.  Some play a role in absorption and metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and minerals.  Others are important for brain function, resistance to infection, fertility, and proper functioning of the digestive system.
All have a role in fighting disease and aging.  Vitamins have been tested to slow or reverse diseases such as cancer, dementia, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart diseases, and many others.  Most people notice that their urine looks brighter after taking vitamins, which is completely normal.  It’s your body’s way of excreting what it doesn’t need.  Vitamins must be taken with food to be absorbed by the body.

Information from www.healthsupplementsnutritionalguide.com

Superfood Highlight – Blueberries

blueberries

If you’re like me, there’s nothing more refreshing than a big bowl of berries in the summertime.  I love blueberries, and it’s an added bonus knowing how healthy they are for you.

Blueberries are loaded with phytochemicals, such as anthocyanin (which is where they get the blue coloring from).  Anthocyanin is a powerful antioxidant that has been studied for its powerful benefits on the body, such as aiding in the prevention of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s, by neutralizing the free radicals that develop these diseases.

In addition to the antioxidant properties, blueberries are also loaded with vitamin C, fiber, and manganese.  This means that, in time, blueberries can boost your immune system, help lower your cholesterol, assist in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and many other benefits.  There is no reason not to include blueberries into your diet…you definitely can’t go wrong.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy blueberries, is actually very simple.  Here is a quick recipe that I swear by:

1 cup of blueberries

1/2 lime

1 packet (or less) of stevia (or any other natural sweetener)

1 dash of cinnamon (optional)

Just toss blueberries in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, grab a spoon, and ENJOY!

Here is the nutritional profile for blueberries:

Blueberry-Nutrition-Facts