There’s a very good reason as to why we refer to vitamin A as “Vitamin Eye.” Simply put, this vitamin is the superhero of the eye health world.
Vitamin A can help your vision in a number of ways, but it is also widely thought to help boost your immune system and help with cell growth. It also increases neurological function and boosts your skin’s radiance.
The Powerful Retinoid and Antioxidant
There are two types of vitamin A. One type, most commonly found in animal products, is a vitamin A retinoid that is soluble in fat. This means that it is stored in the fat of your body and can be tapped into when needed. The more commonly known type, beta-carotene, comes from plants, fruits and vegetables.
The body absorbs both these types of the vitamin to act as antioxidants that fight free radicals. Free radicals can be detrimental to anyone’s health. When free radicals start forming in the body, they create a chain reaction that can cause severe cell damage and sometimes cell deaths.
When vitamin A is present in the body, it creates a stable bond between molecules, which prevents free radicals from forming. This makes for a healthier overall immune system, promotes healthy cell development (especially in children) and it keeps your retina safe from irreversible cell damage. Clearly, you want to make sure you are getting enough of this vitamin in your daily diet.
What About Deficiencies?
Free radicals forming in the body are hard to spot, but some other symptoms of a vitamin A deficiency are not. A gluten sensitivity, inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatic disorders are all signs of a potential deficiency.
Unlike other vitamins and minerals, which are easily absorbed into the body through foods and other sources, vitamin A deficiencies are becoming all too common.
Vitamin A has long been the go-to vitamin for eye health. Even your mom knew that when she told you that you couldn’t play until you ate all of your carrots. Though mom might not have known exactly what it was about carrots that made them so good for the eyes, we’ll give her credit for one heck of a mother’s intuition.
Aside from fighting free radicals, studies have shown that people with a healthy amount of this nutrient in their diets are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD). As the name suggests, AMD is the deterioration of the macula in the eye. It’s also one of the leading causes of blindness in senior citizens.
Though there is no cure — at least not yet — for AMD, this vitamin is a strong component in preventing and slowing down the progression of the disease.
Vitamin A also helps regulates the thickness of the cornea. If too soft, the cornea is susceptible to developing various infections and may even lead to a ruptured cornea. Too thick, and the cornea will cause clouded vision followed by irreversible blindness.
Some added benefits of this nutrient for your eye health are that it keeps your eyes moist and help the eye adjust to different lights. We’ve all had that horrible experience of being cooped up inside all day, only to step out into sun and being temporarily blinded.
Whether you have naturally dry eyes or it’s a result of a side effect of prescribed medication, this vitamin is the ticket to more comfortable vision.
Where to Find Vitamin A: Food and Supplements
You can find the vitamin in various animal products and plant-based foods. You can also find it in supplement form.
Maybe supplements don’t interest you and you’d prefer to get your vitamins and nutrients from a healthy diet. Well, hey, that’s great! We have just the food suggestions for you!
The rule of thumb is that the brighter or more highly pigmented the food, the higher in beta-carotene it is. Keep that in mind the next time you find yourself at the grocery store.
While you’re there, you may want to look into these foods:
Bell peppers (especially red ones)
Kale and spinach
These are our favorites, but feel free to mix and match them with your regular grocery list! If you have young people in your life who may be adverse to these nutritious items, try blending or masking them in a smoothie or soup. Your body and eyes need this vitamin to function and prevent disease. Get it into your diets however you like; you may even learn a few new recipes along the way!
This post originally appeared on Rebuild Your Vision.