Welcome everyone to a new month and a new vitamin, Vitamin A! Before we dig in, going forward we plan on consolidating the nutrition, physical, mental and spiritual wellness aspects into a single monthly newsletter as this is part of our ongoing Happiness Reset Challenge for 2021. We will continue on with our weekly challenges and will be referring back to these monthly newsletters that will be coming out the first week of every month.
Vitamin A Month
Why is vitamin A important?
Now on to our in-depth look at vitamin A! Vitamin A is a fat-soluble nutrient that is essential for a number of important functions in your body. This includes helping with your immune system, your eye health, and is also a strong antioxidant. Vitamin A also has shown to help with the creation of dopamine which gives us all of those happy feels (1).
How much vitamin A is needed and how much is too much?
The amount of vitamin A that should be taken depends on your gender. For men it is recommended that your vitamin A intake be around 900 mcg while women should try to consume closer to 700 mcg. Children and adolescents do not need quite as much vitamin A with a suggested 300 – 600 mcg per day. It is also important that you do not take too much vitamin A (2). Vitamin A toxicity could occur if supplements are taken closer to 3,000 mcg over an extended time. Some of the symptoms of vitamin A toxicity are issues with vision, joint and bone pain, poor appetite and nausea and vomiting (3).
How can you increase your vitamin A intake?
You can find vitamin A in a number of animal and plant based food sources. Animal based forms of vitamin A are called retinoids whereas vitamin A from plant based sources are called carotenoids. When you take in vitamin A from plants in the form of carotenoids, the body turns this into the retinoid form (4). It is also important to consume fat (animal fats or plant based oils) with your vitamin A since it is a fat soluble vitamin (5).
So now that we know how important vitamin A is and how much we should take, what foods pack the most vitamin A?
The king of all vitamin A sources is beef liver at 6,582 mcg in just 3 ounces of liver. This is way more vitamin A than our body needs as mentioned above. You definitely do not want to consume this much vitamin A on a daily basis. The next highest and more manageable amount of vitamin A can be found in a baked sweet potato, clocking in at 1,403 mcg. The following other sources of vitamin A provide a good list of delicious sources that you can add to your diet in order to get the daily vitamin A that you need.
- ½ cup of spinach 573 mcg
- ½ cup of carrots 488 mcg
- 1 cup of ricotta cheese 263 mcg
- 1 cup of milk with vitamin A added 149 mcg
- ½ cup of cantaloupe 135 mcg
- 1 mango 112 mcg
- 1 large egg boiled 75 mcg
- ½ cup of broccoli 60 mcg
- 3 oz. salmon 59 mcg
- 1 cup of yogurt 32 mcg
As you can see, there our a number of different places that you can obtain your daily intake of vitamin A. If for some reason you are not able to get all of your vitamin A from sources of food, then a supplement should be taken like a daily vitamin. Multi vitamin supplements tend to have anywhere from 750 mcg to 3,000 mcg (6).
A closer look at what vitamin A does for us physically to help us stay happy
As we mentioned earlier, vitamin A is important to a number of processes in the body. Let’s take a closer look at these and a few others that are not as well known.
Vitamin A is important in regards to the production of white blood cells. During the development and differentiation of white blood cells, vitamin A plays a critical role (7). It also has been shown that vitamin A plays a regulatory role in cellular immune responses. So in times like these where it is so important to have a healthy immune system, we need to make sure that we are getting our daily dosage of vitamin A (8).
Our parents always told us to eat our carrots or else we would go blind. While I never felt this was true growing up, the WHO (World Health Organization) reports that vitamin A deficiency is the leading culprit in blindness among children. This is because a lack of vitamin A can cause the cornea to be very dry leading to eventual damage in the retina and cornea (9).
Finally, some studies have shown an increased chance of lung cancer with a lower intake of vitamin A. Further studies need to be done however to determine with certainty that vitamin A has a direct correlation to cancer (10, 11).
Vitamin A and mental health
Vitamin A is considered to be an important happy vitamin. This is because of an important role it plays in our brains. The role that vitamin A has is in the regulation of an important neurotransmitter, dopamine (12,13).
Let’s take a closer look at dopamine
Since we are looking at ways to increase our daily happiness specifically, let’s take a closer look at dopamine. Dopamine, a chemical messenger between your neurons, is known as the “Feel Good” neurotransmitter that is produced to motivate, reward and reinforce things that you like to do. Dopamine can be released by eating comfort foods, being close to loved ones or shopping if that is your thing. Really any activity that brings you joy will tell your body to release more dopamine. If our body is no longer able to produce this dopamine, you will find that you are not finding the joy in activities that you once were (14). This is why vitamin A can be so important to our happiness since it is an important vitamin for dopamine production.
Spending time in nature
To increase our spiritual wellness this week, we want you to increase your time in nature. The weather here where we live is getting to that perfect temperature to take long walks and the trees are beginning to bud and grow leaves. If your weather permits and you have had your last frost, for us it is April 29th, you can get your hands dirty by planting some flowers or vegetables in your garden. If it is still a little early, then you can bring the outside in by planting seeds indoors that you can then replant after your first frost. April 22nd is also Earth Day! A bonus challenge for everyone is to plant a small tree on this day that you can enjoy for years to come!
If you missed last weeks newsletter, you can find it here.
If you are new to Savor Paradise, after the year we had in 2020 we decided to take a hard look at not just our health but all aspects of our life and we wanted to share that with all of you. So we created a Happiness Reset Challenge for 2021. Does this mean you are unhappy? NO WAY! This just means that we are learning about Health and Wellness and want to share what we learn with you. We understand that Happiness is not a goal that is to be achieved but something that you practice everyday in micro-moments that over time will become joy. Understanding health and wellness is a big part of that. Our goal is to help others up-level their happiness starting from the inside out. We are on this journey together. If you would like to join our weekly challenges, join our Facebook page for community and encouragement. Also, I love seeing pictures of the food you guys cook, what you guys are doing in nature and what yoga poses you guys are trying to master. The Facebook group helps me feel like I’m not just typing to the vast space of nothingness that is the internet. JK!
Check out our most recent recipe:
Join Our Community: Find out more about our Challenge and participate by joining our private Facebook group, SPHappinessreset.
THIS MONTHS CHALLENGE: For the month of April try to incorporate the appropriate amount of vitamin A in your daily diet.
2nd Week Challenge: For our physical wellness week we challenge you to dance all the way through your favorite song three times this week.
3rd Week Challenge: For our mental wellness week we challenge you to read a short book on self growth. (If you’d like to join me, I’ll be reading Start with Why by Simon Sinek.)
4th Week Challenge: For our spiritual wellness week we would like to challenge you to spend at least 20 minutes outdoors 3 times. BONUS CHALLENGE: Plant a tree on Earth Day!