Need More Vitamin A? Here are Five Ways to Get Your A’s


by Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND

Get your vitamin A from orange squashes.

Vitamin A is a critical player in the health of your eyes, skin, bones and more. Here are five colorful ways to get enough of this important nutrient.

It’s safe to say that vitamin A is a real multi-tasker. Most people know vitamin A for its role in vision, but it also plays a role in the health of your skin, bones and teeth, and it supports reproductive and immune system functions, too.

Related Article: What to eat for healthy skin

You can get your vitamin A from both plant and animal sources, but in slightly different forms. Preformed vitamin A – found mostly in animal foods like liver, fish, milk or eggs – is the active form of the vitamin. That means that once it’s absorbed, it’s ready for your body to use.

But you can also turn to all kinds of plant foods for your vitamin A, too. Many plant foods contain compounds called carotenoids – including beta carotene, lycopene and lutein.

These carotenoids themselves are not active vitamin A, but your body can convert them into the active form of the vitamin whenever the need arises.

Carotenoids contribute orange, red and green colors to plant foods, so it’s a pretty safe bet that if a fruit or vegetable has a deep, rich color, it’s likely to be a good source of one of these important compounds that your body can transform into vitamin A.

Here are five colorful, tasty ways to get you’re A’s:

  • Carrots have so much beta carotene that a single carrot can provide more than twice the vitamin A your body needs for the whole day. They make great snacks on their own, or you can simply grate raw carrots into soups and salads for a healthy, colorful boost. Cooked or raw carrots are also delicious when added to a vanilla protein shake with a dash of cinnamon.
  • Orange squashes like pumpkin, acorn and butternut also contain lots of beta carotene. Roasting brings out the naturally sweet flavor of squash and makes for a nice alternative to more traditional vegetable side dishes. Or, try blending cooked squash with some flavorful broth to create a base for a tasty soup.
  • Spinach contains a carotenoid called lutein, which contributes much of the green color. Fresh spinach is a natural in salads, and frozen spinach is convenient for adding to soups, pasta sauces and other mixed dishes. If you find the taste of spinach too strong, try baby spinach leaves – they’re usually more tender and milder in flavor.
  • Peppers of all colors contain a variety of carotenoid pigments – which explains why they come in so many colors that range from green to yellow, orange, red and even deep purple. They’re great sliced into salads, or used as vegetable dippers with a bit of hummus or avocado dip for a snack.
  • Tomatoes get much of their red color from the carotenoid called lycopene. Fresh tomatoes are great in salads, or simply on their own with a drizzle of flavorful olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato pastes might work better for you if you don’t care for fresh tomatoes – you can work some of these tomato products into sauces, stews or soups.

Susan Bowerman is Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

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