Do you know what avocados, mangoes, butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and peaches have in common? Aside from all being plant-based, all of these delicious foods offer some incredible health benefits of vitamin A!
That’s right—each of these colorful foods are rich in beta-carotene, which your body converts to the all-powerful vitamin A it needs to perform basic functions. What functions? I’m so glad you asked.
Let’s take a closer look at the fascinating way your body uses vitamin A and all the amazing health benefits you can get from eating the foods I mentioned above.
All About Vitamin A
When you first hear about vitamin A, you may think of it simply as a part of your daily multivitamin. Or maybe you just think of it as the first in a long line of vitamins and minerals you’re told you need to consume on a daily basis. And while you’re technically not wrong, vitamin A is so much more than that.
We often hear—especially in our current climate—about the importance and power of vitamin C. After all, it’s vital to support your immune system right now, and that’s what vitamin C is know to do. But did you know that vitamin A also supports your immune system while also aiding many other important bodily functions?
This arguably makes it one of the most critical vitamins in your body. So, let’s learn a little more about it.
Vitamin A comes in two forms—active and inactive. And while you may naturally think that the active form is more important, I’m inclined to disagree.
Here’s why: The active form is typically found in inflammatory animal products, such as meats and dairy. If you’re getting health-promoting vitamin A, but your body’s busy fighting off the inflammation that so often accompanies consuming these foods, you won’t absorb as much of this critical vitamin.
However, if you consume the inactive form of vitamin A, which is commonly known as carotenoids (such as beta-carotenes), from anti-inflammatory plant-based foods, your body will work to convert these carotenoids into the active form of vitamin A (known as retinol)! Pretty fascinating, isn’t it?
Because vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, it’s mainly metabolized in your liver. And this is where your body converts most of the carotenoids you consume into vitamin A.
Now, speaking of your liver, t’s important to know that if you take too much pure vitamin A (retinol) in supplement form, it can be a bit too toxic to your liver. This means that carotenoids aren’t only a great way to get the nutritional benefits of vitamin A, but they also help to protect your liver and avoid overdosing this amazing fat-soluble vitamin.
Once your body metabolizes carotenoids and has the active form of vitamin A, some amazing effects begin to take place. Let’s take a closer look at some of these powerful health benefits of vitamin A.
The Top 6 Health Benefits of Vitamin A
Here are six of the incredible health benefits of vitamin A.
1. Supports immune system health
When it comes to the health benefits of vitamin A, one of the most important—yet commonly overlooked—benefits is its ability to support immune system health.
While we often immediately think of vitamin C as the go-to “immune booster,” vitamin A offers some incredible support as well.
In fact, scientists have determined that adequate consumption of vitamin A is absolutely essential for maintaining a strong immune system. First, studies have shown that a vitamin A deficiency blocks the normal regeneration of your mucosal barriers, which is known to impair your natural immunity to bacteria and viruses. 
This means that if you don’t have enough vitamin A in your body, you’re more likely to catch bacterial and viral infections!
Hard to believe? Well, amazingly, studies have shown that a vitamin A deficiency disrupts normal lung physiology and actually increases the risk of both severe tissue dysfunction and even respiratory illnesses and diseases. 
Additionally, studies have shown that consuming vitamin A can help to support immune responses in children, the elderly, post-surgery patients, and even those with parasitic infections. 
2. Contains anti-inflammatory properties
In alignment with its immune-supporting abilities, another one of the great health benefits of vitamin A is that it helps calm inflammation.
Studies have shown that having adequate levels of vitamin A helps to fight inflammation by keeping your immune system from overacting.
According to a 2017 review, several studies have shown that consuming carotenoids reduced systemic inflammation in young infants as well as neuroinflammation in people with brain injuries. 
Furthermore, the researchers surmised that vitamin A’s positive effects on both the immune system and the integrity of epithelial tissue (the protective tissue surrounding your organs and blood vessels) are the main mechanisms in preventing disease.
3. Supports eye health
As we age, our bodies begin to deteriorate—and this includes our eyesight. The good news here? You can slow that process by making sure you’re getting the eye health benefits of vitamin A by eating foods rich in carotenoids.
You may be surprised to learn that night blindness is actually one of the first signs of being deficient in vitamin A! Here’s why: Vitamin A is a fundamental component of rhodopsin—a pigment found in the retina that’s extremely sensitive to bright light. 
Another common eyesight concern? Age-related macular degeneration, which is worsened by oxidative stress. You see, oxidative stress causes damages to the cells in your eye and speeds up the process of macular degeneration.
Amazingly, researchers have found that vitamin A acts as an antioxidant and helps to reduce oxidative stress, which help to soothe eye inflammation and slow down the progression of macular degeneration. [6, 7, 8]
Finally, another way vitamin A benefits eye health is by fighting dry eyes. According to a 2019 study, vitamin A consumption improved the quality of tears in patients with dry eye, exhibiting how helpful vitamin A can be for eye health. 
4. Helps block environmental toxins
We discussed above how studies have shown that a deficiency in vitamin A impairs your natural immunity. Here’s why: A vitamin A deficiency actually blocks the normal regeneration of your mucosal barriers. And these barriers are responsible for helping to protect you from environmental toxins. 
So, that means one of the top health benefits of vitamin A is its ability to help protect your body from environmental toxins.
In fact, according to a 2019 review, researchers found that both vitamins A and D help to block environmental toxins by regulating the gut’s microbes, barrier function, and mucosal immune responses. 
Remember, mucosal barriers are the parts of tissue in your body that are pink, such as the inner lining of your mouth and nose. They extend through your gut and lungs as well. These surfaces are there to protect you by secreting mucus to get rid of toxins, infection, and more.
The reason they’re located in places where you have input from outside sources, such as food, water, and air, is that they are your first line of defense to protect your body. If your mucosal barriers aren’t fully intact and functioning well, then toxins can enter other areas of your body.
As you can see, keeping your mucosal barriers functioning is a fantastic benefit of vitamin A!
5. Aids in slowing the aging process
This is perhaps one of the most exciting health benefits of vitamin A for many people: Vitamin A has been shown to help slow the aging process! Sounds too good to be true, right? Fortunately, it isn’t.
Research has found that vitamin A promotes skin regeneration. Basically, the retinol in vitamin A actually helps stimulate new skin cell production! It’s been shown to help slow the aging process by protecting against the breakdown of collagen. 
Moreover, applying vitamin A to your skin has been shown to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles! According to one study, applying a lotion containing vitamin A significantly reduced the appearance of age-related fine wrinkles by increasing collagen production and inducing glycosaminogycans (polysaccarhides, or fats, that aid in keeping cells healthy and hydrated). 
6. Supports bone health
When it comes to the health benefits of vitamin A, its ability to support bone health is a critical one. As we age, our bones become more brittle, putting us at greater risk of experiencing a broken bone. But, despite common beliefs, having strong bones goes far beyond simply taking a calcium supplement.
For example, according to a 2017 meta-analysis of more than 319,000 participants, higher intake of vitamin A may decrease your risk of fracturing a bone. 
This is because vitamin A influences the cells responsible for building your bones as well as the cells responsible for breaking down your bones!
But one word of warning: You don’t want to overdo it with vitamin A—especially when it comes to your bones. Newer studies are showing that excess vitamin A could actually increase your risk of fractures. So, working with your doctor to find your right amount is important.
Interestingly, researchers are beginning to question if it’s the type of vitamin A that affects your bone health.
In fact, some are theorizing that the active form of vitamin A (the kind you get from animal products) is associated with poor bone health by promoting the breakdown of your bones.
Meanwhile, researchers are also beginning to believe that the inactive form of vitamin A (which comes from plants) is actually protecting your bones! 
As you can see, there are many amazing health benefits of vitamin A. So, make sure you’re consuming lots of plant-based, beta-carotene rich foods to take advantage of these effects. Here’s to your health!
- Vitamin A, one of the most important vitamins for your body, comes in two forms—active and inactive. Active vitamin A comes from animal products while inactive vitamin A comes from plant-based foods.
- Inactive forms of vitamin A (also known as carotenoids) are metabolized by your liver and converted into active vitamin A. (This form is also found to be less toxic than consuming active vitamin A.)
- Some of the powerful health benefits of vitamin A include: supporting immune system health, fighting inflammation, supporting eye health, blocking environmental toxins, slowing the aging process, and supporting bone health.
- One of the best ways to get the health benefits of vitamin A is by consuming foods rich in beta-carotene, such as mangoes, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, avocados, and more!