Alphabet soup – Vitamin A

We’re going to make a little journey through the world of vitamins and minerals, starting with, you guessed it, Vitamin A. But before we begin our journey, let me make one point to remember all along the way: when you eat adequate amounts and a wide variety of REAL FOOD and you avoid  things that have a negative effect upon the absorption and use of the nutritional benefits of those foods (for example, grains, legumes, and processed foods), you will probably be taking in plenty of vitamins and minerals to maintain your health. You don’t need to say “today I will eat carrots in order to get my Vitamin A”, for example!

Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that it is stored in the fat tissues of the body anywhere from a few days up to six months. It is needed for new cell growth, healthy skin, hair, and tissues, and vision in dim light.

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases:

“Vitamin A is a family of compounds that play an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. We get vitamin A from a variety of sources. Two of the most common sources are retinol and beta-carotene.

Retinol is sometimes called “true” vitamin A because it is nearly ready for the body to use. Retinol is found in such animal foods as liver, eggs, and fatty fish. It also can be found in many fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, and in dietary supplements.

Beta-carotene is a precursor for vitamin A. The body needs to convert it to retinol or vitamin A for use. Beta-carotene is found naturally in mostly orange and dark green plant foods, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, mangos, and kale.

The body stores both retinol and beta-carotene in the liver, drawing on this store whenever more vitamin A is needed.

Most of the reported cases of vitamin A toxicity have been blamed on the use of supplements. Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet generally do not need a vitamin A supplement.”

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, Vitamin A is crucial to night vision, normal functioning of the immune system, the creation of red blood cells and the mobilization of stored iron into hemoglobin. Vitamin A also plays a huge role in cellular differentiation and influences numerous physiological processes. Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness in children in developing nations, and “children who are only mildly deficient in vitamin A have a higher incidence of respiratory disease and diarrhea as well as a higher rate of mortality from infectious disease compared to children who consume sufficient vitamin A.”

There are plenty of good sources of both retinol and Beta-carotene. Vitamin A is found in dark green and yellow vegetables and yellow fruits, such as broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, collards, kale, beet, mustard and dandelion greens, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, red peppers, chinese cabbage, cantaloupe, and apricots, and in animal sources such as organ meats (liver & giblets), pickled herring, fish & shellfish, fish oil, milk, butter, cheese, and whole eggs.

Here’s a recipe that’s loaded with Vitamin A, from paleo-recipes.com.

Ridiculously Easy Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

Ingredients:

Half of a small sized pumpkin
4 large carrots
1 large ognion
1 cube of chicken stock
a couple fresh leaves of parsley
1/3 a clove of garlic
one sprig of chervil
a couple of leaves of coriander
3 tbs of olive oil

Instructions

Peel the carrots and the pumpkin. (You’ll be surprized how easy it is to peel a pumpkin with a potato peeler).Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and remove the seeds. Once the seeds are out, you can cut it up further in smaller chunks. Chop the carrots into pieces of about a 1/2 inch (a good cm) wide, and chop up the oignon. Crush the garlic.

Grab a very large pot for soup and pour in some olive oil. Add the ognion and heat them gently until slightly golden. Add the garlic. Add the carrot and pumpkin. Depending on the size of the pumpkin, you might have too much.(you’ve got to much if you’ve added so much pumpkin that you can’t find your carrots back)If that is the case, you can easily freeze the remaining pumpkin for later use.

Turn down the heat and add some water to the pot. You should fill the pot about halfway up to the height of the pumpkin and carrots. Don’t add to much, as you’ll loose the taste. Cover the pot and allow it to heat gently.

Now this is done, it’s time to chop de herbs! Chop up the chervil,parsley and coriander. Try to smell the herbs individually! If afterwards you find your soup tastes to strong, you’ll be able to tell which herb to use less of in future because you know its smell! Keep some coriander aside as we’ll use this to sprinkle on top after.

Throw the chopped herbs into the pot of simmering soup and give it spin to make sure the herbs are nicely mixed in between the rest. Cover it up with the lid and let it do its thing.After about 25 minutes, check if the carrots are cooked. They should be nice and soft, not soggy. Grab a heavy spoon and gently crush the pumpkin and carrot – you should have a thick mixture with lots of chunks of carrot and pumpkin. Turn of the heat and allow it to cool down a bit – you’re going to be blending the whole lot.

In the meatime, heat a small pan of water and add the chicken stock. Don’t bring it to the boil, just make sure the stock dissolves.

Thoroughly blend the soup now that it as cooled down to obtain a lovely, creamy, thick texture. Pour the blended into another large pot (you can use the same one if you’ve rinsed it from the remaining bits).

You should have a very thick smooth soup now. Add the warm stock gently while stirring until you find the soup runny enough to your liking.

Sprinkle with some coriander and enjoy…

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