Get A+ for your health

In the recent past, I had talked to you about the importance of micronutrients and how they are present in every food we eat. Now, let's break that down to understand the importance of the very first vitamin- vitamin A!

One of the best-known antioxidants is beta carotene. This chemical is very important as this is the chemical that provides us with vitamin A.

I'm sure that when you think of vitamin A, you instantly think of carrots and how it benefits your eyes! It is a universal fact that vitamin A provides the correct nourishment to have good eyesight. However, that is not the only job it carries out! I have to share with you another benefit of vitamin A; the health of your skin as well your hair depends on it. Everyone knows that carrots are a good source of beta carotene with one large carrot containing about 15,503 mg of beta carotene. However, what most people don't know is that pumpkin contains 31,908 mg of beta carotene, which is twice as much vitamin A when compared to carrots, and it is also available year-round. Some other foods that contain beta carotene are sweet potato and orange yam (both containing 26,184 mg), mango (3,851 mg), cantaloupe (1,325 mg) red bell peppers (2,840 mg) and spinach (1,196 mg).

I must tell you that it doesn't merely provide us with vitamin A; it enters the cell membrane surrounding each cell in your body and fends off free radicals that might be approaching it. It works as a little soldier preventing cancer cells from multiplying. I need to let you know just how lucky we are to have Mother Nature for it gives us everything! The yellow-orange pigment which comes in carrots, pumpkins, yams, cantaloupes, etc is where beta carotene is residing. Your dark green veggies also hide the beta carotene chemical but it's not visible to the naked eye as it is camouflaged by the dark green chlorophyll.

Always remember that it's much better to consume foods that are high in vitamins and minerals rather than popping a pill. Studies have shown that people who obtain beta carotene from their food rather than from supplements had a lesser risk of developing cancer than the ones who took the pills. This is probably because the pill is supplying only one nutrient whereas the foods, we eat are supplying multiple nutrients. I hope I am getting the message clear to you that there is plenty of beta carotene in the plant kingdom. All you have to do is go out, buy it, cook it and eat it.

Coming to the point of consuming beta carotene from your natural foods, you have to remember that vitamin A, found in beta carotene is a fat-soluble vitamin. So, for your body to absorb vitamin A, you need to ensure that you have adequate fat along with your beta carotene food. For example, if you choose carrot as your source of beta carotene then you should either slightly sauté it- which is very common in the Indian diet- or you could add extra virgin olive oil, nuts or seeds to it. Vegetable juices and smoothies often have beta carotene-rich foods and people tend to make the mistake of not adding any fat to this beverage. For instance, if my clients are ever having a carrot and spinach juice, what I make them do is blend in a piece of coconut with it so that you get good quality fats from it.

Hence, by simply incorporating these foods into your diet you can raise your vitamin A levels without having to pop unnecessary pills into your system that only serve a single purpose.

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