DECODING THE LABEL VITAMIN A

Are you getting your quota of this important antioxidant nutrient?  It may be key in your diabetes health.  

Vitamin A is required on nutritional labels.  The amount of vitamin A is shown as a percentage of its daily value, which is 5,000 International Units (IU); this covers the needs of the majority of healthy people.  For example, a food with 10 percent of the daily value per serving has 500 IU of vitamin A.  Some labels identify the portion of vitamin A that comes from plant foods, called beta-carotene, in parentheses.

Beta-carotene is converted by the body into the active form of vitamin A when it’s needed.  So there’s little concern of consuming too much beta-carotene, whereas it can be harmful to consume excess vitamin A because the body stores it.  The adult daily limit for safe vitamin A intake is 10,000 IU.  Occasionally eating beef liver, which has 22,175 IU vitamin A per 3-ounce serving, is generally not an issue, however.

Eye health, immune function, and normal growth are among the best-known roles of vitamin A.  Because it’s an antioxidant, vitamin A may also protect against heart disease.  New research suggests beta-carotene may help prevent type 2 diabetes in people with a  genetic risk factor.  Preliminary studies also suggest vitamin A may aid weight control and improve insulin sensitivity.

Orange is the natural hue of beta-carotene, so it’s no surprise sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe, mangoes, and orange and red peppers are excellent sources of the nutrient.

Beta-carotene’s orange color is masked in leafy greens and broccoli, but these vegetables are excellent sources, too.  Foods such as milk, breakfast cereal, and some condiments are often fortified with vitamin.

TO BOOST YOUR ABSORPTION OF BETA-CAROTENE, COOK FOODS HIGH IN VITAMIN A, SUCH AS SWEET POTATOES, IN A BIT OF HEALTHFUL FAT.  TOSS SWEET POTATO STRIPS WITH OLIVE OIL; ROAST AT 400 DEGREE F FOR 20-30 MINUTES TO CRISP.

 

Reference:  diabetic Living Magazine, summer 2015   page 94.

Author:  Marsha McCulloch, RD, LD