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The Importance of Vitamins A and D: Nutrients You Must Have
With all the many vitamins available to us, you might wonder why I chose to focus on vitamins A and D in this particular article. Well, wonder no more. (Smile) These two power-packed vitamins are essential for our health, and they are abundant in the foods I discuss below. Before we get to that, however, let’s just chat a bit about vitamins in general and then turn our focus to vitamins A and D. In the kingdom of good-for-you foods, they are super winners.
Though you can find a trillion websites that offer detailed information about vitamins and their specific functions, this blog post is more about foods. Therefore I will be keeping more to the simple side of things rather than getting into a complicated discussion of what a vitamin is (and is not).
The Basics about Vitamins
A vitamin is defined as “any of various organic substances that are essential in minute quantities to the nutrition of most animals [humans] and some plants, act especially as coenzymes and precursors of coenzymes in the regulation of metabolic processes but do not provide energy or serve as building units, and are present in natural foodstuffs or sometimes produced within the body.” (Emphasis mine.)
We also know that there are both fat-soluble vitamins (those that bind to fat in the stomach and are stored in the body for later use) and water-soluble vitamins (those that can be absorbed directly by the cells). Those are very basic descriptions, but there are other important differences between them.
Why You Need Vitamin A
The Community Eye Health Journal explains that “vitamin A from food is stored in the liver until required by the body and is bound to protein before being transported to where it is needed.”
As outlined in the article, vitamin A plays the following essential roles in our health:
- Maintains the integrity and function of the skin.
- Essential for the lining of the respiratory tract, gut, and bladder.
- Supports the daily replacement of skin cells.
- Vital for vision and inner ear function.
- Helps maintain a healthy immune system.
“One of the main consequences of VAD [vitamin A deficiency] is an increased risk of severe infection. Infection increases the body’s demand for vitamin A and so the deficiency gets worse. Children can therefore become involved in a vicious cycle of deficiency and infection, which is why vitamin A deficiency is such an important cause of child mortality.”
Why You Need Vitamin D
Why is vitamin D so important to our health? This feature series on vitamin D from WebMD explains:
“Your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Too little vitamin D results in soft bones in children (rickets) and fragile, misshapen bones in adults (osteomalacia).
“Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, and other maladies.”
Seven Foods Rich in Vitamin A and D
Getting the best of both worlds in your diet is a major accomplishment. The seven foods below (compiled by the Weston A. Price Foundation) contain a combo of both A and D, so if you adhere to these foods you will be sure to get plenty of these two vital nutrients:
- Natural (unheated) cod liver oil
- Poultry liver
- Pastured egg yolks
- Pastured raw butter
- Aged raw cheese from pastured milk
- Beef liver (vitamin A) cooked in pastured lard (vitamin D)
- Fish eggs and shell fish
I advise getting these precious foods from organic farmers and suppliers so you can be sure of their high quality. Refer to the Weston A. Price Shopping Guide (available in print and diital editions) for tips on where to locate them.
Food Based Supplements that Work
If your diet is lacking in the essential foods above, I encourage you to take the following supplements from my favorite place, Douglas Labs, Pure Encapsulations or Genestra Brands. (I recommend ordering these products.)
After reading this brief article, surely you must now be aware that, in one way or another, vitamins A and D are critical for your health.
In closing, I would like to present my personal recipe below for liver pate. For many other great recipe ideas, look at the Weston A. Price Foundation recipe of the week and choose those that use the recommended foods above.
Liver Pate á la the Traditional Cook
—This recipe is approximate. Ingredients adjusted after the first try. :>)
1 lb. (or a bit more) beef liver, sliced (do not rinse)
You may also choose to combine chicken or goose livers with the beef liver
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil, divided
¾ cup organic butter (raw if available)
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped into chunks
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
- Lightly press liver slices between paper towels to absorb the extra moisture. Next, cut the slices into approximately 2-inch pieces. Heat about 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil in skillet. Add liver pieces and fry to medium.
- Place fried liver in a food processor. Add butter and remaining coconut oil. Next, add onion, garlic, and salt (important for preserving the pate). Blend on high until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Lightly grease a glass Pyrex baking dish (such as a loaf pan). Pour blended pate into dish and even out. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to harden. (This will take a few hours.)
- Once pate has firmed up, it is ready to cut into strips about 1½– 2 inches thick. Serve cold or heat slightly in a countertop oven (do not microwave).
- Serve on crackers or with a medley of baked veggies.