A diet that’s limited in vitamin A and vitamin D exposes the body to a variety of potential health issues in the future.
According to Statistics Canada, these nutrients are two of the top three – the other being calcium – that Canadians lack the most, with vitamin D the front runner. And while a dearth of these essential nutrients don’t guarantee or automatically point to health deficiencies and complications down the road, it leaves the door open for them.
So just what makes vitamin A and vitamin D so essential to our bodies?
Registered dietitian Andrea D’Ambrosio breaks down why Canadians should get more of these two vitamins in their diet, including where to find them, and the red flags if you’re heading towards a deficiency.
As mentioned, this key nutrient is the one the majority of Canadians are lacking the most.
“Vitamin D is most known for its role in bones and keeping our teeth healthy,” D’Ambrosio explains. “This is because vitamin D acts to improve the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which are key for bone strength.”
Vitamin D is especially beneficial to the elderly, as it helps fight osteoporosis. New research is also showing evidence that it can help fight infections, and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and certain types of cancer like colon cancer.
Why is it so scarce in Canada? As D’Ambrosio explains, there are limited foods available in the countries that contain the nutrient.
That doesn’t mean it’s extinct, however. Vitamin D can be found in egg yolks, fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines, etc.), cow’s milk, and infant formula (maybe avoid this one).
“If we’re only relying on diet alone, often times we don’t get enough vitamin D to meet the dietary requirements,” D’Ambrosio says. “In this case, Health Canada also recommends to consider taking a vitamin D supplement.”
According to Healthline, signs to look out for in a vitamin D deficiency include getting sick or infected regularly, fatigue, feeling tired, bone and back pain, depression, unable to heal wounds properly or efficiently, bone loss, hair loss, and muscle pain.
The recommended daily intake for vitamin D is 600 IU for those between the ages of nine to 70.
Similar to vitamin D, vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, so any extra amounts are reserved in the liver, D’Ambrosio says.
Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient to the body’s growth and development, helping the eyes, skin, and reproduction and immune systems. According to the World Health Organization, vitamin A deficiency is the #1 cause of preventable blindness in children.
People living in the west don’t experience vitamin A deficiencies often, D’Ambrosio says, being more prevalent in developing countries.
But, Canadians still struggle with meeting the recommended nutritional requirement of vitamin A, so it’s important for people to know where they can get their fix.
Vitamin A is widely available in both plant and animal sources. To name a few: Sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, broccoli, eggs, cantaloupe, cheese, turkey, chicken, oysters and tuna – meaning plenty of options for people’s diverse tastes.
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