Learn about the benefits & history behind Vitamin A, why our bodies love it and how to add it to your diet (Bonus: try our Pumpkin Muffin Recipe!)
There are numerous benefits to getting vitamin A into your diet: supporting our immune system, keeping our skin healthy and much more. And the history of vitamin A is fascinating. A bonus of vitamin A is that it is easy to find in foods; our Pumpkin muffins are a great way to get your vitamin A!
Vitamin A Throughout History
In 1913, McCollum and Daciis from the University of Wisconsin and Osborne and Mendel at Yale University discovered vitamin A; almost simultaneously. The scientists found that rats developed infected eyes and failure to grow when their diets lacked fats (vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin) and that butterfat or cod liver oil would remedy this problem.
From this, the scientists isolated vitamin A from the rats’ intestines; years later, in 1928, the yellow pigment in plants (beta-carotene) was seen as a precursor to vitamin A.
Vitamin A comes from two sources:
Retinols: animal sources.
Carotenoids: from plant sources which include beta-carotene.
The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A. Retinol is the active form of vitamin A.
Vitamin A functions:
- Vitamin A also helps keep mucous membranes lining the nose, sinuses, and mouth healthy.
- It plays a role in immune system function and wound healing.
- It is necessary for the proper development of an embryo and fetus.
- Vitamin A is helpful in many skin disorders – psoriasis and acne – due to its ability to help cells reproduce normally.
Liver, cod liver oil, sweet potato, mango, spinach, pumpkin ( see recipe below!), and kale are all great sources of vitamin a.
Interesting side notes:
- Blood carotene levels will reflect dietary carotene, not the storage of vitamin a.
- Approximately 1/3 of beta carotene from foods will convert to retinol, and only 1/3 of the beta-carotene will be absorbed.
- How does vitamin A help with vision? Vitamin A helps your eyes produce pigment, rhodopsin, that makes it possible to see the full spectrum of light. It helps us absorb light in dark settings. If it doesn’t work, it fails to adapt to darkness.
- Like myself, people with the BCO1 gene have a lower ability to convert beta carotene into retinyl esters. Therefore, supplementing with vitamin A and not beta carotene is essential.
The benefits & history of vitamin A are both endless and fascinating!
Pumpkin Muffin Recipe
Thank you for this recipe!
- ⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil*
- ½ cup maple syrup or honey
- Two eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup pumpkin purée
- ¼ cup milk of choice (I used almond milk)
- Two teaspoons pumpkin spice blend (or one teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon ground allspice or cloves)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour**
- ⅓ cup old-fashioned oats, plus more for sprinkling on top
- Optional: 2 teaspoons turbinado (raw) sugar for a sweet crunch
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius). If necessary, grease all 12 cups of your muffin tin with butter or non-stick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the pumpkin purée, milk, pumpkin spice blend, baking soda, vanilla extract and salt.
- Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon until combined (a few lumps are ok). If you’d like to add any additional mix-ins, like nuts, chocolate or dried fruit, fold them in now.
- Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with about a tablespoon of oats, followed by a light sprinkle of raw sugar and/or pumpkin spice blend if you’d like. Bake muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
- Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. These muffins are delicate until they cool down. You might need to run a butter knife along the muffins’ outer edge to loosen them from the pan.
- These muffins taste even better after resting for a couple of hours! They’ll keep at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They keep well in the freezer in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months (just defrost individual muffins as needed).