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  • Writer's pictureThe Dietitian

Sight as Far as the Carrot is Long

“Eat your carrots or you’ll go blind!” is what my mother always said. In part, she had a point. North Americans are at little risk for a deficiency in Vitamin A given it’s abundance in our food supply, however it is still a nutrient of concern in developing countries. Carrots a great source of Vitamin A, which in it’s active form is known as retinol, retinal and retinoic acid. These compounds perform three basic functions within the body.

Vision- vitamin A in the form of retinal is needed in the retina of the eye. There is coincidence in similarity of those names. Retinal helps to turn visual light into nerve signals in our brain. Vitamin A as retinoic acid helps to maintain normal cell processes that occur within the structures of the eye. Vitamin A is also important in the immune system.

Our eyes keep a pool of Vitamin A on hand, storing it for use as needed. If the pool of Vitamin A stores is depleted, a deficiency can occur which may lead to a condition known as night blindness, where they eye cannot adjust to low amounts of light.

Vitamin A also includes a group of compounds known as Carotenoids. Carrots are also a great source of Carotenoids. Carotenoids act as antioxidants, thus they have been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and may help in the prevention of cancer. As with any research, it is recommended to ensure at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables are eaten per day to obtain the greatest benefit from a variety of foods.

Vitamin A in foods is currently measured in a unit known as Retinol Activity Equivalent which is about equal to 1 microgram of retinol. Good food sources of Vitamin A include Sweet Potatoes; Spinach; Mango; Acorn Squash; Broccoli; Apricots. Cheddar cheese and skim milk also contain some Vitamin A.

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