Category Archives: Nutrition

Understanding Protein

If you’re confused about how much protein you need per day, you’re not alone. There’s not a cut-and-dried answer. Everyone has a different “need” depending on gender, weight, activity level and goals.

I’ve been doing a lot of research to try to answer this question for myself. There is a lot of information out there. Here is the lowdown on what I found.

What is the RDA for protein:

The purpose of the RDA guidelines is to inform you how much of a specific nutrient your body needs on a daily basis to function properly. So basically, depending on your weight and activity level, the RDA for protein can be viewed as the minimum requirement to keep you healthy.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for men is 56 grams per day and 46 grams per day for women.

Chances are you may need more. But how much more and why?

What is Protein?

Protein is one of the basic building blocks of the human body, making up roughly 20 percent of your total body weight. Muscle, hair, skin, and connective tissue are mainly made up of protein. Also, protein plays a major role in all of the cells and most of the fluids in your body.  Although your body is good at “recycling” protein, you use it up constantly, so it is important to continually replace it.

Protein is made up of smaller units called amino acids. Your body can produce some of these amino acids, but others must be consumed through the diet. Animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) and many plant foods are good sources.

Follow this link to see what’s included in the protein food group:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/protein-foods.html#

Protein and Weight Loss

When you want to gain muscle and lose fat, eating the right amount of protein is key. Protein and the amino acids that make it up are required for two main reasons.

1) To construct muscle – they are the building blocks

2)  They act as a switch to ‘signal’ that it’s time to start up the “muscle building machinery”.

Leucine is probably the most important amino acid that stimulates this “switch” and is highly present in protein rich food.

Because protein is required to build muscle AND to signal the body to start this process, it’s important to spread out protein consumption evenly throughout the day.

How Much Do You Need?

“When it comes to building muscle and losing fat, research consistently shows that doubling the RDA spaced out throughout the day is the path you want to take to get the best results the fastest”. (BJ Gaddour, “Men’s Health, Your Body is Your Barbell”). This seems like a good rule of thumb in general. Let’s see what other people say.

Nutritionists use a standard to estimate your minimum daily protein requirement.

Multiply the body weight in pounds by .37.

Using this formula, a 150 lb. man would require a minimum of 55 grams of protein per day. This falls right in with the RDA.  And if you’re very active and exercise frequently, professionals agree you can nearly double this requirement. Be advised, though, if you’re shooting for a gram of protein per pound of body weight, or more, you’re probably overdoing it. The extra protein will not necessarily benefit you. Also, that’s a lot for the body to process and the extra calories will most likely end up as fat.

To look at it another way, it is recommended that 10-35% of your daily calories come from protein. This is a rather large range and where you fall in it also depends on your weight and activity level. For a  diet of 1800 calories per day, this means anywhere from a minimum of 45 grams of protein to over 150 grams of protein per day. That 35% is a pretty high number and may be overdoing it for a lot of people. In my diet, I lean towards around 20% protein.

So you see, there are various rules of thumb to figure out the ideal protein for you.

Tracking the Protein Grams you Eat

Many foods contain protein, but at the end of the day, how do you know how much you’ve consumed?

Here is an easy rule of thumb:

Remember the numbers 1, 5, 10, 15, 25 to roughly estimate protein intake.

That’s:

  • 1 gram of protein for every serving of fruit and vegetables
  • 5 for every egg or handful of nuts you eat
  • 10 for every cup of milk or yogurt
  • 15 for every cup of beans or half-cup of cottage cheese
  • 25 for every 3-4 ounce serving of meat

Protein and Exercise Recovery

After a workout your body switches immediately from performance mode to recovery mode. It’s important to rebuild broken down muscle so you can come back stronger in your next training session. It is a great idea to refuel with protein right after your workout. Try a protein shake. Whey is a rapidly digested protein source loaded with leucine that will help maximize muscle recovery and growth.

Nutrient Timing: Exercise Recovery and Carbs

I found an extra helpful tidbit in my research about muscle recovery and carbs.

Nutrient timing is the concept that certain foods benefit your body more at specific times of the day than at others. After exercise, your muscles want to restock their supply of carbohydrates in the form of  glycogen. This is the time that your muscles are primed to take in the carbs you eat. In fact, after exercise is one of the few times carbs are preferentially transported to your muscles and away from your fat cells.

It’s a great idea to plan your starchiest meal of the day within 2 hours of your training. This could be breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on when you workout.

Your other meals of the day should consist of protein and nutrient dense carbs and vegetables.

A Few Last Words…

I hope this helps answer some questions you have about protein or got you thinking more about nutrition. As a trainer I am all about the workout but honestly, 75 – 80% of the weight loss equation concerns what you put in your mouth.

Wishing you much success!

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http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/protein-guide-maximum-muscle#sthash.cEiKJ5O5.dpuf

http://www.nutritionexpress.com/article+index/authors/jeff+s+volek+phd+rd/showarticle.aspx?articleid=807

 

 

Egg Bites

I’m back! I took an unplanned hiatus and really missed this place! How are you all doing?

I’ve been up to a lot of things since I wrote last. In particular, I’ve taken quite an interest in Pinterest. If you haven’t checked out the Pinterest website, you really should visit! I love it because you can search for anything and find hundreds of unique ideas.

I’ve been using Pinterest lately to help me eat better. How many times have you been starving and despite your intentions to eat well, you grab the easiest thing because you’re just so hungry. So hungry that you can’t eat fast enough! I’ve been guilty of this! Part of losing weight and keeping healthy is planning and preparation. This can actually be fun when you have new ideas to try!

I found this idea on Pinterest and tweaked it a bit to fit my liking. I call these Egg Bites. The original recipe called for just egg whites but I added in whole eggs because I really believe in the power of the yolk. The entire recipe calls for 6 whole eggs and 3/4 cup egg whites, and each bite contains just over 20 calories. These make great pre or post workout snacks. My family also loves them for breakfast!

They are super easy to make!

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Here’s what you need:

  • A mini muffin tin
  • Olive Oil or cooking spray to prep the pan
  • Chopped veggies of your choice
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup egg whites

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First, prep the muffin tin with olive oil using a paper towel or use cooking spray such as Pam. Line the bottom of the tin with your veggies. Here I used fresh spinach leaves and fresh pico de gallo. The options are unlimited! Go crazy!

IMG_0701 IMG_0702Beat the whole eggs, combine with the egg whites and pour into the muffin tin over the veggies.

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Now bake at 350 for roughly 17 – 18 minutes.

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Uncooked

 

Cooked after 17 minutes

Cooked after 17 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let cool a few minutes and pop them out of the tin.

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Store them in an air tight container in the frig. They will keep for about 4 days!

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Make it a goal to prep healthy food in advance so you’re not caught binging on whatever is easy when those hunger pangs hit.

Enjoy!

 

 

Going Green

269538-green-teaI’ve always been a tea drinker. I look forward to a hot cup or two every morning. It gets me going.

For years I was loyal to Lipton black tea. Why? Because that’s what my parents bought. It was what I grew up on. I didn’t know anything else.

A few years ago I bought my first package of green tea because it was part of a cleanse I was trying. It tasted slightly different but it was good! Adding a little douse of fresh lemon made it taste just like what I was used to, BUT with added health benefits. I was sold and never turned back to the dark side.

Why is Green Tea a Great Choice?

269538-green-tea-leaves

Minimal Processing

In general, the best foods and beverages for you are the ones with the least amount of processing. All teas (except herbal) come from the same type of bush (Camellia Sinensis). The level of processing determines the type of tea. Green tea is the least processed type of tea and therefore contains the most antioxidants of all the varieties.

More on Antioxidants

Antioxidants delay or prevent cell damage.

The antioxidants in tea are called polyphenols.

Catechins are a type of polyphenol found in large amounts in tea and are a very powerful antioxidant. (Catechins are also found in much smaller amounts in red wine and chocolate). Catechins are like little warriors that are believed to help fight various cancers, heart disease, diabetes and also help reduce inflammation in the body.

By weight, green tea is 20-45% polyphenols. Of this, 60-80% are in the form of catechins. That’s a lot of natural power fighting for your health!

Considered One of the World’s Healthiest Drinks

There have been numerous studies on green tea over the years which show a multitude of health benefits. Unsweetened, natural brewed tea has zero calories and is packed full of antioxidants. Adding vitamin C in the form of lemon makes the healthy compounds of green tea easier to absorb. (Dairy, on the other hand, makes the good properties harder to absorb).

Low Caffeine

Green tea contains less caffeine than black tea and far less caffeine than coffee.

Weight Loss

There have been many studies on green tea and weight loss, but they don’t all agree. While some studies have shown that green tea helps increase metabolism and fat burning, others don’t show an increase at all. It’s possible the effects may depend on the individual.

In any case, replacing a sugary or processed beverage with green tea is a good thing!

Final Thoughts

This little list of mine just touches the surface of the health benefits of green tea. I know that not everyone is a tea fan. (Hey, I can’t stomach the taste of coffee. I get it!). But if you’re a tea drinker anyway, why not give it a try?

Cheers!

Fun Facts: Fats, Water and Sodium

Here are a few fun facts on fats, water and sodium that I find helpful. Enjoy!

The Skinny on Fats:

You’ve heard eating too much saturated fat is bad for you, but how do you distinguish a food that’s high in saturated fat from one that’s not?  

Food fats are never ‘only’ saturated or unsaturated, but are a mixture of different fatty acid types. As a general rule of thumb, foods that are higher in saturated fat are more solid at room temperature (like butter) and foods that contain more unsaturated fatty acids tend to be more liquid at room temperature (like oils). When you’re cooking and making a choice of what to use in your stir fry, choose liquid over solid (oil over butter). The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 7% of total daily calories.

If you’re a label reader, you’ve probably seen the word “hydrogenated”. What does this mean?

An example of hydrogenation is a manufacturer altering a liquid vegetable oil to act like a solid fat. This makes the fat more saturated and more effective for them in making baked goods, snack foods and a product that spreads like butter (margarine). This process also protects the end product from oxidation and rancidity. Hydrogenation produces a great end product for the manufacturer, but it’s not a good choice for the consumer. The hydrogenation process transforms a primarily unsaturated fat (vegetable oil) into a trans fat. The American Heart Association views trans fatty acids more harmful than saturated fats and recommends trans fatty intake to less than 1% of total daily calories. For good heart health, read labels and avoid hydrogenated products.

Water

The average human body is 60% water!

This is only an average and can actually vary from 45 – 75% depending on much muscle you have. Lean muscle mass is nearly three quarters water by weight! Fat tissue contains only 10% water. The more muscle mass you have, the more water weight you have!

How much water do you need?

Everyone needs a different amount of water depending on their size, body composition and activity level, as well as the temperature and humidity level of the environment. There are so many opinions on exactly how much water you need.  I go by this rule of thumb: Divide your weight by 2 and drink that many fluid ounces of water per day at a minimum.  I increase this number when I exercise or if the weather is hot. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty! Thirst is an indicator that you’re already dehydrated!

More about Dehydration 

Dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in. You can have chronic mild dehydration by losing just 1-2% of body weight in water. Symptoms include not only increased thirst, but a decline in alertness and ability to concentrate, fatigue and headache.

Your body is constantly losing water

Your body is continuously losing water through evaporation through your skin and lungs. This accounts for 1/4 to 1/2 of your water loss per day and is called ‘insensible water loss’.

Insensible water loss increases dramatically when you’re sick. Fever, coughing, rapid breathing and runny nose all significantly increase water loss. This is why it’s suggested you drink plenty of fluids when you’re under the weather.

Other Cool Facts

People generally get 81% of their water through drinking fluids and 19% through food consumption.  Think of all the water in the fruits and vegetables you eat. That counts too!

After you drink water, your body can take from 30 – 60 minutes to distribute it throughout your body. To avoid dehydration during exercise or hot weather, you need to drink fluids early and often.

Sodium

Sodium is an essential nutrient

Sodium is needed in the body to maintain proper water distribution and blood pressure.

How much do you need?

For health benefits, it’s suggested people limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. For many (pretty much half the American population), it’s suggested this amount be further reduced to 1,500 mg/day.

The typical American diet contains 3,000-6,000 mg. of sodium per day! Holy Cow!

77% of sodium consumption comes from processed food. Fast food and prepackaged frozen dinners are such a convenience but are very high in sodium.

Too much sodium raises blood pressure, causes hypertension and contributes to osteoporosis.

 Sodium is necessary but too much is not good for your health. Be sure to check labels and watch your intake!

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Source:

Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

Vitamin E – The Antioxidant

I’m still studying Nutrition and if you’ve been following this blog, you know I’ve recently been posting about individual vitamins. To keep them straight I like to create a picture in my mind that helps me remember why each vitamin is so important.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant and I picture it as a mini super hero or warrior. Why? Because this amazing vitamin is fighting for you! It helps defend, protect and prevent!

What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is not a single compound. It is actually two sets of four compounds each: the tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and the tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta). Don’t worry, the confusing stuff stops here. They are collectively known as vitamin E and that’s what we will call them.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant and protects your body from all kinds of damage. It’s found in virtually every cell in your body.

Vitamin E defends your cells from free radicals, it protects your lungs against contaminants in the environment, it helps protect your eye, liver, breast and muscle tissue, and it may help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Wow, that’s a lot from one vitamin!

How Much Vitamin E Do You Need?

The RDA for adults (both men, women and pregnant women): 15 milligrams/day

The RDA for women who are breastfeeding: 19 milligrams/day

15 milligrams of vitamin E per day has been shown to decrease chronic disease risk. It doesn’t sound like much, but most Americans consume less than this amount.

Sources of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is found in many plant and animal foods:

  • Wheat germ oil (contains the highest concentration of usable vitamin E)
  • Vegetable and seed oils (such as safflower, cottonseed and sunflower seed oils)
  • Foods made from vegetable oils (such as margarine and salad dressings)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Strawberries, spinach and other leafy greens
  • Meat, poultry and fish

In the typical American diet, 20% of dietary vitamin E comes from oils, salad dressings and margarine, 15% from vegetables, 12% from meat, poultry and fish, 10% from cereal and 9% from fruit.

As you can see, vitamin E is widely available in things you eat everyday.

Storage and Food Preparation Concerns

Oxygen is vital for our survival as humans, but it’s destructive and attacks and destroys the vitamin E content in food through oxidation. Both light and heat accelerate oxidation.

Here are a few examples of what oxidation does:

  • Safflower oil, stored at room temperature for 3 months, loses 55% of vitamin E
  • Peanut oil, frying for 30 minutes, loses 32% of vitamin E
  • Almonds, roasting, loses 80% of vitamin E
  • Bread, baking, loses 5-50% vitamin E

Also, processing takes a substantial toll on vitamin E.

  • Processing wheat to white flour reduces vitamin E by 92%
  • Vegetable oil is a refined food. During the purifying and refining process, so much vitamin E is removed that the by products are used to make supplements.

Vitamin E Deficiency

Vitamin E deficiency is rare in North America because vegetable oils and other sources rich in vitamin E are so widely used. Those at risk, however, are infants born prematurely and those who can’t digest dietary fat.

Vitamin E deficiency causes a condition known as hemolysis (the premature breakdown of red blood cells) and an associated anemia.  This anemia is most common in premature infants because vitamin E transfers from mother to fetus in the last 2 weeks of pregnancy. Babies born prematurely are lacking this essential nutrient. In cases like this, supplements and special formulas are used to help correct the problem.

People who can not absorb dietary fat or who have rare fat metabolism disorders can develop a deficiency in vitamin E. In adults, the malabsorption would have to exist for 5 – 10 years for symptoms to surface and can result in neurological problems that affect the spinal cord and peripheral nerves.

Vitamin E Toxiciy

Vitamin E is relatively nontoxic.

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, but unlike vitamins A and D, vitamin E does not accumulate in the liver. 90% of the vitamin E in your body is stored in fat tissue. The remaining 10% is found in pretty much every cell in every tissue in your body.

It is difficult to consume too much of this vitamin from food.

Taking high dose vitamin E supplements may interfere with blood clotting and therefore may increase your body’s vitamin K requirement.

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Source:

Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin

sunDo you have a favorite vitamin? I sure do! Mine is definitely vitamin D!

Vitamin D is different from any other vitamin. If you get enough exposure to the sun, your body makes all the vitamin D it needs. Imagine how wonderful the warmth of the sun feels on your skin. Now consider that as you are basking in the rays, you are fortifying your body with this important nutrient. Sounds like time well spent to me!

Why is Vitamin D Important?

Vitamin D is essential for bone health. Vitamin D and calcium work together to keep your bones strong. When vitamin D is lacking, only about 10-15% of your dietary calcium is absorbed by your body. Your body needs adequate vitamin D for calcium to do its job.

Vitamin D has other roles in the body too. It aids in cell growth, the immune system and reducing inflammation in the body. There is also some evidence that getting enough vitamin D may lower your risk of certain cancers, including those of the colon, breast, prostate, skin, and pancreas.

How much Vitamin D do You Need?

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ : the following amounts are recommended:

Male and female aged 1-70: 15 mcg/day (600 IU)

Male and female over 70: 20 mcg/day (800 IU)

Sources of Vitamin D

The Sun

You can get the required amount of vitamin D solely from sun exposure, but here are several factors to consider:

  • Exposure of arms and legs for 5 to 30 minutes, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., twice per week is generally adequate.
  • Sunscreen almost entirely blocks the ultraviolet light necessary for your body to make vitamin D.
  • The sun delivers more radiation in the summer months.
  • The sun delivers different amounts of radiation depending on where you live. Areas closer to the equator have more intense sunlight.
  • 80% or more of the sun’s UV rays penetrate clouds but window glass blocks these rays.
  • Lighter skinned people absorb these rays more quickly than darker skinned people.
  • People over 70 years of age have a 75% reduction in their ability to produce vitamin D through sun exposure. This is why they require more vitamin D in their diet.
  • Infants are born with stores of vitamin D that last about 9 months.

A rule of thumb is to expose your hands, arms and face to the sun for about one-third the time it would take you to burn. Doing this two to three times per week should provide you with adequate vitamin D. (Disclaimer: This rule of thumb is stated in my Nutrition book, but please be careful exposing your unprotected skin to the sun for any amount of time. My dermatologist would be very disappointed in me for suggesting you do this for even a minute. I’m just stating the facts as I have learned them and everyone can make their own choices.) Now back to the learning!

Food Sources

You can get adequate vitamin D through your diet as well, however, few foods naturally contain this nutrient. For this reason, many foods are fortified with vitamin D including milk, breakfast cereal, orange juice, yogurt and breads and grains.

Vitamin D is found naturally in oily fish (such as swordfish and salmon) and in fish oils (such as cod liver oil). Egg yolk, butter and liver also supply some vitamin D, but the amount depends on the amount of vitamin D consumed by the animal source.

Plants are a poor source of vitamin D.

Vitamin D Deficiency

In children, vitamin D promotes bone development and growth. If a deficiency exists, the bones weaken and the skeleton fails to harden (a condition known as rickets). Rickets can cause skeletal deformities such as ‘bow legs’ or ‘knock knees’. Rickets is pretty rare in the the United States and Canada these days thanks to foods fortified with this nutrient, like vitamin D fortified milk.

In adults, a deficiency can cause a skeletal problem called osteomalacia or “soft bones” and also contributes to osteoporosis.

Besides skeletal issues, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type I diabetes.

Vitamin D Toxicity

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and like most other fat soluble vitamins,  your body stores the excess in the liver for future use. If you consume too much, you can exceed the liver’s storage capacity and vitamin D becomes toxic in your body.

Sun exposure does not cause vitamin D toxicity, but high supplement doses can.

Vitamin D toxicity is severe and causes a condition called hypercalcemia, which is a high concentration of calcium in the blood. This affects many tissues in the body and can result in bone loss, kidney stones and can affect the central nervous system.

Large doses of vitamin D should only be taken under a physician’s supervision.

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Source:

Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

All About Vitamin A

Vitamin A – How Much Do You Need?

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin. If you’re like most Americans, you get an adequate amount in your diet. Like other fat soluble vitamins, the majority of your body’s vitamin A is stored in the liver and released into the bloodstream as needed. Once you establish your fat soluble vitamin stores, you can go up to months at a time without consuming more.

The RDA for Vitamin A:

  • for males 14 and older – 900 micrograms RAE
  • for females 14 and older – 700 micrograms RAE
  • for pregnant women – 770 micrograms RAE
  • for lactating women – 1,300 micrograms RAE

Why is Vitamin A Important?

Vitamin A is crucial for vision, for maintaining healthy cells (especially skin cells), for fighting infections and strengthening the immune system, and for promoting growth and development, including maintenance of healthy bones.

Sources of Vitamin A

Dietary vitamin A can come from both animal and plant foods.

Vitamin A in animal products

Vitamin A comes from animal food sources in the form of retinoids. These foods include:

  • Liver and fish liver oils (i.e., cod liver oil)
  • Milk fat (as in whole milk, butter, egg yolks and other dairy products)
  • Foods fortified with vitamin A: margarine, some breakfast cereals, reduced fat milk

Your body absorbs about 75% of retinoids consumed in the diet.

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Vitamin A intake comes from fruits and vegetables in the form of carotenoids. The best sources of carotenoids are dark green, yellow-orange and red fruits and vegetables.  The body converts the colorful pigments into Vitamin A once eaten. Carotenoids are called provitamins because they don’t actually become active vitamins until your body absorbs them.

Beta-carotene (the yellow-orange pigment) produces the most vitamin A of any of the carotenoids, about one-third of your total vitamin A. The body absorbs provitamins less efficiently than the retinoids found in animal products.

Some good sources of carotenoids:

  • Sweet potato – baked in the skin
  • Carrots, cooked
  • Collards, cooked
  • Spinach, cooked
  • Pumpkin, cooked
  • Cantaloupe
  • Melon
  • Tomatoes
  • There are numerous others, just think yellow, orange, red and deep green

A few minutes of cooking breaks down some of the chemical bonds in food. This helps release carotenoids and makes them easier to absorb in your system. For example, you will absorb about 2 times more nutrients from a cup of slightly cooked spinach versus 3 cups of raw spinach. Be careful not to cook it too long, however, because the longer you cook it, the more vitamins you lose.

Other Cool Facts About Carotenoids

  • They are antioxidants
  • They boost your immune system
  • They can reduce risk of age-related degeneration of the eye and risk of cataracts
  • They can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease
  • Dietary fat, protein and vitamin E enhance carotenoid absorption, but dietary fiber reduces its absorption

So be sure to eat your yellow, orange, red and deep green fruits and vegetables!

Vitamin A Deficiency

Dietary vitamin A deficiency is rare in North America and western Europe, but is the leading cause of childhood blindness worldwide. Also, vitamin A deficiency has been shown to slow growth and development and leads to bone deformities.

In the United States, those at risk for vitamin A deficiency include:

  • Newborns (due to lack of vitamin A stores in their liver)
  • Those with alcoholism or liver disease
  • Those who suffer from fat-malabsorption syndromes
  • Those who suffer from anorexia nervosa
  •  Those with an inadequate intake of zinc (which is required for the body to use Vitamin A efficiently)

There are various symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, but if caught quickly they can be reversed.

  • Vision: Night blindness (the inability of the eyes to adjust to dim light or to regain vision quickly after exposure to a flash of bright light) is an early symptom. If the deficiency worsens color blindness and then permanent blindness can result.
  • SkinYour skin cells are the first line of defense protecting your body and they are destroyed and replaced rather quickly. Vitamin A is needed for this rapid cell turnover. Signs of vitamin A deficiency show up early in the skin.
  • Other CellsVitamin A deficiency can disrupt the cells ability to produce mucous.  This particularly affects the mouth, respiratory tract, urinary tract and male and female reproductive processes.  Also, if the affected cells are located near sensory receptors, you can lose your sense of smell and taste.
  • Immune Function: Vitamin A deficiency leaves a person highly susceptible to bacterial, parasitic and viral infections. People with severe vitamin A deficiencies have such impaired immune systems that simple infections can be hazardous.

Too Much Vitamin A is Toxic

It’s highly unlikely that you will overdose on vitamin A through your diet alone. A healthy diet is rich in a variety of foods and by eating many different things you will help keep all of your vitamin levels in check.

The potential for overdose increases, however, as more and more people are taking megadoses of nutritional supplements. (I’m not talking about everyday multiple vitamins, but extreme doses of Vitamin A in supplemental form). Ninety percent of the body’s vitamin A supply is stored in the form of a retinoid in the liver. (The remainder is stored in fat tissue, the lungs and kidneys).  A healthy liver can store up to a year’s supply of vitamin A, but taking large doses of vitamin A supplements can exceed this capacity and lead to toxicity.

Overindulging in vitamin A supplements is dangerous.

Toxicity Symptoms

There are a wide range of symptoms which can be short term or long term, including fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain, bone and joint pain, loss of appetite, skin disorders, headache, blurred or double vision, eye damage, swelling of the brain, psychiatric changes, osteoporosis, hip fracture, liver damage, coma, and so many more.

Vitamin A and Pregnancy

Birth defects can occur if vitamin A is taken in excess during pregnancy, especially if taken two weeks prior to conception and during the two months following. Pregnant women should take prenatal supplements containing beta-carotene as the vitamin A source and avoid retinol. Even retinoids taken for acne (both topical and oral) should be avoided at this time.  Because even the topical Retin-A absorbs through the skin and accumulates in fat stores, this type of treatment should be discontinued long before pregnancy.

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Source:

Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013