The Right Vitamin A to Prevent Cancer, Part II

Color is the Clue

Color is sometimes the key to judging the carotene in fruits and vegetables. Deep green and yellow vegetables. Deep green and yellow vegetables are usually very good sources of vitamin A. But lighter versions of the same foods are not. For example:

  • Green asparagus is rich in vitamin A. The bleached white asparagus has about one-tenth as much!
  • Romaine lettuce provides  four times as much vitamin A as iceberg lettuce.
  • Yellow corn has more vitamin A than white corn.
  • Green beans have more vitamin A than wax beans.

Here is my favorite piece of vitamin A trivia: frozen chopped broccoli has one-third more vitamin A than the frozen spears. I am willing to bet that the leaves in the chopped version make the difference. Their deep green color is a sure sign of vitamin A!

Though fruits and vegetables supply almost half of our vitamin A, other foods do have significant amounts. Meat, poultry, and fish provide about one-fourth of the vitamin A in our diet; diary products give another 15 % or so. Eggs and other foods supply a little less than 10 %.

But it is not known whether the vitamin A in most animal foods has any value in cancer prevention. That is why the Committee on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer restricted its recommendations to fruits and vegetables. But in this regard, however, I suggest you to learn more about the potency of vitamin A in animal sources to fight cancer posted in

How Much Is Enough?

The Committee did not tell us exactly how much vitamin A to eat each day. But I will try to give you some rough guidelines.

For decades, nutritionists have recommended that we eat four or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. It is a good idea to ensure that at least two or three of these servings are rich in vitamin A. I try to eat a fruit or vegetable rich in vitamin A at every meal.

I have been following my own advice for quite a while. So I can tell you that eventually you find your self eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A almost automatically.

It’s Easy to Do

Here are a few simple ways to get your vitamin A intake where the experts think it should be:

1. Eat a salad every day, using lettuce that is dark green (such as romaine) and other carotene –rich ingredients such as tomatoes, green pepper, and carrots.

2. Drink juices daily that are high in vitamin A, such as apricot nectar, tomato juice, or vegetable juice cocktail.

3. Substitute sweet potatoes for white potatoes.

4. Keep a jar of dried apricots handy in the kitchen or on the table. If you can nibble during the day without gaining weight, keep a jar of apricots on your desk near your work area.

5. Top cereal with fruits rich in vitamin A.

6. Keep carrot sticks in cold water on hand as a snack.

7. Add parsley to recipes – and eat it.

8.Use tomato sauce instead of white sauce on pasta and main dishes.

9. Add chopped green pepper to chicken and tuna salads.

Of course, there are more exotic approaches, too. How about a high-carotene pizza using broccoli, green beans, and/or green pepper for “extras?” Or learning to cook in a wok. Stir-fried vegetables can be novelty, and they are healthful if you use only small amounts of good oil.

Here is another tip:  substitute sweet potatoes for white potatoes not just as a vegetable but in some of the many dishes made with potatoes. I used to make potato pancakes and potato scones; now I make sweet potato pancakes and sweet potato biscuits. And sweet potatoes are not the only vegetable suitable for baking. Pumpkin is another one.

Making the Most of Our Vitamin A

If you are nutrition-minded, you probably try not to lose nutrients in cooking.

But with vitamin A, you don’t have to worry. It is tough stuff; pretty much indifferent to water, heat, and even long periods of storage. Vitamin A does not dissolve in water, so it does not leach into water used in cooking.

Water not only doesn’t hurt vitamin A, but probably helps us to make the most of it. Cooking raw vegetables makes some nutrients more accessible to the body. Vitamin A is one of them.

Like vitamin D, E, and K, vitamin A is soluble in fat. This means that your body needs fat to absorb it. Will cutting back on fat leave you without enough to absorb vitamin A? The chances are almost nil.

It is amazing how little fat your body needs to absorb vitamin A. In fact, people who eat only one-fourth as much fat as the typical most of us show no signs of vitamin A deficiency. So cutting fat down to a moderate level, as recommended by the Committee on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer, is not going to give you a deficiency of vitamin A. What it will do is make you healthier.

( to be continued )