Not getting enough Vitamin A? Try Red Palm Oil!
One thing that truly boggles my mind about medical education is that doctors-in-training learn NOTHING about nutrition. If you asked me about the signs and symptoms of vitamin deficiency after I graduated from medical school, I wouldn't be able to tell you anything except the most severe deficiencies usually seen in conjunction with other diseases (like thiamine deficiency in alcoholics). I couldn't even tell you the amounts of vitamins and minerals we need to eat daily to prevent deficiency, what foods have what vitamins and minerals, and how to know if we are eating enough of the right foods to get the nutrients we need.
This is such a huge oversight in medical education, especially as more and more research emerges to support the role of micronutrients in preventing disease. Vitamin and mineral deficiency has been implicated as a contributing factor in conditions as diverse as macular degeneration, diabetes, depression, cancer, ADHD, heart disease, dementia,
Given the importance of this overlooked topic, I've finally started to educate myself on vitamins & minerals, signs of deficiency, and how to get enough of them - ideally from food, but also supplementation when necessary. Vitamin A is used by the body to prevent infection, to protect the integrity of the rods & cones needed for vision, and to aid in the pineal gland's signalling of night & day which is so vital to maintaining circadian rhythms. Frequent colds, poor night vision, and messed up sleep are all possible signs that your Vitamin A status could use some work.
Vitamin A comes in two forms - provitamin A carotenoids, which must be converted to retinol for the body to use them, and retinol, the active form of Vitamin A. Carotenoids are found in red, orange, yellow and green vegetables; retinol is found in liver, eggs, dairy, and cod liver oil.
The problem with getting all your Vitamin A as carotenoids from plant sources is that you are trusting the integrity of the process that converts carotenoids to retinol in your body - and many things can interfere with that. As an almost vegan, I was pretty bummed to hear that in order to ensure I was getting enough Vitamin A, I'd have to eat eggs, liver, dairy or cod liver oil. Frankly I'm not to excited about any of those options!
Red Palm Oil - A Rich Vegan Source of Vitamin A
Thankfully I learned about red palm oil. This oil is the perfect source of Vitamin A. Why? Well, the presence of fat and Vitamin E aid in the absorption of Vitamin A, and red palm oil happens to have both - in addition to a hefty dose of Vitamin A. Red palm oil is great for cooking, and because heat also helps with absorption, using a tablespoon a day to saute your colorful veggies is a great way to make sure you get enough Vitamin A. Even if, like me, you prefer not to eat too many animal products.
So keep eating those veggies! And if you're worried about your Vitamin A, try red palm oil!