Vitamin A is an essential vitamin that we must obtain from food sources. However, Vitamin A is rather unique among the vitamins in that we can obtain it either directly from foods as Vitamin A, or indirectly as Beta Carotene (and other carotenoids). Once inside the body, Beta Carotene is easily converted by the body into usable vitamin A. There are three major reasons why we should use Beta Carotene as our daily source of Vitamin A. The first two reasons deal with the food sources that contain vitamin A and Beta Carotene, and the third reasons deals with the chances of overdosing on Vitamin A, if it is consumed in it’s fully functional form.
Vitamin A comes mainly from animal food sources. Foods high in the functional form of vitamin A include things like margarine, butter, eggs, and meat, especially liver. While Vitamin A is an essential vitamin that is used for a large number of reasons in the body, the foods that contain the active form of vitamin A are all high in bad things like cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats. Sodium is also a major cause for concern with some of the sources of vitamin A. In order to receive your recommended daily amount of vitamin A from these types of foods, you would have to greatly exceed tolerable limits of bad fats and cholesterol.
Beta Carotene, on the other hand, comes from fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain very little fat, cholesterol or sodium. Not only can you eliminate the bad things that come with meat sources of vitamin A, but fruits and vegetables also contain a large number of other vitamins that are essential to good health. B complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin K can all be found in large quantities in fruits and vegetables which means you can accomplish many of your daily dietary goals by getting your vitamin A from beta carotene food sources.
The final reason to get vitamin A from Beta Carotene rather than directly from meat sources is that vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin. This means two important things. First, the body stores vitamin A in the liver which means it can reach overdose levels, and secondly, the body cannot eliminate excess vitamin A through urine like it can do with Vitamin B and Vitamin C. Beta Carotene, however, is water soluble, which means it is not stored by the body and excess levels can be flushed from the body through urination. This is important because when the body has adequate levels of vitamin A, it stops converting Beta Carotene into Vitamin A. What this means is it is impossible to overdose on vitamin A by over consuming beta carotene. The body will simply stop producing vitamin A and get rid of the excess beta carotene in urine.
Vitamin A is an important vitamin, especially for vision. It is available in food in two forms, the fully functional vitamin is available in meat and dairy sources, and beta carotene is available from plant sources. While the plant source of vitamin A requires some processing once it enters the body, it also comes from fruits and vegetables that supply a large number of other important vitamins and minerals while the meat sources of vitamin A usually come with large amounts of unwanted materials like cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats. Also, because Beta Carotene is a water soluble compound, the body is better able to regulate vitamin A levels and prevent overdosing.