Eat Your Carrots, They’re Good for your Eyes!
Created by: Mayumi Tavalero, a chef, a certified fitness nutritionist, and a fitness trainer, posted on 07/03/21
It’s a phrase we’ve heard over and over again, at least I did growing up, probably from the age of 3 to adulthood, and maybe more when my parents needed reading glasses.
The Many Benefits of Vitamin A
Vitamin A has many benefits backed by science including:
- Prevention of night blindness and age-related decline of your eyesight
- Keeping your immune system healthy
- Supporting bone health
- Promoting reproductive health
- Keeping your skin clear
The last one was of particular interest to me as I suffered from horrible acne as a youth and even into adulthood. It was so bad that my parents took me to a dermatologist that prescribed me Accutane (a vitamin A derivative) when nothing else seemed to work. For me, it was a miracle cure. When my boys hit their early teens I gave them cod liver oil on a daily basis and I can honestly say it really does work!
The Different Types of Vitamin A
There are two types of Vitamin A. There is retinol, which is derived from animal sources such as fish, liver, egg yolk, cream and butter from grass-fed cows. Then there is beta-carotene, that comes from plant sources like orange-colored fruits and vegetables including carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, mangoes, papaya, and cantaloupe.
Why Carrots Aren’t Actually the Best Source of Vitamin A
While both forms of vitamin A are important for your health, getting Vitamin A from plant sources is much more difficult for the body (read about bioavailability from the Foodom blog post: How to Get the Most Nutrition out of Spinach), and here’s why:
Carrots (or other carotene-rich vegetables) don’t actually contain vitamin A, but instead, they contain the antioxidant carotenoid (a precursor) that your body can convert into vitamin A. This fat-soluble nutrient must first be converted to a form of Vitamin A that the body can use, which is retinol, and in order for your body to do this, enzymes need to break down the carotene. Additionally, you need a healthy intestinal track and enough bile salts provided by your gall bladder to achieve this. At best you will need six times as much carotene to get one unit of retinol.
Get the Max Nutrition Out of Carrots by Adding Fat and Cooking It
You can always up your consumption of carotene rich vegetables and fruits, but if you eat them raw you will need to eat a lot! You would need to eat four and a half pounds of carrots to equal the amount of Vitamin A in three ounces of liver. In order to get the most nutrition from your fruits and vegetables, always add a bit of fat and be sure to cook your carotene-rich vegetables. For example, you can chop carrots into 2-inch pieces and roast them in the oven with olive oil. You can also thinly slice carrots and saute them in butter (made from the milk of grass-fed cows). This will up the level of absorption, plus it tastes delicious.
Also, be sure to try Foodom’s Mango Salsa It contains a bit of olive oil and tastes delicious with fish or chicken. Or check out Sy’ds Carrot Soup, with a bit of oil and a delicious hazelnut sage gremolata.
Getting the most nutrition from carotene-rich vegetables doesn’t need to be complicated. Just cook and enjoy!